Review: HTC ChaCha
"Liked" by Facebook.
Great Facebook integration; Thoughtful UI; Physical QWERTY keypad; Sturdy build.
Disappointing camera; Lacklustre video player; No equaliser; Many apps are incompatible.
MRP: Rs 16,000
Street Price: Rs 14,800 (Saholic.com; Flipkart.com); Rs 15,500 (Letsbuy.com)
Androids are hot, and so is Facebook. Combine them both and you get a recipe for success in the mobile world. ChaCha has these ingredients, plus HTC's expertise in UI customisation. This sounds good enough to lure buyers. However, how well this "Facebook phone" performs in other departments remains to be seen.
Design And Build Quality
The package includes a charger with a detachable USB cable, earphones, and a 2 GB card. The phone measures 4.5" (l) x 2.5" (w) x 0.4" (d), and weighs 124 grammes. The device's back is composed of aluminium and high quality rubberised plastic that provides a comfortable grip.
The device sports a 2.6" screen, below which lie four capacitive keys, namely Home, Options, Back, and Search. The physical Call and Hang Up buttons are also present on the phone. The main highlight of this device is its physical QWERTY keypad, which is slightly tilted forward. This unusual design does provide a better grip while typing, but looks odd.
The well-spaced keys are laid out in four rows. The keyboard sports dedicated keys for frequently used punctuation marks. The arrow keys are unusually placed on the lower left side of the keyboard. A dedicated Facebook button is present below the fourth row.
All in all, the device is compact and sturdy. The only gripe I have is over the blank area between the capacitive keys and the physical keyboard. This space could have been used to house a D-Pad, as seen on the Nokia E6.
The device is powered by an 800 MHz CPU and 512 MB RAM. Other features include a 5 MP rear and front VGA camera, Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth, 3.5 mm jack, and 32 GB microSD card support.
The 2.6" touchscreen, encased by Gorilla Glass, has pixel dimensions of 480x320. It's reasonably bright, and displays a high contrast. The viewing angles aren't that bad, except for colour variations at extreme angles. Under sunny conditions, the screen looks washed out, but still remains fit for reading.
UI And Application
The phone runs Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) with HTC's Sense UI on top of it. The interface behaves much like the recently reviewed Sensation, though it has been modified to suit the device's landscape screen.
The ChaCha requires you to drag a ring to the screen's centre in order to unlock the phone. You can also drag shortcuts (placed above the ring) into the ring for quick access.
Overview mode can be triggered by the zoom-out gesture or tapping the Home button. It comes in handy for faster navigation and rearranging homescreens.
The Facebook button is not just for launching the app, but has been implemented throughout the UI. For example, you can upload any picture from the gallery to your Wall with a single press of the button; likewise for videos. Without a doubt, it's a godsend for FB addicts.
On the other hand, you can't chat with your online friends using the Facebook app. Although Fb Chat takes care of that, it's stupid to have two different apps to access a single site.
People do reply, even after 2 am!
The phone sports a Gingerbread-based browser, but lacks full Flash support due to the relatively underpowered CPU. However, the YouTube app solves this problem to an extend. Except for these limitations, the browser remains snappy most of the time, and is good enough for normal browsing.
All in all, the UI is very pleasant and thoughtfully customised to make the most of the available screen size. Moreover, the device handles multitasking pretty well, with hardly any signs of a slowdown. However, app addicts will be highly disappointed to find that most games don't work properly in this device.
The music player has a simple interface. It allows you to jump to the previous or next track by swiping in the appropriate direction. There are toggle buttons for shuffle and repeat, but an equaliser is absent. On the bright side though, the sound quality through the earphones is good. However, I do feel that it needs to be a bit more loud. The phone also comes with FM radio, which features a nice minimalistic interface and RDS (Radio Data System).
The video player interface offers basic playback controls as well as a toggle for full-screen mode. However, subtitle support is missing. The video player cannot handle 720p videos, but low-quality MP4, WMV, DivX, and XviD clips are watchable. MKV videos are a no-go, and the device also struggles with movie-length files of most formats.
The 5 MP camera has a single LED flash to keep it company. It features a typical HTC cam interface, including a zoom slider on the right side and other options on the left.
The camera is activated by a long press of the [.] key, which then works as a shutter button. Unfortunately, the image quality is not good. The photographs contain an unacceptable amount of noise, as well as colour variations.
According to the company, the device is capable of recording 480p videos at 30 fps. However, videos recorded thus turn out to be choppy. Overall, the camera performance is mediocre at best.
Telephony And Messaging
The People app lists all your contacts in three tabs, namely All, Groups, and Calls (basically, a "call history" feature). The phonebook is social by nature, and of course has extra love for Facebook. It lists all the FB contacts who share their phone numbers with you. On an actual call, the signal reception was very good, and there were no problems with the call quality either.
Messages are displayed in a threaded fashion. Copy and paste options are available while composing a message, and as expected, typing is breeze thanks to the physical keyboard.
As always, HTC's default email client is very capable, and lets you set up IMAP \ POP3 accounts with ease. Additionally, each account gets colour coded, which helps in sorting through emails.
The phone's 1250 mAh battery keeps the device powered for slightly more than 7 hours under heavy use. This is pretty good as per droid standards.
The ChaCha is a well-built phone with deep Facebook integration. HTC has nicely customised the Sense UI to match the device's form factor. However, the gadget fails to impress as an all-round device. For a similar price, you can get the Nokia E6 that comes with better design and build quality. It also humbles the ChaCha with its densely packed screen, 8 MP camera, 8 GB internal memory, 720p video playback, and outstanding battery life. Even the large number of Android apps don't help the device, as many of them don't work due to the landscape screen.
If you are a Facebook addict with an intense love for Android, get the ChaCha. Otherwise, the E6 is definitely a more sensible option.
Design And Build Quality: 3.5/5
Value For Money: 4/5
Overall Rating: 3.5/5
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