The HTC ChaCha is the UK's first "Facebook Phone", offering a plethora of social networking features and a full QWERTY keypad
Editor's Review of the ChaCha
The ChaCha is the second "Facebook Phone" from HTC, and the first of the firm's devices to feature a BlackBerry-style form factor. Its surprising to see the portrait QWERTY keyboard below that HTC logo and Android keys, but how does it stand up against BlackBerry offerings?
Design & Build
The HTC ChaCha is a phone aimed at youngsters and teens, and the design of the handset seems to play a key role in targeting this audience. Its casing combines a brushed metal finish with white plastic touches, a strange departure from HTC's usual glossy back casing and unibody stylings. It's much smaller than HTC's high-enders too, measuring in at 114.4 x 64.6 x 10.7mm with a weight of 120 grams.
Within its casing sits a 2.6-inch (480 x 320) capacitive touchscreen, coupled with that quirky portrait QWERTY keypad. Despite the small keys, typing is smooth and easy, and managed to cope with our clumsy fingers. The display is surprisingly clear and bright too, despite being dwarfed by its mammoth-screened siblings.
For retro HTC fans, the chin is back with the ChaCha. Introduced with HTC's first ever Android device - the G1 - it became an odd design quirk we thought was being phased out. Thankfully, it hasn't been. Although it makes it awkward to squeeze into your skinny trouser pocket, it means the keyboard is naturally tilted towards you - which makes bashing out messages all the more enjoyable.
It's at the bottom of the handset where things get interesting. Although not an official 'Facebook-branded' handset, there's a dedicated glowing Facebook button. It doesn't come into play as much as we'd hoped, it does provide a useful shortcut to updating your status and uploading snapshots.
OS & Interface
The HTC ChaCha may be a mid-range smartphone, but it arrives running Android 2.3 (Gingerbread), the latest and speediest version of Google's mobile OS. This is coupled with a re-jigged version of HTC's Sense software, officially dubbed HTC Sense 2.1 for Messenger.
HTC's rejuvenated Android skin brings with it some of touches found on Sense 3.0, including the all-new active lockscreen we raved about with the HTC Sensation. Still, there's a lot of things missing, such as the swirling 3D widgets and the Quick Shortcuts tab.
Out of the box, HTC Sense 2.1 comes with four customizable homescreens, which have been revamped to fit the smaller screen. Swiping through these is extremely responsive, thanks to that 800MHz processor upgrade. Unlike other Android smartphones, when you first turn the ChaCha on, you're required to log-in to Facebook to get started. This comes in handy, given the handset comes with one-touch access to Facebook Chat, News Feed, and that handy Facebook key.
Multimedia & Storage
The HTC ChaCha comes with two cameras - a VGA snapper for video calling and a 5 megapixel effort on its rear. We were fairly impressed with the rear-facing autofocus camera, which managed to produce images of a good quality, perfect for sharing on... er.. Facebook. Oddly, however, pictures look pretty noisy when you view them on the 2.6-inch screen, yet when uploaded to a computer, they're much more detailed.
It's video capture is nothing groundbreaking. Although it manages to shoot in 720p HD quality, the snapper struggled to keep up in poorly lit conditions. The lack of a dedicated camera key make it a little bit fiddly too, but this is something we'd easily get used too.
Other than its pair of cameras, you'll find the usual built-in Android music player, video playback, and an integrated FM radio. Although it comes with just 512MB of built-in storage, this is expandable to 32GB via microSD - plenty of room for your music library.
As you'd expect, the HTC ChaCha boasts HSDPA and WiFi connectivity, which means all that Facebook'ing won't go eating up your data allowance. Being an Android device too, it comes with a great built-in web browser, which managed to render pages well even on that cramped 2.6-inch screen. Still, it can feel a bit small for reading lengthy news articles and bulky emails, and wouldn't be ideal for serial surfers.
However, the ChaCha seems unable to properly run Adobe Flash. While small Flash elements appeared OK, the handset was unable to load flash video on a number of websites.
The handset redeems itself with its impressive battery life. Packing a decent 1250mAh effort, the ChaCha - thanks to its small screen - doesn't require too much power to keep its going. It manages to last a whole day with near 80 percent battery in two, so it will only need juiced every few days.
Despite its Flash issues and average camera, the ChaCha is a refreshing addition to HTC's portfolio. As a Facebook addict myself, the QWERTY keypad and dedicated key is a real bonus - albeit not as functional as we'd had hoped. It may not be revolutionary, but it's Android 2.3 OS hidden Facebook smarts could be enough to tempt the BlackBerry faithful.
HTC ChaCha News
Three has prematurely launched its January sale, which will save you up to £70 on a pay as you go smartphone. Starting on December 22, you’ll be able to save yourself 70-quid on both the HTC ChaCha and Samsung Galaxy W (pictured), which will cost you just £129.99 and £179.99 respectively. Three is also offering [...]
T-Mobile has finally started selling the HTC ChaCha, which is available for free from just £20.00 per month. The Facebook-focussed smartphone can be grabbed from the network on a £20.42 tariff, which’ll nab you a free ChaCha, 300 minutes, 300 texts and 500MB data. For an extra £10.00 per month, you can bump this up [...]
Having already creeped its way onto Three and Vodafone, the HTC ChaCha has now landed on Virgin. Although not as cheap as its rivals’ tariffs, Virgin is offering the so-called Facebook phone for free from £30.64 per month. This’ll also bag you a generous 800 minutes, unlimited texts and 1GB data – and if you’re [...]
Vodafone has just informed us that it’s now got stock of the HTC ChaCha, just days after Phones4U launched the so-called Facebook Phone. The HTC ChaCha, along with the Salsa, offers an all-new experience for Android-loving Facebook fans. There’s a dedicated Facebook key, which enables you to update your status, share web pages and fire [...]
Three has announced that it’s now started selling the HTC ChaCha, just days after Phones4U launched the so-called Facebook phone. Three took to its blog to announce that the ChaCha has landed, and confirmed it’ll be available on theÂ One Plan for just £29.00 per month. This includes a generous 2000 any network minutes, 5000 Three-to-Three [...]
Early adopters of the HTC ChaCha were treated to a nice surprise, as HTC had quietly upgraded the handset’s 600MHz processor. The so-called Facebook Phone will now arrive running anÂ 800MHz Qualcomm SoC chipset, providing a 33 per cent speed boost which should translate into a whizzier status updating and speedier stalking. This comes just days [...]
HTC ChaCha Specifications
114.4mm x 64.6mm x 10.7mm
Full capacitive touch screen
Type: TFT LCD
Size: 2.6 inches
Resolution: 480 x 320
Interface: HTC Sense 2.1 for Messenger UI
External: microSD up to 32GB
A-GPS with maps
Up to 7.2 Mbps download speed
Wi-Fi: IEEE 802.11 b/g/n
Audio: 3.5mm stereo jack
Data: Standard microUSB
GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
A2DP for wireless stereo headsets
5.0 megapixel camera
Auto Focus and LED Flash
Front facing camera with video calling
Battery Capacity: 1250 mAh
Talk Time: 450 minutes
Standby Time: 660 hours
Audio supported formats
Playback: MP3, AAC+, WAV, AMR, WMA
Video supported formats
Playback: 3GP, MP4, H.263, H.264, WMV