Having been using it as my main phone for two weeks, I felt a tinge of sadness when I was asked to return the Chacha. There's nothing fascinating about this phone but I haven't been able to put it down. Even the Facebook button is nothing more than a glorified shortcut to a compose screen with option to add pictures. There are some issues with this phone which I will get to, but even with those, given the choice I would even trade my more powerful Motorola smartphone for it.
The 2.6" LCD capacitive touchscreen display with HVGA resolution is small and feels cramped. Part of this is due to Android not being designed for landscape screens (I also have this issue with the Milestone 2). I found a couple of my favourite applications such as Gowalla and BBC News to be not compatible in landscape mode having been forced to use them sideways! This is a large issue with Android fragmentation in general and developers who can't seem to be bothered to make their applications compatible with different screen resolution, aspect ratio and orientation.
A VGA front camera can be found on the top of the display. On the back you will find a 5MP camera with auto-focus and LED flash. Picture quality is decent for emails or for posting to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter as long as there are plenty of available light. Don't expect to use it for anything else and certainly not for printing. You can press anywhere on the screen to focus. Picture previews are of lower resolution variety (a bug likely) so always check in the Gallery application to see if it is in focused. It's annoying and I hope HTC and/or Google fixes this bug. But my advice: get a real camera instead. Below are unedited (but resized) samples:
Pressing the Facebook button fires up a screen that allows you to immediately compose your update, and if you choose to, attach a picture from either the Gallery or via the Camera application. There is nothing special about this, but the relatively painless process did encourage me to post more updates to my Facebook wall than I normally do. Pressing down the button will also allow you to check in to Facebook Places. While reading a website, pressing it down will create a link allowing you to share it. It just works. My only gripe with the Facebook button is you can't activate it until you unlock the phone. So in order to post an update you will first have to press the power button on the top of the device, swipe the screen to unlock and then press the Facebook button. Because the ChaCha has a QWERTY keyboard, HTC should have allowed users to unlock using button combinations.
XPERIA mini and mini Pro and has recently made its way to the XPERIA Arc. While the ChaCha's Facebook button encourages you to share (and it does so in an efficient manner), Sony Ericsson takes it to a whole new level of integration - allowing you not only to share, but consume. Sure there is a separate Facebook application, but that is a universal Android app that is also available for the Arc.
Pulling the plastic battery door on the back reveals a 1250mAh battery - a decent amount for a device with such a small display. At least in theory. The ChaCha's battery seems to last about 5 hours of high usage, on par with what I usually get with my Motorola Milestone 2. This seems to confirm with me that Android devices has the same poor power management regardless of screen size. A microSDHC card slot can be found next to the battery slow. Sadly it is only accessible when the battery is removed so it isn't hot-swappable. A 2GB microSDHC memory card is bundled together, though the device can easily take a 32GB microSDHC card.
HTC Sensation, is present. It offers a quick way on unlocking the screen by dragging application icons onto the unlock zone to simultaneously unlock the device and launch the application. The Sense installed here is version is 2.1 for Messenger and is optimised for landscape mode. Unfortunately the optimisation doesn't extend to third party applications as I mentioned previously. One can only hope that Google will release some design language guide for third party developers to follow when it comes to making apps landscape-compatible and optimised.
As a messaging device the ChaCha comes with an assorted amount of messaging application. In addition to the default messaging application for email, text messages (complete with threaded view) and Gtalk, the ChaCha also comes with HTC Peep, a very basic Twitter client that I suggest everyone to replace with something else. There are plenty of free Twitter clients on the Android Market and my personal favourite is Twicca. I also found FB Chat to be extremely useful. I am not a heavy Facebook Chat user but as FB Chat is integrated with Facebook Messaging, I found it handy to be able to chat with my friends while out and about. All these messaging apps makes use of the pull down notification area.
All You Can Eat data plan), is extremely useful. I managed to get a cold lock within a minute and half on a clear day. You can also turn off the GPS receiver and use Wireless positioning. While this isn't as accurate as the GPS receiver, it is still gave a rough location up to 200 metre accuracy.
As you can probably tell, the HTC ChaCha is neither unique or special. But I found myself genuinely liking it. As a person who regularly receives plenty of high-end smartphones to review, it is truly surprising to find myself in a position where I would prefer to pick up a ChaCha whenever I head out. HTC has done well to craft a device that works well with a fantastic front-facing keyboard and that features a design that is different from the other Blackberry lookalikes on the market. If you are in need of an Android phone with front QWERTY keyboard then look no further. Now if only HTC releases a ChaCha with a Twitter button. ;)
Many thanks to Three UK for loaning the HTC ChaCha.