The HTC ChaCha is an Android phone from HTC that comes with a portrait keyboard. Android is being dominated by touchscreen phones and those wanting physical keyboard are left with a few and expensive options so it’s nice of HTC to add one their own in the mid-range level.
Unlike other phones that comes with a front QWERTY keypad, the ChaCha looks a bit unusual I would say. There’s the slightly bent shape, the tic-tac looking keys and the lone Facebook button at the bottom. It’s a love or hate design but the ladies I’ve shown this phone to seem to be loving it.
Let’s take a closer look on what the HTC ChaCha has in store for you.
Well I said most of the quirky design highlights of this phone already so let me give you a quick run through instead. Similar to other HTC phones, the materials used here doesn’t look and feel cheap at all.
The front of the phone has a 2.6-inch multi-touch Gorilla Glass display with some dedicated touch panels for the Android buttons: Home, Menu, Back and Search. Above it is the speaker and a front-facing VGA camera. Directly below the glass display are the buttons for Call and Cancel.
The keys on the keyboard are small but nicely spaced. It took me a couple of days to get the hang of it though. I often get the Delete and Enter key mixed up and also the A and S keys. It’s nice that they added the arrow keys here making it easy to navigate within your message. Then there’s the Facebook button just along the bottom portion which we’ll get to later on.
On the left side is the volume control and the microUSB port for charging and data connection. Topside you can find the 3.5mm jack and the the Power/Sleep button which is the only way you can wake the phone. I wish you can also use the Call button to wake it up. There’s nothing on the right side.
The back has a two tone finish with the middle portion made of high-grade aluminum. The top and bottom portion has a nice soft kinda rubbery texture for some anti-slip control. It also houses the 5 mp camera and its LED flash.
Display and UI
The 2.6-inch touchscreen display here sports a 480 x 320 resolution. That’s a lot of pixel density for its size and it made the images and the icons more sharper than other phones with a 2.6-inch screen. For comparison, the Samsung Galaxy Pro has a 320 x 240 resolution on the same screen size and max colors and the images appear more pixelated compared to the ChaCha.
The ChaCha uses a special HTC Sense UI made for a small landscape display. It has a toned down version of the Sense UI 3.0’s lockscreen where you can add shortcuts to launch your apps without unlocking the screen.
Due to the small screen size, widgets should be carefully picked. There’s only 7 home screens available with limited space. Much of the usual apps like messaging, calls, mail, etc. have their standard buttons displayed on the right side. It is also cumbersome at times to view news feeds or pages when there’s a lot of scrolling to be done. Some apps that doesn’t have support for landscape mode are displayed in portrait mode so you have to turn the phone sideways to view.
The HTC ChaCha is powered by an 800MHz processor which is already high for a mid-range smartphone. It also runs on Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) which makes it much smoother than Froyo-based phones like the Galaxy Pro. However, you would notice some jerkiness at times especially when there are lots of apps running on the background.
For some reason, our usual benchmark app, Quadrant, does not run properly on this unit of ours. The CPU portion of the benchmark won’t complete and it couldn’t connect to the internet to compare results with other phones. All I can say is that aside from the few instances when the phone takes half a second to unlock, or to open my messages, or whatever, the ChaCha didn’t give me any problems at all.
The ChaCha renders web pages the way it should be although you won’t appreciate it on its small screen. Pinch to zoom and other multi-touch functionality works here though.
What’s nice here is that embedded Flash on web sites are supported although multiple Flash objects load slowly. I tried it on a music blog and the SoundCloud playlist flash widget played on this phone’s browser. Impressive considering, the Samsung Galaxy Ace which also has an 800MHz processor can’t play Flash. Big Flash games do not seem to work though, I tried CityVille but either it can’t show it or it’s just taking too long for it to load. At least video sites like Break or CollegeHumor can be viewed straight from the the browser.
Aside from music, the ChaCha is not really a device made for multimedia due to its small screen. As such, HTC did not concentrate on that.
DivX/XviD playing is not supported. Huge 720p MP4 files too. You need to downconvert your videos to an MP4 format with a lower resolution in order to play it with the ChaCha. Although you can play games on it, some that requires portrait handling like Ninjump feels kinda awkward to play on a landscape type display. I tried playing Plants vs Zombies and the performance on the ChaCha was good. No lag during gameplay at all.
The HTC ChaCha has a 5 megapixel camera with flash to take poor to decent mobile upload quality photos. A 5-megapixel camera is above the norm when it comes to mid-range phones mind you. There’s no dedicated shutter button but the onscreen button can be easily accessed by your thumb unless you want to shoot in portrait mode where you need to use two hands.
Here are some sample photos taken with the HTC ChaCha:
There are not much effects on its camera unlike its more powerful siblings. The only effects you can use are the variety of color filters (sepia, grayscale, polarize, etc). There’s also an option to auto-upload it to your Flickr or Facebook account.
Aside from the quirky design, the dedicated Facebook button is what sets the ChaCha apart from its peers. For a heavy Facebook user, this button can be quite useful as it offers different functionality depending on what screen you’re on. Normally, when you click the FB button it will show you the Post to Wall screen so you can do a quick status update on your Facebook. Or when you press and hold the button, ChaCha will let you check-in quickly.
When you’re on certain screens, the button will gently glow on an off to indicate that it has a special function on that screen. For example, when you’re on the music playback screen, pressing the Facebook button will post an “I am listening to…” status with the music and artist that you are playing. When you’re in camera mode, you can use the FB button to take the shot and you will automatically be presented with an option to upload it to your account. While browsing, the FB button will share the link of the website to your wall.
It has a lot of other helpful functions but you can’t change the default action of the FB button to whatever you want. For example using it to launch the FB App or the FB Chat app instead of posting a status on your wall. Anyway, Facebook users will still find this button really handy.
While we’re at the subject of Facebook, the HTC ChaCha also has this app I find useful called the FB Chat. It’s a messaging app you can use to chat easily with your FB friends. It’s presented in such a way that it’s like using the native messaging app with its own list of contacts. You will get alerts every time somebody replies or tries to chat with you as long as you’re connected to the internet. If you’re into FB chatting, this app is a godsend. No need to launch FB app to invoke chat from there which is not as easy to use.
Another thing you’re paying premium for when getting an HTC phones is access to HTC Sense.com. This allows you to backup and manage your contacts and messages online through HTC’s cloud server. Very useful for me since I often switch HTC phones.
Another thing I enjoy with an HTC Sense.com account is the way you can personalize your already beautiful phone with carefully made themes, skins, scenes, sound sets and wallpapers you can download via the HTC Hub app. If you haven’t used an HTC phone yet, you’re going to love browsing and downloading from HTC Hub.
Ok here’s the thing, as a Facebook phone where you want to post your status whenever you can or upload photos every time, you would want to be connected to the net most of the time. With WiFi always on and connected, I can barely get a day off with the ChaCha. With 3G always on, the 1250mAh battery drains even faster.
I was also able to try the personal hotspot (very easy to do by the way) which shares my phone’s connection to other devices via WiFi. Let’s just say you need to be tethered to a power source lest you want to disconnect without a charge left once you’re finished. Oh and the ChaCha gets awfully warm when used as a WiFi hotspot.
First of all, the HTC ChaCha is not a phone for everyone. If you want a phone with a front QWERTY keypad, there are only a few choices and ChaCha is one if not the best choice out there, unless you have big fingers. If you’re a heavy Facebook user and you want to update your status or chat (not video mind you) with your FB friends quickly, the ChaCha is definitely for you.
It does not go without any flaws though. One is that if you’re a stickler for every transition to be buttery smooth or every app to launch at a snap then you may get miffed with the ChaCha. Then there’s the issue with the battery which is good for a low-end device, but for a phone that wants to be connected most of the time, it may be a bit lacking. The nuances caused by a small screen should also be anticipated like when reading through long e-mails, scrolling down FB statuses or browsing websites.
What you’ll get with the HTC ChaCha is one finely-crafted, beautiful phone that doesn’t need to be coddled too much to avoid getting damaged. You will also get the latest Android OS on an above average processor and finally there’s the value added service you can get with HTC Sense.com. Oh did we already mention that it’s the only Android phone made for easy social networking?
The HTC ChaCha retails for Php15,500 which is normal for a new mid-range phone in the market. It comes in black, white and purple colors.
|HTC ChaCha Specs:|
|800 MHz, Qualcomm Adreno 200 GPU|
|2.6″ multi-touch Gorilla Glass display with 480 x 320 resolution|
|Android 2.3 Gingerbread with modified HTC Sense UI|
|RAM: 512MB, ROM: 512MB|
|microSD, up to 32GB|
|HSDPA, 7.2 Mbps; HSUPA, 384 Kbps|
|Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Wi-Fi hotspot|
|5 MP, 2592 x 1944 pixels, autofocus, LED flash|
|VGA front cam|
|Bluetooth 3.0 with A2DP|
|1250 mAh Li-On battery|
|Colors: Black, White, Purple|