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HTC ChaCha Review – the (un)official Facebook phone

While this is in no way the official Facebook phone, there is no doubt that the HTC ChaCha was created with Facebook users in mind. Posting wall statuses and sharing content over Facebook is what the HTC ChaCha been primed to do, and it does it pretty damn well.

Specifications:
OS: Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) with HTC Sense
Processor: 800 MHz
Display: 2.6” Capacitive (Gorilla Glass) display, HVGA (480 x 320) resolution
Wireless Connections: 802.11b/g/n (WiFi), Bluetooth 3.0, GPS, 3G
Memory: 512 MB ROM, 512 MB RAM
Connectors: 3.5 mm standard audio jack, Micro USB 2.0, Micro SD card slot
Camera: 5 MP camera with auto focus and LED flash, VGA front facing camera
Price: Php 15,900 (Estimated, not definite yet)
Available for free at SMART’s data plan Php 1,000

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Being a former BlackBerry user, the physical keyboard was the first thing I missed when I transitioned into a full touch screen phone. As my fellow editor Vic can attest, no matter how good a virtual keyboard is, it is no substitute. The desire to have a physical keyboard  was the primary reason that got me interested in the HTC ChaCha.

Doing the Cha Cha on the keyboard!
There’s a reason why the BlackBerry was a dominant force in the smartphone market, and it was mostly due to their outstanding keyboard design. A lot of other companies have tried to copy BlackBerry’s keyboard but to no avail. Unfortunately for RIM, HTC seems to have come up with a competent rival with the ChaCha’s hardware keypad. It only took me a few seconds to get used to the ChaCha’s keypad and in a matter of minutes, I was posting Twitter and Facebook status updates like a maniac. HTC hit all the right notes in the design of the ChaCha’s keypad; it’s responsive, offers good tactile feedback, is shaped just right and is mighty pleasant to use.

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Sleek and tough, just the way I like my phones
The HTC ChaCha is categorized as a mid range smartphone, but the overall construction and styling of the Cha Cha screams high-end. It’s sexy and very well designed. The keyboard feels like it could take a pounding and the casing of the phone is a sturdy assembly of rubberized plastic and aluminum. Heck, if I was to put the Samsung Galaxy S II and the HTC ChaCha side by side, the ChaCha would look and feel as if it was the more expensive phone between the two. The incorporation of aluminum in the casing contributed in making the ChaCha feel that’s it’s pricier than what it actually costs. I don’t know about Samsung, but if I was them, I’d be very embarrassed if my 30K smartphone looks and feels cheaper than a competing sub 20K smartphone. Forget about screen protectors, you won’t be needing it as the ChaCha sports a Gorilla Glass touch screen panel, it’s exceptionally tough and highly resistant.

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How is the ChaCha a “FaceBook” phone?
The HTC ChaCha runs on Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) with HTC’s custom Sense interface placed on top of it, so by default, the ChaCha looks and functions just like any other HTC Android handset. However HTC added three things that made the ChaCha more optimized for Facebook:

  • The inclusion of a native Facebook chat application and widget
  • The ability to auto upload photos taken using the ChaCha’s camera into Facebook
  • The presence of a dedicated Facebook button
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Hello there FaceBook button!

The Facebook chat application is quite impressive. It’s very reliable and performs way better than the chat feature of the official Facebook application. I found myself become very active on Facebook chat while using the ChaCha. Here’s hoping the application gets ported to the HTC Sensation. The auto upload of photos is a nice touch but is something I can live without.

The real gem here is the ChaCha’s dedicated Facebook button. The Facebook button makes sharing and posting status updates much faster. By default, pressing the Facebook button will invoke the Facebook wall interface allowing for instantaneous status update. There’s even a bit of a context sensitivity with the Facebook button. If it was pressed while you were viewing a photo, looking at a web site or reading an RSS news item, whatever is being viewed will be instantly shared on your Facebook wall. It may sound like a bad radio slogan, but the Facebook button really makes content sharing “as simple as a press of a button”.

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It’s not set in stone yet, but the HTC ChaCha will supposedly be sold at a very affordable price of Php 15,900 (Smart Telecom is actually offering the ChaCha for free with a Php 1,000 monthly plan). Obviously, some concessions had to be made, with one being a potential deal breaker.

I have no issues with the HTC ChaCha being powered with an 800 MHz processor, I honestly think the phone is fast enough as it is. The battery life of the ChaCha gets no complains from me as well as the ChaCha easily lasted me a day of use from a single charge. However, I do take issues with its meager memory allocation. Seriously HTC, is 512 MB the best you could do? But that’s not the deal breaker, the screen of the HTC ChaCha is quite small which might be a turn off for some people. Personally I have no problem with the screen, but I have 20/20 vision. I can easily see some people with vision problems struggle with the ChaCha’s diminutive screen, some of the fonts can get really small.

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From left to right: HTC Sensation, HTC ChaCha and the Samsung Galaxy S II

Bottomline:
Low memory allocation and small screen aside, the HTC ChaCha is a good buy. There are a lot of mid range Android phones on the market, but the ChaCha outshines all of them. If someone was to ask me what is the best Android phone at the mid-range level, I’ll tell them with no hesitation that it’s the HTC ChaCha.

Likes:

  • Built like it was a high end smartphone
  • Good Facebook integration (The Facebook chat application and the dedicated Facebook button brings the ChaCha closer to becoming a true Facebook phone)
  • Highly useful and well made full QWERTY keyboard
  • Reasonably priced

Dislikes:

  • Screen might be too small for some people
  • HTC once again skimps on memory
Howard

Howard

Gadgets and video games are what Howard loves and he was fortunate enough to have dabbled in both worlds professionally. A former Editor-in-Chief of a local gaming magazine, Howard is currently busy jumping from one industry to another, analyzing and writing about all of the electronic toys he loves. His favorite noodles: Pork Leg Bihon.

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    • affieyap|

      Sadly, this is unavailable at the usual retailers since it’s still locked to Smart. Good thing the grey market doesn’t have any such restrictions :) Thanks for the review Howard! I think I know what I’m getting myself :D


    • dakilang_waiter|

      My dad is really addicted to Facebook but is not very techy so he doesn’t really use all the features of a smart phone, nor does he understand all of them. He’s using a BB Bold right now, but Facebooks through the browser when on mobile internet to avail of Globe’s daily rate.

      Would you recommend this phone to him? Also, how bad is the small screen/small font problem? My dad needs big fonts. Isn’t there a setting to increase this?


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