You could probably argue that all Android phones are made of the same stuff. Some may have bigger screens. Other are thinner than the rest. Some duke it out with better cameras and battery life. But essentially, they’re all made of the same operating system with the same basic features. So, choosing what Android phone to buy is usually based on aesthetics, brand loyalty and basic phone specs (I mean, there isn’t really much difference between a 5MP and 8MP camera but to some they feel it matters).
Back in February I caught a glimpse of the HTC ChaCha at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. I couldn’t touch it. I wasn’t allowed to. But from afar it was one of those Android devices that stood out because of three things: it had a one-of-a-kind screen size, it had a built in QWERTY keyboard, and most importantly, it is the only Android phone with a hardware hack made especially for Facebook. The HTC ChaCha is the Facebook phone. When I asked HTC regional about how they were able to achieve this they said that this wasn’t in any way an exclusive thing with Facebook. They actually said that anyone could do this, but it was only HTC that figured it out first. I finally knew what their regional rep, Darren, meant. When you turn on the phone, you’re guided through the typical Android setup. After it asks you to link your GMail account, it also asks you to link your Facebook account. The ChaCha then asks permission to link itself to your account through a built in app.
As you can see, they really want to make it known you’re dancing the ChaCha.
Let’s talk about the real estate. The HTC ChaCha is an odd one. With a smaller screen, veteran Android users may be disoriented at first with the way the UI looks.
Instead of top to bottom, the screen layout is done left to right. As such, I had small issues as it discriminates left handed geeks. But that’s OK. I’m a martyr.
Let’s talk about the keyboard. Hands down, if you’ve been waiting for a QWERTY Android device (and believe me you were), this is it. If you always wanted an Android smartphone but didn’t jump into the craze because you didn’t want to SMS using a touch screen, this phone is for you. The keypad is definitely a breath of fresh air. There’s nothing wrong with it per se. The only functionality I find annoying is that you cannot wake the phone by pressing any of the keypad buttons. You always need to press the power button to wake the phone up. What’s wrong with this? The power button feels a bit depressed into the casing. Anyway, that’s minor minor.
Let’s talk about the F button. This is the only Android device in the market with a dedicated button for Facebook. By default, “F” lets you update your status with the option of adding an attachment or taking a photo. Here’s the screen:
I just got the phone yesterday. In part II of my review I’ll be discussing the “F” button’s practicality in everyday mobile Internet living. In the meantime, here are more photos. Oh, it’s going to be available c/o SMART.