While other manufacturers stay contended with running third party Facebook apps on their mobile phones, HTC decided to take one step further by collaborating with Facebook on the next generation of smartphones that are specially built for social networking on the move. The joint development process resulted in the unveiling of HTC ChaCha and HTC Salsa, which are the first devices in the world to feature a dedicated Facebook button. We had our first preview of the HTC ChaCha during our hands-on at MWC 2011. Fast forward to present day, the HTC ChaCha arrived on our shores two weeks ago through an official launch event with HTC and SingTel. Not only are we proud that Singapore is the first in the Asia Pacific region to receive the phone, we were also glad to spend some intimate time with the HTC ChaCha over the last week for our full review today.
The first thing that caught our eyes is its unique tilt design that reminded us of the HTC Hero. Face-front, the center of the body seems to sunk in a little. According to HTC, this design shapes the display and physical QWERTY keyboard so that it is easy to view and comfortable to type. During our time with the ChaCha, we found the viewing experience to be a tad better as the screen seemed to be raised higher and tilted towards our eyes for a clearer view.
The body of the HTC ChaCha is made up of a combination of metal and plastic, which not only gives the device a sturdy look, it also makes it feel comfortable in your hands. In comparison with the BlackBerry Bold 9780, the HTC ChaCha is slimmer at 10.7mm but wider by a slight margin to accommodate the full QWERTY keyboard.
The HTC ChaCha features a four-row keyboard with sufficient spacing in between keys. HTC claims that the QWERTY keyboard found on the ChaCha is 10% more spacious than its competitors. During our time with the device, we found the company's claims to be true. Besides having just the right amount of travel, the keys also provide reasonable tactile feedback. However, the keys give off a "clicky" sound whenever you press them, which can be rather annoying in quiet environments. The keyboard also has a directional pad at the bottom right. We wonder if it will be ever used since navigation of the user interface can be done faster using touchscreen. Below the directional pad is the dedicated Facebook button, which we will cover in more details in our next section.
While the keyboard is sufficiently wide enough for comfortable typing, the display suffers from the lack of screen estate. Even though phones of this form factor usually comes with smaller screen sizes, we would have preferred if HTC bumps up the 2.6-inch screen size of the ChaCha. We have seen Motorola achieve this with their Motorola PRO and we think that users will appreciate a larger screen size as there is more room to work with. Nevertheless, HTC knows of this shortcoming and has made necessary alterations to the user interface to fit the landscape screen.
On the left side of the ChaCha, you will find the microUSB port and the volume controls. The volume controls are sufficiently raised above the body for easy pressing. On the crown of the device, as expected, you'll find the Power button and 3.5mm audio jack.
The back of the HTC ChaCHa consists of the speaker, the 5-megapixel camera and LED flash. Also, it seems to be becoming a standard feature of all HTC devices to have the center of their backs inscribed with the HTC brand name.