Posts Tagged ‘htc’

It seems to be my lot to review tech only months after it hits end of life overseas, but at least it makes it not too old in the South African context, considering how far behind the curve we usually are! That said, I wasn’t looking for anything too current in any event when we finally succumbed to my eldest son’s pleading for a cellphone so I was delighted to find something that fitted the bill perfectly: the HTC Chacha.

A few words on the requirements first. My son was adamant that the phone should have a hardware keyboard and in was equally adamant (being of good technological taste) that it should not be a Blackberry. I also didn’t want to spend a fortune – ok, as little as possible – but was also keen to see t as close to a smartphone experience as possible, given the increasingly important role in think they’ll play. After much hunting around I was delighted to find the HTC Chacha on a contract for just R39 a month with R50 worth of airtime thrown in. Yes, MTN are basically paying me to own this phone. Does this mean it’s so bad they can’t even give it away? Read on, dearly beloved…

The Chacha is a candybar styled phone running the Android operating system and sporting a hardware keyboard set under a 2.6″ touchscreen of 320×480 resolution. The last point is important because it means that, not only does everything on the display look better, but it is also more compatible with all the great majority of the apps in Androids Play Store – all 500,000 of them. It also has 3G, WiFi, GPS and an FM radio. For a detailed look at the specs, follow this link. All in all, though, it’s very well specced for the price and certainly does better than something like the Blackberry 8520 or Nokia 303.

What’s it like to use? Well, understanding that my usage is based on the limited time I’ve had when furtively sneaking it away from my son, the overall experience is pretty good. The size is comfortable in the hand and the main selling point, the keyboard, is well constructed with the keys having good travel and a responsive feel. I personally prefer soft keyboards, but this seems like a good option for those who like hardware based ones. I also really like the fact that it runs Android, as it’s a flexible operating system with access to more apps than you can shake a stick at in the Play Store. There’s literally one for any need you can think of and, though the constant landscape orientation of the screen can feel awkward at times, HTC has generally made sure that usability remains high at all times. Love the fact that it’s so fully featured too – GPS is a bonus because it means my son, who sometimes has the sense of direction of James May from Top Gear, need not worry about getting lost; with the right app, we can even track each other’s location!

What’s not to like? On this particular model, the battery. It’ll get you through the day on light use, but any extended use means you’ll be looking for a charger before nightfall. Any kind of gaming sees the battery going down faster than a homesick mole. This can be a pain to manage if you use the phone for lots of different tasks (and why wouldn’t you?) but I guess if you’re mainly using it for messages and calls with some email it will general work for you. The other thing that would be irritating for me – although, again, not for the casual user – is the fact that it has relatively little memory, thus limiting the number of apps you can practically install. Lastly, it has a dedicated Facebook button to enable quick access of all sorts to the social networking site but I thought it rather pointless (unless you’re an absolute FB addict) and we soon remapped the button to toggle silent mode.

Since it is my son’s phone, I also asked him his opinion from a young user’s perspective. Being his first phone, he’s pretty enamoured with it and lives being able to get in touch with all of his friends, especially those far away. He likes the keyboard a lot, enjoys having a touch screen as well and particularly mentioned as a highlight the fact that Android had so many free apps to download. He was bugged by the fact that he got several errors when using Opera Mini (though I don’t think that’s peculiar to the Chacha) and also mentioned the short battery life as being irritating because it interfered with his ability to play a lot of games on the device. From a parenting point of view, that last issue may just be a plus!

All in all, this was a good purchase. I’d score it a solid seven out of ten – would have been an eight but for the battery life. It’s a good starter smartphone with a strong emphasis on messaging.