Billed as a Facebook phone, the HTC ChaCha sambas onto the scene with a blue Facebook button that’s ready to waltz you directly to the land of social networking. However, we’ve previously never found these messaging handsets to fit all that well with the Android OS, so has the ChaCha managed to spin us around?
Messaging phones usually aren’t that exciting to look at. We physically yawn every time we clap eyes on another Blackberry rip-off, and even RIM’s own devices tend to look a tad boring to us. However, the ChaCha really is a great-looking device. There are two main reasons for this. Firstly, HTC has given it a pretty unique shape where the phone actually curves outwards from around two thirds of the way down. It’s a bit like a more extreme version of the jutting jaw line found on the old HTC Hero. Secondly, the corners and edges of the handset are nicely rounded and this is echoed in other design elements such as the screen surround, leading to a very appealing 1960s Sci-Fi look.
At 114mm, the ChaCha is a smidgen shorter than most candy bar handsets, but naturally HTC has had to make it a fair bit wider to accommodate the full Qwerty keyboard. Nevertheless, it still feels comfortable to hold and is light too, at just 120g. HTC’s handset generally feel well-built and the ChaCha is no different, as the mix of hard plastic and metal used on its body feels very sturdy.
Dotted around the edge you get the usual controls including the power button / lock switch at the top and volume rocker switch on the left hand side. There are also the standard four Android touch buttons beneath the screen, just above two dedicated call handling buttons.
HTC may not make all that many phones with physical Qwerty keyboards, but its lack of experience certainly isn’t evident here. In fact, the ChaCha’s keyboard really is fantastic and one of the best we’ve used on a phone. The keys are nicely spaced and the layout is good too. The keys have more travel than you would expect and respond with a nice, firm click when pressed. This combined with the reasonably flat and wide design means that pretty rapid typing isn’t a problem at all. We also like that some of the buttons are set up as shortcuts. For example, holding down the ‘.’ Button fires up the camera, while doing the same with the ‘w’ key calls your voicemail number.
Below the keyboard on the right hand side there’s a dedicated button with the Facebook logo stamped on it. It looks a little bit odd perched out here on its own - almost like its addition was a bit of an afterthought. Nevertheless, Facebook is pretty tightly woven into the phone’s software. Pressing the button once from the home screen takes you directly to a screen where you can post an update on your wall. Holding the button down instead takes you to Google Places so you can check in at your current location. It’s also context-sensitive. For example, if you’re viewing a webpage or a video, pressing it lets you post that content to your wall.