The Android 2.2-powered Gratia is HTC's latest mid-range smartphone. Its name, which can roughly be translated from Latin to "grace", sounds a lot less bold than its older siblings the HTC Desire, Hero and Wildfire, but there's a lot to like about this friendly-looking Android phone.
Last year, HTC produced several of our favourite metal-bodied phones, including the HTC Legend and Google Nexus One, but the Gratia takes a completely different approach. Aside from the hard glass front, the phone's body is almost completely covered by a single oversized plastic battery cover. The exposed screw heads on the phone's back suggest you'll need to get out a screwdriver to get anywhere near its battery but it's a rouse - all you need to do is pull the cover off, using the fingernail recess on the Gratia's top.
This cover balloons out from the sides of the touchscreen a little on each side, stopping the Gratia from seeming slim in spite of its svelte 11.7mm thickness, but these curves also increase the handset's comfort factor. Next to HTC's bigger, bolder, brasher phones, there's something almost excessively friendly about the Gratia. That said, it's not quite as slick as the mid-range unibody HTC Legend.
A squeeze of the phone's middle causes a creak as the plastic cover flexes - the plastic used isn't as hard or thick as that used in the HTC Wildfire, but build quality is otherwise very good. Still, we imagine its looks won't impress as many people as quickly as the Wildfire or Legend did. It comes in either a black or white finish, and while both look smart those exposed screws introduce an element of quirkiness that not everyone will love.
Although these disruptions of the phone's lines are deliberate, its sides are otherwise simple and unadorned. On the top is the power button, also used to wake the Gratia up once the backlight times out, and the 3.5mm headphone jack. The left side is home to the volume controls and the microUSB slot is on the handset's bottom, used for charging and transferring data. There's no physical camera shutter button and, thanks to the design of the battery cover, no seam that runs down these sides.
In something of a throwback to yester Android devices, the HTC Gratia uses an optical trackpad. This is used to scroll through the interface, and as a "select" button, but can easily be ignored in favour of all-touchscreen navigation. The soft keys are touch-sensitive pads that sit just below the main touchscreen, and thankfully they feel nice and responsive.
Lift the battery cover off completely and the true design of the Gratia is revealed. It's an almost entirely non-curvy rectangle, a little like an iPhone 4 that's been beaten with the ugly stick. Of course, you're never meant keep and use the phone without the battery cover on, so it's a moot point. Underneath the cover are the SIM and microSD card slots - and as the battery doesn't have to be removed to access this slot, card hot-swapping is no problem.