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HTC Gratia - Android 2.2, HTC Sense and Apps
The HTC Gratia's 600MHz CPU tells you this is no high-end device. It's slightly more powerful than the 528MHz processor used in the Wildfire, but significantly slower than the 800MHz processor of the Desire Z and the 1GHz chip of last year's Desire. However, this cut corner is barely noticeable in day-to-day navigation.
Google has tweaked the Android OS in each new version, and at the grand old age of 2.2, it's virtually lag-free even when powered by this relatively humble CPU. Some credit should also go to HTC's Sense software too. Third-party user interfaces often clog-up Android, making it perform slower than a vanilla edition of the OS would. Not so with Sense - not only does it look good and add some worthwhile features, it's quick too.
HTC Sense adds a custom dock to the bottom of your home screens, and comes with a handful of widgets and social networking apps. Chief among these is Friend Stream, which aggregates updates, pictures and links posted on Twitter, Facebook and Flickr to offer a one-stop shop for your virtual social life. We'll admit we still prefer to use the official Facebook and Twitter Android apps, but it's still one of the best third-party solutions available.
HTC Sense equips the Gratia with seven home screens as standard, and you can flick through these with a swipe, or zoom out to view all seven at once in thumbnail form. HTC calls this the Leap view, and it's accessed with a two-fingered zoom out gesture. Again, this manoeuvre is very slick in spite of the middling CPU.
The Gratia gives you full access to the Android Market app store, but it only offers around 150MB of internal memory. Until Android 2.2 came around, this was the only memory that could be used to install apps on, and while apps can be installed to an SD card with this phone, not all apps support this feature. More expensive phones like the HTC Desire Z and HTC Desire HD offer around ten times this internal memory.
Another cut corner is the lack of full Flash 10.1 support - instead we have to make do with Flash Lite. This is disappointing given Android 2.2 usually packs-in full Flash 10.1 support as standard, but not unexpected. Flash content is very hard on a phone's CPU and it's common for the feature to be left out of 600MHz phones like the Gratia.
Flash Lite can still handle flash-based video, and with Wi-Fi and 3G connectivity on-board, the web experience doesn't feel compromised - as long as you have a decent connection to surf over. You can also share a mobile internet connection using the Portable Wi-Fi hotspot feature and send apps directly to other Android users over Bluetooth, Gmail or a social network.