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HTC Salsa Review

Pros

  • Well built and styled
  • Good quality screen
  • Surprisingly fast interface
  • Feature packed
  • Facebook integration genuinely useful

Cons

  • More expensive than other small smartphones
  • Only 600MHz processor

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £319.99
  • Hardware Facebook button
  • 3.4in, 320 x 480 screen
  • 600MHz processor
  • Android 2.3.3 operating system

Rumours of a true Facebook phone have been bandied around for ages, but last year Mark Zuckerberg put paid to the idea when he announced the company would never make a Facebook  phone. However, it turns out he was being somewhat economical with the truth. While Facebook itself hasn’t released a phone, it has let other companies create them, and the first to hit our test bench is the HTC Salsa.

It’s no surprise that with Facebook at its core, HTC is marketing this as a device for the youth market, rather than to all us serious smartphone users that would never dream of spending hours on end perusing their friend’s photos and exchanging wall posts. As such, the Salsa is a smaller more budget oriented smartphone, though being made by HTC it still has more than a touch of class. Well, if you like purple, that is.

In truth, you’re more likely to find your Salsa in a grey and black colour scheme but we’ve been sent the purple one just ’cause that’s how we roll.

HTC Salsa 2

For a purple phone, it looks very elegant with the now almost signature HTC stylings of an anodised aluminium body with a few soft touch plastic sections on the back, this time in two different shades of darker purple. As ever, the glass screen fills most of the front, and is surrounded by a fairly narrow black bezel with four touch buttons at its base. Meanwhile the bottom of the phone has a slight lip to it, harking back to other budget HTC handsets like the Wildfire S and Legend. It’s a simple design but it works, managing to look elegant yet quirky at the same time.

There are a few additions too. Most obviously there’s the Facebook button that – again showing the HTC engineers’ eye for design – sits just to the right of centre on the bottom lip. It’s a physical button with a good tactile click so you’re always sure when you’ve pressed it, though there’s an argument for saying it’s at odds with the other touch buttons. We’ll come onto what this button does for you a little later on.

HTC Salsa 3

Also new is the camera button on the right edge. We’ve long campaigned for these to become a standard feature – with Apple even taking onboard the idea in its latest iOS 5 update – but that’s not yet happened for standard Android phones. Instead, it has taken the addition of Facebook branding for HTC to squeeze this feature in, and very welcome it is too. It’s a dual step design so you can focus with a half press and take your snap when you depress it fully. The camera itself shoots 5 megapixel stills and 480p (720 x 480) video, and includes an LED flash/lamp.

HTC Salsa 4

Also on the back is the speaker while up top is the headphone jack and power/screen lock button and the left is home to the volume rocker. The lack of any pinholes in the body, bar one on the bottom edge, gives away the fact this phone doesn’t have in-call noise cancelling. It does at least have the little LED in its earpiece grille that lets you know when you’ve got a message or if the phone is charging.

Being a smaller phone, it’s no surprise that it fits comfortably in the hand. The angled bottom edge is mostly a design feature but does actually make it easier to hold the phone in landscape to take a picture. All told, it’s a very nice device to have and to hold.

Screen quality is generally the key area that lets down smaller or more budget oriented phones but the HTC Salsa eschews this trend. By no means is it the biggest or best but the 3.4in LCD produces punchy colours, pumps out plenty of brightness and isn’t too bad when it comes to black levels. Even viewing angles are impressive, with minimal colour and contrast shift. The 320 x 480 pixel resolution is a bit low but it’s enough to maintain a satisfactory smartphone experience – you’ll just have to zoom in and out a bit more on webpages.

HTC Salsa 8

The size of the screen is also not a problem for typing. Smaller screens can feel a bit cramped for using onscreen keyboards, and indeed the Salsa might be a struggle for those with large digits, but we found no issues whatsoever with the typing experience. Keys responded accurately and rapidly, word prediction is excellent and the custom HTC text editing features are excellent, making it really easy to select text and chop and change it through cut and paste.

Helping in this regard is the phone’s overall speed. Despite having just a 600MHz processor, it feels generally responsive and fluid. There’s a bit of choppiness when navigating around – it’s particularly noticeable when scrolling – but this is common on most slower Android phones, and here is much less noticeable.

HTC Salsa 1

No doubt helping keeping things ticking along rapidly is the HTC tweaked Android 2.3.3 operating system. As well as integrating the Facebook features, HTC has made a host of changes to the already feature packed and speedy Android OS. These include the new lock screen that lets you launch programs straight away simply by dragging the icons into the grey circle – you can change which apps you want quick access to.

As ever, you get seven homescreens to fill with widgets, apps and folders of apps while along the bottom are shortcuts for opening the main menu/app launcher, the phone dialler/contacts, and the homescreen settings. The latter lets you quickly set wallpaper, change theme, add widgets or change those lock screen apps, among other things.

HTC Salsa

Tap the Phone button and you’re presented with, unsurprisingly, a dialler, while above it is you contacts list. Starting typing a number or spelling out a name and it will dynamically match contacts as you type, or you can just grab the contacts list and start scrolling.

HTC Salsa 6

Another neat feature is the notifications area that with a swipe drops down from the top edge. As well as showing all your latest emails and other updates, it displays your recent apps, and if you tap the tab at the bottom it’ll get you quick access to settings for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi Hotspot, GPS, Mobile Network, and All Settings. These few additions, shared with most HTC phones, raise the Salsa above most Android alternatives – HTC has actually thought about usability rather than change for changes sake.

With Android already being a powerful and capable OS, this makes the Salsa a true bonefide smartphone. There’s GoogleMaps and Google Navigation to find your way, an FM Radio for keeping you entertained en route, and with access to the hundreds of thousands of apps on the MarketPlace, you can keep it well stocked with other games and apps.

Watching video, viewing pictures and playing games is limited by the small screen and slower processor but simple physics games are more than playable. Video is also hampered by very limited format support, though if you do get something that plays, it’s a perfectly decent watch. Helping here is the surprisingly powerful speaker, and the noise-free headphone jack for when you don’t want to disturb others.

HTC Salsa 6

Getting all this media onto the device is a simple affair thanks to the standard microUSB connection and microSD slot. The phone has negligible internal storage but the slot will take cards up to 32GB – you should find a 2GB card occupying the slot when newly bought.

Alternatively, if you want to snap your own media, the onboard camera does a surprisingly good job. The camera button launches the app and makes it really easy to handle the camera while grabbing a snap. You can also touch the screen to set focus and exposure. The pictures it produces aren’t spectacular but are certainly on par with most 5 megapixel camera phones. What’s particularly impressive, though, is the single LED flash that does a surprisingly good job of lighting up a room. Technically it still trails a Xenon flash by some way, and it doesn’t necessarily provide the most flattering light but it’s better than not being able to see anything.

Of course, this works for shooting video as well, and thanks to the slightly higher resolution than we’re used to from budget phones, you’re footage won’t look half bad. It’s not HD but more than enough to capture the moment. Incidentally the camera button, while a useful addition, has nothing directly to do with the Facebook integration. 

HTC Salsa 7

The big difference, then, between the HTC Salsa and any other modest Android phone is its Facebook integration. Tap the Facebook button in most apps and up pops a messaging screen ready for you to start typing. By default whatever you type is posted to your wall but you can also choose to send a message to a Facebook friend. You can also take or choose a picture to upload.

HTC Salsa 4

There’s also a Facebook chat app that does exactly what you’d expect; provides a basic messaging interface for chatting to your friends that are online on Facebook chat. It provides a history of your conversations and presents messages in a very easy to follow way. There’s no indication of when the other person is typing but otherwise it’s a pretty seamless instant chat service.

HTC Salsa 3

Where the integration is taken to another level, though, is when you use the Facebook button in other apps. Tap it in the camera or camcorder apps and it’ll take a snap recording and instantly have it ready for you to upload to Facebook – just type a few words to accompany the post, select which gallery you’d like to add it too and hit send. Likewise, if you tap it while in the gallery, it’ll go to upload that picture. It also works with the web browser. One press and it’ll create a post with a link to that article, again allowing you to add a few words before posting.

HTC Salsa 9

The one obvious omission to all this Facebook goodness is YouTube integration, so you can’t quickly send round a link to the latest video nasty to your friends. All told, though, even if you don’t necessarily consider yourself a Facebook fiend, these well integrated shortcuts are genuinely useful – if only it worked for Twitter as well.

The unwelcome super hot kick in the Salsa’s tail, though, is its high price. For a smaller budget smartphone its £300 SIM free price is definitely above the norm. If prices drop though this could be one tasty number.

”’Verdict”’

The HTC Salsa may be a smaller, budget device, with Facebook at its core but it’s actually a surprisingly grown up smartphone. It’s smartly styled, speedy in operation, packed full of features, and can get you to Facebook nirvana quicker than you can say toasted Tortilla. Whether your desire for Facebook fripperies is strong enough to overcome the slightly high price is more of a personal preference issue but if you do like the idea then it’s very well executed.

HTC Salsa - Camera Samples

HTC Salsa - Camera Samples 1

HTC Salsa - Camera Samples 1

HTC Salsa - Camera Samples

HTC Salsa - Camera Samples 1

HTC Salsa - Camera Samples

Trusted Score


Score in detail

  • Performance 8
  • Camera 7
  • Design 8
  • Usability 9
  • Value 7
  • Features 8

General

Operating System Android OS
Height (Millimeter) 109.1mm
Width (Millimeter) 58.9mm
Depth (Millimeter) 12.3mm
Weight (Gram) 120g
Available Colours Purple, black/grey

Display

Screen Size (inches) (Inch) 3.4in
Screen Resolution 320 x 480
Touchscreen Yes, glass capacitive

Battery

Talk Time (Minute) 470m
Standby Time (Hour) 530hr

Storage

Internal Storage (Gigabyte) 512GB
Camera (Megapixel) 5 Megapixel
Front Facing Camera (Megapixel) 1.3 Megapixel
Camera Flash 1 x LED

Connectivity

Bluetooth Yes
WiFi Yes
3G/4G Yes
3.5mm Headphone Jack Yes
Charging/Computer Connection microUSB

Processor and Internal Specs

CPU 600MHz Qualcomm

Misc

App Store Yes
GPS Yes

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