Despite the plastic body, the ChaCha feels quite good in the hand. There’s no virtual keyboard, which means the QWERTY is the only means of text entry. This is a good thing. Overall, the typing experience is excellent, with adequate space between the keys for small and slender fingers. If you’ve got stubby, chubby, or wide fingers and thumbs, you may be up for a trying time.
The battery appears to be like many other Android devices, so a daily recharge will be necessary for those who use their phones regularly.
Phone calls can of course be made, and the dial pad is located in the corner of several of the letters on the keypad. These numbers are quite small, but memorising their positions won’t take long.
You’ve also got the ability to make almost every single tactile button on the QWERTY keypad into a quick launch shortcut. In other words, you can speed dial for your applications and internet use.
And now the bad news
Overall, the experience on the HTC ChaCha is very good, but we can’t help but feel HTC hasn’t done enough. Outside of the glowing button and chat widget, there isn’t really much here. There are no extra widgets for displaying Facebook events, news streams or friend requests, and given that the Facebook experience is more than just chatting to who’s online, this is an oversight. In fact, most of the Facebook experience provided by the ChaCha is already available via the basic (free!) app that Android users can download through the Market.
The 2.6 inch screen is also problematic, often displaying the text at a size too small to read. Probably not a problem for the optics of the young, but nevertheless it’s something to be just a wee bit too small. Younger eyes probably won’t suffer too much, but it’s something to be aware of.
HTC’s modifications could do with a little bug fixing too, as the corner-menu shortcuts disappear on each swipe to the next home screen, appearing only on the main screen.
Interestingly, the ChaCha isn’t the first Facebook phone. Several years ago, another phone company – INQ – took a stab at it. The Facebook phone this company created was fairly basic, ran on its own operating system, and generally provided a pretty mediocre social networking experience.
Now, of course, Facebook is ubiquitous on smartphones. There are official Facebook apps on nearly every mobile platform and you can always check in via your phone’s browser. Which makes us wonder if there’s really a need for a Facebook phone.
Some of the ChaCha’s features are neat, though, with the automatic upload of photos and videos shot using the Facebook button and the excellently spaced QWERTY keyboard topping that list. The rest of the value from this handset is found in the Gorilla Glass screen, Android’s version 2.3 OS, a 5 megapixel camera and its relatively cheap prepaid price ($299 on Vodafone).