I’ve recently been having difficulty with my Nokia 6500 Slide’s reception and decided I need to take the plunge and buy myself a new handset. After a lot of thought, I came to the conclusion I couldn’t justify spending £400 on a handset, nor could I justify spending £35 on a contract each month. Therefore, I kept my O2 Pay-As-You-Go (PAYG from now on) SIM card and intended to buy a reasonably priced PAYG handset. I set myself a budget and decided to stick to it.
The phones that I have been most taken with recently are the Palm Pre, HTC HD2 (and Mini), Desire and the Sony Ericsson X10. But their cost far outweighed my desire to own one of these gems. Instead I considered the Nokia 5800, Samsung Jet and Sony Ericsson Elm. All are good phones in their own way, but nothing really stood out for me. That was until I saw the poster in the O2 Store for the HTC Smart.
I liked HTC phones. I loved the HD2 when I played with my brother-in-law’s recently. So seeing an HTC handset for a penny less than £100 was a plus in my eyes. I asked the sales rep could I see the handset. Once he opened the box and handed me the phone, it felt perfect for me. I wasn’t expecting to use the handset either, but the nice chap turned it on for me and I was able to see just how the Smart performed in comparison to the HD2 that I’d used a few weeks earlier. 10 minutes later, I was walking out of the store with a brand new phone.
It’s been two and a half weeks since getting to grips with the Smart, so how have I coped?
The box is nice and small, but given the size, unless HTC use 8cm discs, there clearly isn’t any bundled software. HTC’s Sync app is available to download from the HTC website and can be installed on a Windows based PC (sorry Mac owners). Once open, we have the usual suspects, Phone, Battery, USB Cable + Charger and hands free headset (which triple up as headphones and FM Radio aerial). A bonus was the inclusion of a 2GB SD MicroSD card already installed in the phone. I already have a 4GB card, so I slot the card in and fire up the phone.
The phone itself looks gorgeous. The back panel/battery cover has a matte finish which is nice as it doesn’t attract too many finger prints. The front of the phone is minimal. Four buttons adorn the front, Answer/Reject calls, a Back button and a slender silver button used for settings/submenus. The screen is a good size in comparison to the phone, it’s not too glossy and hasn’t got too smudged in all the time I’ve been using the phone.
For the size of the phone, it feels slightly lighter in weight to the Nokia 6500 Slide (in fact by 15 grams). The phone, due to its size, feels perfect in the hand and the matt finish of the body gives it a soft touch kind of feel. At only 108 grams, its 2 grams lighter than the HD Mini.
OS and User Interface (UI)
I’ll be honest, I’d never heard of the Brew Mobile Platform previous to seeing and using this phone. I don’t have anything against the OS either, as it appears to be newer to the market compared to Android. My one complaint is that there are no apps available to download, nor does there appear to be an app store available. That’s not to say that there are no apps available or an app store isn’t planned, but at the time of writing this, I could only find Opera Mini and Flash Lite. Then again, this phone is designed for the budget minded and the likely hood of people who use this phone wanting to utilise an app store is most likely minimal. The option would have been nice though. Java apps will install and run, but as the most of the apps I’ve used and tried are designed to run on phones with keypads, I’ve not had much luck playing with them.
As for the UI, it uses HTC’s own Sense for navigation and gestures. Currently the phone uses tap, double tap, press and hold and slide for navigating the menus and apps. The addition of the settings/submenu button means that you do have to use the keys to perform certain functions such as replying to and deleting messages.
I’ve been more than impressed with the UI. I’d never been sold on touch screen phones until using the HD2 and now, using the lower spec Smart, I’m equally as impressed in just how fluid and, for want of a better word, pretty the UI is. As you can see from the pics here, I’ve customised the wallpaper and lock screen with photos of my son! The home screen is clear and with a quick slide of the finger from bottom to (roughly) middle of the phone, I have access to the shortcuts for apps and functionality. You’re limited to 9 apps through this method. From the home screen, a quick slide of the finger left to right, or right to left will take you into your customised Home Screen. On mine I have Friend Stream (that can be configured to update from Facebook and Twitter), Messages, Favourite Contacts, Mail and Music. You can have up to 6 apps (3 to the left and 3 to the right) to compliment the main home screen. Pressing the back button will take you out of any app or screen you are in and try to navigate back the main home screen. If you press the back button once on the main home screen, you will get access to all the apps installed on the phone. In my case I still have all the default apps, so 3 screens worth. Navigation is again sliding a finger or thumb left or right.
I have been impressed with the performance of the phone. The navigation is smooth through all the screens and unless you are hammering the phone like mad, listening to music, uploading photos to Facebook and texting all at the same time, there isn’t any real sluggishness. I have notice a bit of stuttering, but nothing I can’t handle. Compared with the HD2, the Smart uses a resistive touch screen, rather than a capacitive one. Corners had to be cut somewhere in order to become the affordable phone that it is, but if you do use a higher spec device, you’ll discover that there are some limitations and potential trickery with the lower spec Smart.
The camera quality is adequate for my needs. I would generally take a photo and then send an MMS to family and friends, so the quality will be lowered at that point. I’ve attached a picture I took at a Snow Patrol concert recently; it’s grand for uploading to Facebook and sending MMS’, but nothing spectacular. Again, like the touch screen, a higher quality camera would have pushed the price up more.
Battery life is good too, with a full charge lasting me from Thursday to Monday with regular phone calls made, texts sent/received, music being played and photos being taken.
The screen could be a little brighter in certain scenarios, such as outside on a nice sunny day, but it’s something that I’ve learned to live with on my other phones and devices, so for me right now it does not pose a problem.
I have been more impressed with this phone than I thought I would. Looks, feels, performance and functionality suit me right down to the ground right now. As for the price, at £99.99 it’s in line with similar phones in its class on the market right now.
But, what sort of person would benefit from the HTC Smart, which isn’t actually a Smartphone? I guess someone wanting to enter into the touch screen phone world or a parent wanting to get a child a more modern phone without breaking the bank.
• Easy to use UI
• 2GB Micro SD card included
• Good battery life
• Slight stuttering at times in the UI
• No app store (as of yet)
• No apps available for the Brew MP (that I can find)
• Camera quality could be better
• No Wi-Fi
I think you have to decide why you would want to get this phone over, say the Samsung Jet. The Jet is a better phone with more features and functionality, but it’s at least £50 more on PAYG. My advice would be to decide what exactly you want from a phone and stick to it. I was prepared, due to my budget limitations, not to expect anything special, but in the end I found exactly what I was looking for. Ultimately I chose this phone based upon its price, looks and UI and I’m very glad that I did. I’m sold on HTC handsets for life now and as long as HTC keep releasing handsets like this, the Desire and the HD2, I’ll be an HTC user for a long time to come.
I want to finish on a punch line, like “HTC’s Smart, the (almost) Smartphone” or “HTC bring Sense on a sensible budget” but it’s going to sound corny, isn’t it!