Tuesday, July 19, 2011

HTC Status

The HTC Status is the first phone ever to have a dedicated Facebook button. I'll be honest, when I first saw the design of this phone I was more than a little iffy about it for a few reasons. First, the Facebook button. I saw it as being pointless. "We all have an easily accessible Facebook app on our phones already!" exlaimed an exasperated Rob. Second, a real full Qwerty keyboard splashed across the front. "I hate real-button keyboards," said the guy who's been using all-touchscreen phones for the last 9 months. Which brings me to my third reservation, "The screen is tiny!"

Usually three strikes means you're out, but since the phone hadn't even been given a chance to step up and prove itself, I needed to give it a try. Was the "Facebook phone" enough to impress me or did I get so frustrated with it that I couldn't stand to keep it for more than my self-imposed mandatory two-day trial? Jump past the break for the full review to find out.

Sweet Qwerty keyboard with physical buttons
Facebook share button
Facebook chat integration better than any other phone I've seen

Lack of RAM memory
Lack of internal memory
"Friendstream" widget doesn't update
Battery life

Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) Operating System
5 MP back camera with single LED flash - Front facing camera
MSM7227, 800 MHz processor
2.6" HVGA touchscreen with 480 x 320 resolution
Up to 6.5 hours talk time (if you've read phone reviews from me before, I don't put much stock in this)
512 MB internal memory (120 MB user accessible) and a pre-loaded 2 GB Micro SD Card (expandable up to 32 GB)
3G HSPA enabled
Facebook share button (the first of it's kind)
Mixture of a full, real-button Qwerty keyboard with a touchscreen

The first thing I notice about phones is the look, and this one looks like Facebook puked on it. To put it more eloquently, it is mostly white and silver with accents of "Facebook blue" on the keypad. There's also silver outlining the keys on the front and a silver band across the back with an HTC stamp on it. HTC has always been amazing at making phones that look good, so no real surprises here. It is a classy looking phone and the look definitely says Facebook.

The screen is a very small 2.6" touchscreen with the four typical android buttons at the bottom of it and over the Qwerty keypad. I actually enjoyed the small screen. It is a touchscreen and it seems like it'd be too small but it was pleasantly a perfect fit with the Qwerty keyboard. Not too big (so the phone ends up taking up too much of your pocket) and not too small. Underneath the touch Android buttons are two physical buttons, one green on the left for activating the phone application and for accepting calls, the other on the right is red for rejecting calls or hanging up. The Facebook button is a physical button on the bottom right side of the phone.

"Are you in any way related to Harry Potter?"
So enough about the layout... how's the stinkin' phone work? Well, as soon as I get any Android phone, the first thing I do is set up my Facebook and Google accounts on them and put my SD card with all my music and files into it. After I did this, I was all ready to use my phone when the little message in the picture on the right popped up. "Okay," I thought. "So the phone's RAM memory got a little too over-loaded, no big deal." A little HTC wizard started up and guided me through clearing the phones memory. "Problem fixed," I thought, and I continued on to obnoxiously bombard Facebook from my phone.

If they had a phone like this while I was in school my notes
may have looked more like this.
This was when I really got a good feel for the keypad. Now, I am a firm believer in touchscreen keypads. My fingers are rather large and they just don't handle the tiny buttons on physical keypads like Blackberry Phones and such very well. I'll usually opt for a touchscreen keypad with a good autocorrect or Swype anyday. But as I kept typing, a smile started to make its way across my face. "This is fun!" I said out loud, much to my co-worker's dismay. I didn't want to stop typing. The buttons were responsive and let you know exactly when you pressed them hard enough to put a letter on the screen. They weren't too hard to press and they weren't too easily pressed by accident while moving my fingers around. Soon, I was typing very quickly on a physical Qwerty keyboard! It was amazing!

In the meantime, the typing I was doing was all going onto Facebook. Over the next two hours, I became one of those annoying friends that updates their "status" :-) every few minutes. I checked in, I posted, I wrote to friends, I uploaded pictures and a video of some fourth of July fireworks, I left comments, and I got on Facebook chat and messaged back and fourth with friends (something I never do). All this, and I hadn't even accessed the Facebook application yet! I was one happy Facebooking machine. It was all fine and dandy.
The Facebook Chat widget on the HTC Status
Here's how the Facebook button works on this phone. If you are looking at a web page, picture, or a video the Facebook button flashes at you to let you know you can share it. If you press it, it brings up a page where you can add a comment, tag people, or label whatever it is you're posting. Then you post it for all your friends to see. Also, if you're on the main page you can press the Facebook button to either update your status or send a message to a friend in Facebook. If you press and hold the Facebook button, you can check-in with where you are, tag people with you, and add a comment. I checked-in at the new pizza place in town and let everyone know how much I liked the pizza. I even did it so fast that my wife didn't get annoyed with me. Now that's fast! The last amazing Facebook integration HTC has added is the Facebook chat widget. No other phone parallels this phone when it comes to Facebook chat. Even the iPhone has nothing on this machine. When you sign in, you are signed in and you actually receive every message you're sent. It makes a noise when you receive a new message too, just like when you receive a text message.

The headphone jack and the screen lock/power button
I woke up on the second day of having my Facebook phone, and I tapped the update button on the bottom of my Friendstream app. This is the app that HTC loads on its phone that combines Twitter Tweets and Facebook posts into one place. It told me it was updating. The problem was, it proceeded to tell me it was updating for the next 8 hours. During that time I was unable to do check-ins because every time I tried it gave me a "connection error" message. Okay... Finally, I deleted my Facebook account from my phone and re-added it. It started working again. Until the next day when it started doing the same thing again. So, I threw out the Friendstream widget in annoyance and replaced it with the less-cool Facebook widget. *Update: After using the HTC Status for a second time, this problem with the Friendstream widget has been fixed. My co-workers didn't experience this problem either. After one of us uses this device, we reset it to factory settings before passing it on, so I'm guessing the factory data reset fixed all this.*

This happened a lot
That, however, was a minor setback compared to the message that popped up on my phone over 15 times over the second day. It was the low RAM memory message again and it was annoying to say the least. I moved all my applications to the SD card, removed most of my automatically updating widgets, and deleted all my text messages. Finally, I whittled down my home screen to a simple, pre-loaded wallpaper, my Facebook chat widget, my Weatherbug Elite widget, my Facebook widget, and my clock widget with a few app shortcuts and I no longer received these messages. This, however, did not satisfy me because I LOVE the Android operating system for its unique widget capabilities and when that is limited, I can't enjoy it as much. This is a MAJOR drawback to the phone. The internal memory on this phone is now to a point where I can no longer update any applications or download new ones. The memory manager does not fix this and I don't know how to either. It has 512 MB of internal memory, but only 120 MB of it is accessible to the user. I don't even know what to do with this, except to factory reset the phone and start over, but I don't want to do that either. Grrrrr....

Micro USB charging port and volume rocker
But let's move on, shall we? The camera is the next thing that fell under my scrutiny. I went for a walk and took some pictures one day and in the light, the camera took some pretty darn good pictures. I was, of course, uploading these pictures to Facebook as I took them. The pictures turned out very well. They weren't blurry, took decent pictures in the bright sunlight, and good pictures in mid-sunlight. I should add here that the screen on this phone was one of the best I've ever seen in direct sunlight. I got everything I expected to get out of a 5 mega-pixel camera. In the dark, it was better than the iPhone 4's 5 mega-pixel camera (not exactly a hard thing to do, by the way). It does have a good single LED flash that illuminates stuff in the dark. Don't plan on this replacing your digital camera, but it works. The front-facing camera was okay when video chatting, but not as good as the iPhone 4's or the Samsung Infuse's. The pictures were very pixely and digitized so I don't plan on using this for more than dorky pictures of you and your friends.

The battery compartment on the bottom half of the phone
The battery life on this phone was, to be completely straight-forward the worst I've experienced since the time I hung out with my friend who has an HTC Thunderbolt, and that's saying something. I had to charge it twice on my first day on a full charge and once halfway through the day on my second day on a full charge. I was using it a lot to chat with my friends on Facebook and update my Status, but considering the name of the phone, I didn't think it was a crazy expectation to think it would get through a full day of doing just that. I didn't even play any games on it, and that's a usual culprit of battery drainage. The only reason I was able to make it until 4:00 on the second day was because I used the ol' "adjust the brightness of the screen down to 30%," trick. Not impressed with the battery life, but because at my work and in my car I always have a charger handy, it wasn't a big deal for me. For other people, however, it would be a big deal.

The features that defined this phone for me and pretty much summed up my experience with the HTC Status are the Facebook features (both the ease-of-use and the problems I encountered), the sweet Qwerty keyboard, and the horrible lack of internal memory. At first I was actually considering making this phone my main go-to phone. After the second day of full use I was wanting to run back to my HTC Inspire. This phone is definately for social carnivores, but it is not for hardcore smartphone users. It just doesn't have the internal memory necessary to keep up with most people and even thought the battery life was fine fir me, that doesn't mean that it'd be okay for others. I do love the keyboard, but that is not worth the switch. I just need more. I'd recommend it for middle-school to high-school age kids who really want to stay in-touch with their friends and want to do it better than anyone else. I'd also recommend it for older people who are young at heart and want a good way to stay in touch with family and friends, especially for people who have family and friends who live far away. I wouldn't recommend it for people who demand a lot from their smartphone. It is, however, an awesome way to get someone who's addicted to real button keypads into something nicer than what they're used to. Maybe they'll forget about that old Blackberry. By the way, this entire article was written and edited from the Blogger application on the HTC Status. How's that for being satisfied with the keyboard?

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