Hands On With HTC’s Snap

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Though Android fans may be disappointed that HTC’s 2009 CTIA announcements didn’t include anything new on the Google front, the company did proffer up a smartphone for users halfway between needing a smartphone and something more ordinary: the HTC Snap. We sat down with the slim QWERTY block to see how it measures up.

First, the bad news: The Snap runs Windows Mobile 6.1, and unlike the HTC Touch Pro and Touch Diamond, there’s no smoothing over the look of it with HTC’s custom TouchFLO interface. It also won’t be upgradable to Windows Mobile 6.5 like some of HTC’s other unreleased phones, so what you see if what you get.

But sparing the TouchFLO interface on this lightweight may actually be to its benefit, since the implementation we handled cut through the standard Windows Mobile 6.1 interface without much lag at all. The integrated BlackBerry-style trackball (also similar to the one on the T-Mobile G1) also makes navigating through the OS simpler than with hard buttons alone.

The real appeal for casual smartphone users, though, will be Inner Circle: HTC’s proprietary system for prioritizing communication from friends. After adding a contact to your Inner Circle, you’ll be able to access them more quickly by pressing the discreet Inner Circle button on the bottom right of the QWERTY keypad, which brings you straight to your select few contacts without delay. The system also moves contact from these friends to the top of your e-mail, so that spam and other clutter will automatically settle to the bottom while important messages head to the top. We weren’t able to try it on the demo version, but in concept, it makes a lot of sense.

We also appreciated HTC’s choice of matte materials, which made the phone easy to handle without smattering it with fingerprints, and made it feel solid in the hand. The bubble-like buttons under the screen, meant for making selections in the OS, were a little confusing at first, though, being grouped so tightly together.

The phone is due out sometime in the second quarter of 2009, but pricing hasn’t yet been announced.

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