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Caption by: Sandra Vogel
Non-touch-screen Windows Mobile devices might seem unfashionable these days, but new Windows Mobile 6.1 Standard smartphones are still appearing. The HTC Snap is one such device, and if you're looking for good battery life, an excellent mini-QWERTY keyboard and can live with a small (non-touch) screen, it could be ideal. The Snap's Inner Circle feature might also appeal to business users, as this helps you sort out the important information from the 'read later' stuff. Our review sample came from Clove Technology.
The physical design of the HTC Snap is conventional, its overall look very much in keeping with other non-touch-screen Windows Mobile devices we've seen.
The casing has a nice rubbery finish that makes it easy to grip and doesn't attract fingermarks. The bottom edge has an attractive curve and the bottom row on the mini-keyboard is far enough away that the Snap can safely be used one-handed without the device falling from the hand.
HTC's £252 (ex. VAT) Snap introduces a new email-handling feature called Inner Circle that highlights your most important communications.
The Snap's 120g weight shouldn't cause any problems, while at 61.5mm wide by 116mm deep by 12mm thick, the device should fit comfortably in most hands.
The QWERTY keys are about as large as they could be in this style of handheld. They stretch to the far left and right edges of the casing and are each domed with a raised centre that helps with accuracy. Keys are contiguous along the row and each row is slightly separated from the others. This design helps give a feeling of space around the keys.
The Snap's mini-QWERTY keyboard is an excellent example of the genre.
The screen is always something of a disappointment on this style of handheld, and the Snap is no exception. It measures just 2.4in. across the diagonal and has a resolution of 320 by 240 pixels. This will be perfectly adequate if your requirements are limited to SMS and calendar viewing. But if you're a fan of mobile web browsing or like to see lots of email text on-screen at any one time, then the screen may disappoint you.
Between the screen and keyboard is a row of circular shortcut buttons on a slate-grey background. Call and End buttons are on the far left and right edges, with two softmenu keys, a back button and the Windows Mobile home key inside these.
In the middle of this row is a miniature navigation button reminiscent of the one first seen on the Blackberry Pearl. It works very well for vertical and horizontal movement around the screen, and you simply press it to make selections.
There are few side-mounted buttons or connectors. The left edge has the volume rocker while the right edge houses a mini-USB connector for charging, PC connection and the provided stereo headset. It's protected by a hinged cover that those with short fingernails may find tricky to remove.
The HTC Snap ships with an AC adapter, a USB PC cable, a printed quick-start guide and two CDs containing the full user manual and software. You get neither screen protector nor carrying case. The headset is a one-piece in-ear affair, so if you have a preferred 3.5mm headset you'll have to buy an adapter.
The HTC Snap is a quad-band GSM phone with GPRS, EDGE and HSDPA up to 7.2Mbps. It's powered by a 528MHz Qualcomm MSM 7225 processor and has 256MB of ROM plus 192MB of RAM. Out of the box, our review sample had 61MB of available storage.
There is a microSD card slot for adding more storage. This is located on the bottom edge of the device and is only accessible if you remove the backplate. We found the backplate little fiddly to remove and you will probably need a fingernail or two to do so. The Snap has a GPS receiver, and Google maps is preinstalled to help you take advantage of it. Wi-Fi (802.11b/g) and Bluetooth (2.0+EDR) are also integrated.
At the back there's a basic 2-megapixel camera that lacks autofocus, flash, self-portrait mirror, camera launch side key and image manipulation features. Anyone seeking more than the ability to take the odd snap here and there should consider a different device.
The Snap's 2-megapixel camera is only good for accasional, basic, image capture.
There is no front facing camera, and so you won't be able to make two-way video calls.
HTC provides a front end to Windows Mobile that looks a little like the TouchFLO UI found on its touch-screen devices. We've seen this before, and it does spruce up the standard Windows Mobile look. If you're not a fan, it's easy to revert to one of several standard Windows Mobile themes.
The HTC Snap's most innovative feature is the Inner Circle application, which you launch via a dedicated green button in the bottom right-hand corner of the keyboard. When running, Inner Circle ensures that emails from a predefined list of your 'key' contacts are automatically sent to the top of the inbox. It's an extremely simple concept, but very effective: when you only have a few minutes to check messages, Inner Circle should ensure that the most important ones get your attention first.
Performance & battery life
We had no trouble making and taking calls on the HTC Snap. Quality was good, and we found it easy to navigate the device. Battery life is very good indeed. HTC quotes up to 380 hours of standby time and 510 minutes of talk on GSM. We performed our usual test of getting the device to play music continuously from a fully charged battery. It did so for 10 hours 57 minutes. More anecdotally, it lasted three days of everyday use without needing a recharge.
It isn't the lack of touch support that puts us off the HTC Snap, but the small 2.4in. screen. We're so used to seeing web pages on large (>3in.) screens, and viewing text without constantly scrolling, that the Snap feels positively archaic. On the other hand, the physical design is superb, with the QWERTY keyboard deserving a special mention for its ergonomics. Battery life is impressive, while the Inner Circle email-sorting idea is simple but inspired.
Caption by: Sandra Vogel