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Photos: HTC Gratia

HTC's mid-range Android-based Gratia has arrived, somewhat unheralded. It's no cutting-edge smartphone, but is it worth a look?

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1 of 5 Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

HTC's recent announcement of a raft of new smartphones and a tablet device at Mobile World Congress has rather overshadowed the appearance in the UK of the HTC Gratia. The Gratia has been available in the US for some time as the HTC Aria.

At £329.99 (inc. VAT; £274.99 ex. VAT) SIM-free, the mid-range HTC Gratia sits in a fairly crowded section of the smartphone market. As such, we wonder how much traction this late arrival can gain.

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2 of 5 Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

Some of the specifications of the HTC Gratia are wanting: the 600MHz processor, for example, is behind the 1GHz cutting edge. Perhaps that's to be expected in a mid-range smartphone, but we did find the Gratia a little reluctant to play smooth video, which could be an issue for some users.

More importantly, with just 512MB of ROM and 384MB of RAM it's light on memory. Our review sample reported a mere 164MB of free storage out of the box. This means you'll almost certainly need a microSD card from day one.

Cards live under the backplate, which is in this case a wraparound affair not unlike that of HTC's HD mini. It is a little tricky to prize off with a fingernail, and we resorted to using a penknife. That makes hot-swapping microSD cards a little more tricky than it ought to be.

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3 of 5 Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

The Gratia's whole chassis design is very reminiscent of the HTC HD mini, with four 'industrial design' style screws showing through holes in the backplate and the flashless camera sitting on the speaker grille.

The chassis design is solid, and the wraparound backplate does at least mean the sides of the HTC Gratia are well protected from knocks and bangs.

On the front, HTC has opted to use its optical trackpad, which is good to see. The 3.2in. screen is quite small, so the trackpad is more accurate for tasks like selecting web links than a fingertip.

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4 of 5 Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

The small screen may prove troublesome when entering text, particularly in portrait mode, where the on-screen keyboard is very cramped unless you have extremely small hands. The 320-by-480 resolution is behind the times too, although we found the image acceptably sharp.

HTC's web site says the Gratia runs Android 2.1 (Eclair), but our review sample was running version 2.2 (Froyo). This means the Gratia is fully up to date with the Android smartphone OS — at least until Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) starts to roll out beyond Google's own Nexus S.

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5 of 5 Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

The HTC Gratia is a quad-band GSM phone with HSPA mobile broadband (7.2Mbps down, 2Mbps up), Wi-Fi (802.11b/g, but not n), GPS, a digital compass, Bluetooth (2.1+EDR), an FM radio and support for remote wipe under Microsoft Exchange.

HTC Sense includes its usual array of add-ons for Android, including seven home screens and what HTC calls its 'polite ringer': turn the handset over (face down) to send calls to voicemail; raise it to see who's calling and the ringer volume automatically reduces.

The 1,200mAh battery is probably enough to see most users through a day between charges. However, heavier usage patterns — involving GPS in particular — may require a mid-afternoon power boost.

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