- Very good mini-QWERTY keyboard
- HSDPA, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and GPS
- Good battery life
- Poor backplate design
- No front-facing camera
- Awkwardly located microSD card slot
Most of today's Windows Mobile devices have touch-screens, but there is a variant of the OS for non touch-screened devices. These are aimed at people who want communications first, and data second. If current trends are an indication, this version of Windows Mobile is on the wane, but there are still options available. Orange has recently added HTC's S740 to its range, for example.
The HTC S740 — which measures 116mm by 43.4mm by 16.6mm and weighs 140g — is a tall, thin handset that looks slightly out of proportion when compared to an ordinary candybar mobile phone. The main reason for its elongated and wedge-like dimensions is the slide-out keyboard. We've seen this idea before, most recently in the S740's predecessor, the S730.
HTC's S740 is available from Orange on a variety of monthly tariffs. It's a well-connected Windows Mobile 6.1 Standard device with a slide-out keyboard.
The S740 takes its chassis design cue from the HTC Touch Diamond, sharing that handset's glossy black front and shaped ('diamond cut') backplate. Although the former feature is welcome, giving the S740 a smart but not too flashy look, the latter is a disaster.
The shaping of the backplate means that the S740 won't lie flat on a surface. It's fine when sitting face up doing nothing. But when you try to tap on the number pad or slide out the keyboard for a quick 'OK' to an incoming SMS, the shaped backplate stops the handset from lying flat: when you press a key the S740 rocks around, which means you have to pick the phone up to use it.
The number pad on the front is large and should suit even those with stubby fingers. The Call and End buttons, Windows Mobile softkeys and Home and Back buttons are also well designed and should not present problems. The round navigation pad is raised from its surroundings and has a large select button in its centre. Again, this is easy to use.
The QWERTY keys on the slifde-out keyboard are necessarily quite small, but they are well designed. Each is individually shaped and delivers a solid tactile feel when pressed. There are Caps and Fn lights, separate '.', ',' and '@' keys, plus a key you press to access the SMS/MMS application. There are also shortcuts to useful features such as the Comm Manager and web browser. There are two softkeys, plus up and down keys that are useful for navigating through menus and double up as page-up and page-down keys in conjunction with the function key.
HTC has not been able to implement its TouchFLO system on the S740's 2.4in. 240-by-320-pixel display. Instead, it uses its own variant of Microsoft's Sliding Panels screen (Sliding Panels itself can also be used: you switch to it in the phone's settings). In HTC's version, the Windows Mobile Today screen has a mostly black-and-white theme. You move through areas by pushing the navigation key up and down and within them by pushing it left and right. So, for example, in the Calls panel there are two options: to view missed calls and to access voicemails quickly.
The system works well, but doesn't cover everything, so the Start softkey takes you into Windows Mobile's programs and settings areas.
Two volume buttons sit on the left edge, and there's a camera button on the right edge. On the top you'll find the main on/off switch, while bottom houses a mini-USB connector that's shared between the power adapter, PC cable and headphones.
Orange's HTC S740 ships with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a headset and a small printed quick-start guide. The headset is a one-piece unit with in-ear buds. You'll need a USB adapter to use a headset with a standard 3.5mm jack.
The HTC S740 has 256MB of ROM and 256MB of RAM. Out of the box our review sample reported 82MB of available storage. Storage can be expanded via a microSD card. Unfortunately, this is a little awkward to fit as the slot is under the SIM card, which is itself beneath a sliding panel that's only revealed when you slide the keyboard out. Removing the SIM causes the HTC S740 to power down, so effectively you need to do a soft reset whenever you want to swap memory cards.
The HTC S740 runs Windows Mobile 6.1 Standard and is powered by a 528MHz Qualcomm MSM7255 processor. It's a quad-band handset with HSDPA support for downloads at up to 7.2Mbps — although you won't achieve that rate from Orange, which currently tops out at 3.6Mbps.
Wi-Fi (802.11b/g) and Bluetooth (2.0+EDR) are integrated, along with a GPS receiver. No navigation software is bundled, but you can get various third-party applications or try online options such as Google Maps.
The rear-mounted camera is 3.2-megapixel unit that lacks a flash and takes average-quality shots. There's no front-facing camera, which rules out two-way video calls.
Office Mobile includes the ability to edit Word and Excel documents and view PowerPoint presentations, and there's a mobile version of OneNote included too. A PDF reader is also bundled, along with an FM radio and an RSS reader.
Performance & battery life
We found call quality on the S740 to be fine on Orange's network. Just as importantly, battery life was good. HTC claims the S740 will deliver up to 350 minutes of talktime and will last for up to 260 hours on standby.
To test this, we fully charged the device and then asked it to play music continuously. It delivered an impressive 8.5 hours of music before powering down. More anecdotally, we were able to go for two-day stretches of normal use without needing to recharge.
The one big problem with the HSC S740 is with its shaped backplate. This seriously hampers its usability when the unit is sitting on a desk. The mini-QWERTY keyboard is very good and we're impressed with the battery life.