HTC Status: first impressions

Not everyone needs a big, expensive, all-touch cell phone, not to mention the often hefty monthly carrier plans that go along with them. And at $49.99 on contract with a $15 minimum monthly data plan, HTC’s Android 2.3.3-equipped Status–a.k.a. ChaCha–is a neat little social/messaging gadget for those who like technology but don’t want to make it the focus of their lives. By the way, I think the physical and visual software design is as much of a draw as any other bullet point on the Status product sheet.

That isn’t to say that Status doesn’t feature some cool tech: it does. The Sense UI includes access to HTC Hub, where users can download sleek themes and sound sets, and the widgets and UI are just as nifty as the latest top-of-the-line HTC Android. But, with its diminutive landscape-oriented 2.6-inch display at 320 X 480 (which requires the phone be held sideways for many games), 800MHz processor, and 512MB RAM/ROM, the bladerunners out there aren’t likely to jump on Status as the hot new item in the mobile world. This phone is worth a look though, and handles its own in the right context.

Status does have some unique and practical features, and there certainly is an audience for this device. Status actually represents the kind of mobile I would like to have at the moment, but AT&T coverage is horrible at my home. The most high profile of the features is the Facebook button, which allows you to post rapidly, share media, check Facebook Places (with a long-press), and more. It’s the first phone to sport such a button, and the exclusive has garnered the Status more attention than anything else.

The hardware keyboard that sits exposed below the screen is a huge benefit for avid texters. The keys feel great and are easy to adapt to. And, for those that have a need, holding a key down results in a stream of repeat characters, rather than an alternate symbol. I rarely type “wwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww,” so I would prefer a preference setting for this behavior. I’ve also found the light sensor trigger settings to be a bit off: I only get the back-lit keyboard and capacitive menu buttons when I’m in very dark environments, and would like to be able to adjust this.

Minor complaints aside, the Status is a nice looking little phone (hello, HTC chin!) and I’m having a lot of fun with it. The price is very reasonable and the gadget does what I need it to do for my testing. We will have a full review with photo and video samples soon. AT&T will be selling Status on July 17th.

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