HTC Salsa Review

June 10, 2011
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It's one of the Facebook phones we found out about at Mobile World Congress 2011, hooray! What have we got here? Chris Davies over at SlashGear lets us know that this device's dedicated Facebook button is indeed popping up from the bottom allowing us to share our entire lives without even an extra tap. Will it shine through as an HTC phone for the history books, or is it just an oddity that Zuckerberg put his face on for promotions sake alone? Only Europe can decide for now. Let's get to reviewing!

This device you can see in a bevy of posts since its initial coming out party in February. Pay special attention to the fact that this device has been moving around in the news right alongside the HTC ChaCha since birth but that its full-screen touchscreen as opposed to the ChaCha's QUERTY keyboard half makes it a whole different creature. Initially only under glass, now out in the open - what should we be considering?

Hardware

This being the least forward-thinking of the two Facebook phones offered up by HTC of late, we've got to consider how it innovates. Beyond the dedicated Facebook button sitting under the haptic Back button, it feels rather like a HTC Legend save for it's plastic "chin" and unibody case surround all colored in shades of purple. Lilac, if you will. This device is sized in at 4.3 x 2.32 x 0.48 inch, weighs 120g, and as Davies notes, is just as high quality in its build as the ultra-fabulous HTC Sensation (which you can see our full review of here.) The display is a 3.4-inch 480 x 320 touchscreen, dedicated camera button on the lower right hand side, volume rocker on the upper left, microUSB below that, and the lovely dedicated light-up Facebook button at the bottom front.

Inside you'll find a 800MHz chip, 512MB of RAM and 512MB of ROM, and connectivity along HSPA/WCDMA 900/2100 and quadband GSM/EDGE, along with WiFi b/g/n and Bluetooth 3.0. Also A2DP support, bluetooth audio connections, along with a g-sensor, digital compass, proximity and light sensors. The display runs at WVGA which is indeed lower than high-end Sensation but right in line with the rest of the mid-range phones out today. Not a godly as the Super AMOLED Plus, obviously, but certainly a competitor in the mid-range.

HTC Salsa Overview

Software

This device is running Android 2.3.3 Gingerbread with a modified version of HTC Sense for the Facebook integration. This version of Sense isn't the brand new 3.0 like the HTC Flyer and HTC Sensation, but it is a new one, with several items that are Facebook specific. Active lockscreen with four shortcuts just like Sense 3.0, but no animated weather, gallery of FriendStream updates. Limits come from the lower processor speed almost certainly, through lots of goodies are still present.

FriendStream still does appear here, Peep for Twitter, HTC Hub, Mirror, and Wifi hotspot. The most excellent dropdown notification screen is also present, one of our favorites from any Android mod in existence. HTC Watch and OnLive streaming are not here, but unless you've experienced them before, you'll not miss em.

Facebook Integration

The button is there, the button is very prominent, you will not miss the button unless you cover it up with a big piece of tape. In fact, the button is so prominent you'll have a hard time NOT wanting (or wanting) to press it. Differences in the basics of HTC Sense include a change in the homescreen clock widget which now leaves weather for a Facebook status update from one of your friends. FriendStream still exists along with a smaller Friend Channel widget, but they've added a Facebook Chat widget with accompanying app since Salsa supports real-time instant messages through the big blue social network. You're able to Facebook chat in a very basic way with text, and only in portrait mode.

Facebook Integration Demo

The button itself opens a Wall Post dialog, one that lows you to quickly post a status to your own wall or to a friend's wall by choosing their name from a drop-down menu. Uploading photos is also possible here by taking one with the camera or by choosing one from your gallery. If you're listening to music and hit the Facebook button, the track you're listening to automatically shares to your wall. In the same manner, you can share which webpage your browsing, viewing a video and pressing the button allows you to upload the shot. When uploading a shot in this manner you're allowed to create a new gallery or add to an existing gallery, changing privacy setting and tags while you do it.

Long-pressing the Facebook button allows you to check in using Facebook Places. You'll be able to choose from a list of nearby locations already registered or you can create your own with description. Google Latitude is also pre-loaded on this device, but the button does not attach to it. It's also worth noting that there's no Facebook Group or Page support, and you're only allowed to be logged in as a single Facebook account at a time. The music sharing only works with the Android media player and with no other music player, and you're not able to share a Google Maps location, app listing in Android Market, or a YouTube page from the official Android YouTube App. Things are definitely missing.

Camera

The back-facing 5-megapixel camera on this device shoots generally OK stills or 720 x 480 video clips that are certainly decent for Facebook sharing purposes, but that's about it. Have a look at a video here:

Then a photo shot at full resolution as well:

Phone and Battery

The phone on this device features only a single mic where competitors and even higher-end HTC devices have at least two for voice cancellation, and the loudspeaker here is very underwhelming. AKA this device is essentially leaving regular phone calls behind in favor of a more internet-centric future, if you know what I mean. Meanwhile the battery is at first small at 1520 mAh, but in practice with medium to high use we've gotten a full two days of work out of it. Whopping indeed!

Wrap-Up

This device is what Chris Davies and certainly a majority of the rest of our staff have agreed to as an "odd little phone." That said, the Facebook button is more of a bit of candy on top of a device with excellent construction, two-day battery life, and a bunch of the more appealing details from HTC Sense 3.0 we've seen on the Flyer and the Sensation only with a much more affordable price tag. Is the Facebook button holding this device back? Very probably.

On the other hand, once this device is gotten to by developers, we're sure to see lots more action out of the button than the manufacturers originally intended. As more reviewers than just Chris Davies are sure to say that "the Facebook part of the Salsa feels half-baked," we're thinking that HTC will be secretly crossing their fingers for the same. Meanwhile it might be in your best interests, if you're really in it for the Facebook, to wait for the HTC ChaCha which has a dedicated keyboard. Those looking for a solid mid-range phone that'll give you all the Android action you could ask for from a sub-1GHz processor, go for the Salsa. It's a mid-range bomber to be sure! Check out Chris Davies full perspective over on SlashGear.


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