I had the chance of using the HTC Snap (TC S523) on Telecom's XT Network, their new 3G network based on WCDMA. In this case first impressions count: this phone is an email and social network workhorse.
First thing you noticed is how thin the phone is, then you feel the case and notice the silky finish. The phone itself is just plain black, with brushed steel detail on the front where the navigation buttons are. Those buttons are the standard Windows Phone controls: Green (answer call), Red (end call, power), left and right softkey corresponding to on screen options, plus the Home and Back buttons.
It's here too that you find a white trackball. This replaces the traditional d-pads we've seen from other Windows Mobile devices. It may take a bit of time to get used to it, and I recommend you set the tracking ball speed to something you are comfortable with through its control panel.
Below these buttons there is a full QWERTY keyboard, which doubles as a numeric keypage when using the Function key. This keyboard makes it much easier to interact with others via email or social network - Windows Live Messenger, Twitter and Facebook clients are available for this device for example.
Of note on this device is the new Inner Circle button. This is a special feature HTC introduced to its handsets that allows you to select which contacts deserve your most immediate attention. Whenever your email is synchronised and new messages from these contacts arrive, a special icon shows up on the top of the screen. Press the green Inner Circle button and you will see only those emails - everything else is filtered out of the way.
If you receive lots of documents attached to email then you it will be easy to read those - the HTC Snap comes with Adobe Reader LE and Microsoft Office Mobile programs so that you can read PDF, DOC, XLS and PPT attachments directly on your mobile device.
The device comes with built-in GPS and an option to download an almanac at regular intervals. Almanac are files that provide the GPS with locations for GPS satellites over the course of a few days. This makes for a much faster GPS fix - I've used Google Maps and had at least four or five satellites locked in a matter of one or two seconds every time I started it.
Other wireless communication forms include WiFi and Bluetooth - both work as expected and I had no problems using Bluetooth to synchronise to my laptop.
The homescreen is very functional with all the information you want about incoming calls, next appointments, direct access to email, weather information and your digital media.
Battery life was a good surprise, and even with constant use of email, GPS and continuous Twitter updates the HTC Snap gave me at least a full day worth from a fully charged battery.
The built-in 2 megapixel camera is good enough for a mobile device - I wouldn't compare it to a DSLR of course, but I managed to get some good video recordings in low light.
The HTC Snap can be used as a data modem so that you can use mobile broadband when connected to a cellular network. You can either connect to it from your PC via Bluetooth or a USB cable. This is very convenient when away from your office - but remember to have a data plan.
As with other Windows Phone, the HTC Snap will synchronise to your Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Exchange account or Google account (with Google's own client supporting the ActiveSync protocol). One advantage of this handset over some other devices is the ability to synchronise select email folders - very convenient if you are like me and have rules that automatically move incoming emails to different folders on your server.
Storage memory is ok, with the total memory at about 100MB available and the option to use a microSD card for expansion.
The only thing that I really didn't like is the new Internet Explorer 6 on Windows Mobile. It replaces the old Internet Explorer Mobile with a completely new rendering engine based on Internet Explorer 6. In theory it will give you an experience similar to the deskop - and that's true. YouTube videos were shown correctly inline inside the page and many other things worked as expected. But it's just a bit too much for a mobile device with a 528 MHz processor and bigger pages will just be too slugish to load or move around.
- great keyboard and trackball integration
- brilliant experience for email and social networking
- WiFi option helps reduce mobile data costs
- Internet Explorer 6 on Windows Mobile is a frustrating experience