Smartphones are all the rage in the mobile phone market, but a touchscreen interface doesn't make a regular mobile phone a smartphone. HTC's Smart is just a standard mobile, even though its name seems to suggest otherwise. The HTC Smart borrows many design cues from the Google Android operating system, but has basic features and lacks a third party application store.
The HTC Smart is an entry level mobile phone, and its straightforward design is a hit. The Smart is compact enough to fit in the palm of your hand comfortably and is finished in a combination of matte black plastic with chrome edges and highlights. The front of the HTC Smart has attractive brushed metal finish and oddly positioned menu and back buttons. HTC has also included a dedicated camera button and volume controls, along with a standard mini-USB port connection for charging and synchronisation with your computer.
Despite the plastic casing, the HTC Smart feels solid with no creaks, rattles or loose parts. It's not as solidly constructed as phones like the HTC Desire but it holds its own considering the gulf in price difference.
The HTC Smart has a 2.8in resistive touchscreen. It's not as bright, crisp or clear as displays on more expensive smartphones but does a reasonable job given the phone's positioning in the market. Our main complaint stems from the fact that the HTC Smart is almost impossible to see in direct sunlight and the resistive technology means it isn't as responsive to finger presses as capacitive screens, such as the one found on the iPhone. In particular, swiping your finger from screen to screen often results in accidentally selecting an icon or menu.
First time users of the HTC Smart may assume this is an Android phone when they switch it on, but the HTC Smart actually runs on Qualcomm's Brew mobile platform. Just like the company's Android smartphones, the Smart is skinned with HTC's Sense user interface, albeit a watered down version. The HTC Smart includes a seven-screen home page with the option to display a variety of content, including Friend Stream, messages, people, mail, weather, internet, calendar and music. Although these appear to be widgets, you can't have more than one function on each screen, you can't drag the content off the screen, and you can't reorder the screens. The extensive customisation options seen in Android aren't available on the Smart.
Despite these limitations, HTC Sense is still streets ahead of what most other "dumb phones" can offer. The user interface is straightforward and relatively easy to use, it has access to Facebook and Twitter services through Friend Stream and you can even edit and customise "scenes" for different environments such as work or home. Despite a modest 300MHz processor, the HTC Smart is a speedy phone, with menus and screen transitions appearing quickly and without any lag or delay. The Smart's most disappointing feature is the lack of a third-party application store. HTC will no doubt point to the phone's positioning as an entry-level device, but the falling costs of entry-level Android phones may result in Smart owners quickly regretting their purchase.
The HTC Smart's small, resistive display does present some issues with text messaging. In addition to an on-screen numeric keypad you can also choose a landscaped full QWERTY keyboard, but the lack of accelerometer means you have to activate this by pressing a key on the screen, rather than simply rotating the phone. Both keyboards are cramped and suffer from small keys, making typing a very hit and miss affair. The .com button when entering URLs is convenient, however.
The HTC Smart is a 3G mobile phone and its browser is fairly basic when compared to most smartphones'. The small display again doesn't help, and we found pages loaded slowly (even with full 3G connectivity). There's no multitouch technology — so you can't pinch the screen to zoom — and text is often hard to read. Email is also fairly limited: There is no support for Microsoft Exchange, only basic email accounts like Gmail and Yahoo.
Other features of the HTC Smart include a 3-megapixel camera with single LED flash, a standard 3.5mm headphone jack and a media player that supports a wealth of music and video file formats. There's no Wi-Fi or GPS; both are common on most smartphones, but neither should be terribly missed by entry-level users. A microSD card slot is located behind the rear battery cover.
Battery life is rated at up to 370 minutes of talk time and 600 hours of standby time. We found the HTC Smart's battery life much better than most smartphones', lasting a full two days with moderate use. This is primarily due to the absence of GPS and Wi-Fi and the lack of the battery- hogging features found on fully fledged Android phones.
The HTC Smart does what it promises, providing an inexpensive phone for the masses with some smart features, like Facebook and Twitter integration, and a user friendly interface. However the lack of an app store and its poor on-screen keyboard limit its appeal.