It seems ages since we were all drooling over Mobile World Congress back in February but here we are 6 months on having seen HTC, Samsung etc release most if not all of their announced devices from MWC. HTC announced no less than 6 products at MWC including 5 mobile phones. By the end of this month all 6 (plus the Sensation) will have been released upon the world.
The one that I have here for review is the HTC Salsa. This along with the HTC ChaCha has a special feature in it, a dedicated Facebook button.
Will this extra special feature float the social needs of users? Will it’s distinctly familiar looks put people off? So enjoy my HTC Salsa review, read on and all will be revealed.
The 10 Second Review:
- Device: HTC Salsa
- Price: Not yet released
- Summary: Nice addition to the market with the facebook button and the new Sense lock screen that is a worthy entry to the market.
- Best of: Size, facebook integration, lock screen, browser.
- Worst of: Plastic bottom cover, familiar design
- Buy it now from: Not available as yet.
- Also consider: HTC ChaCha or HTC Wildfire S
What’s in the box?
- HTC Salsa handset
- Mains adapter
- MicroUSB cable
This is a review device that came in a plain white box so bear in mind that when this phone becomes available, the retail packaging will come with more things inside like manual etc.
HTC Salsa specification:
- 2G Network: GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
- 3G Network: HSDPA 900 / 2100
- Dimensions: 109.1 x 58.9 x 12.3 mm
- Weight: 120 g
- Display: TFT capacitive touchscreen, 256K colors, 320 x 480 pixels, 3.4 inches, Gorilla Glass display
- Accelerometer sensor for UI auto-rotate
- Proximity sensor for auto turn-off
- HTC Sense UI
- 3.5mm jack
- Memory: 512 MB ROM, 512 MB RAM
- microSD, up to 32GB
- WLAN: Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Wi-Fi hotspot
- Bluetooth: Yes, v3.0 with A2DP
- microUSB v2.0
- Camera: 5 MP, 2592 x 1944 pixels, autofocus, LED flash
- Secondary: Yes, VGA
- OS: Android OS, v2.4 (Gingerbread)
- CPU: 800 MHz processor
- Stereo FM radio with RDS
- GPS with A-GPS support
- Facebook dedicated key
- Digital compass
- Standard battery, Li-Ion 1520 mAh
I will begin with the physical aspects of the HTC Salsa. The first thing to notice is the fact that HTC seem to enjoy wasting a lot of space on the fronts of their phones, this phone has a 3.4 inch HVGA display but I think that a 3.7 inch would have fitted easily.
Above the screen on top of the bezel is the loudspeaker for voice calls, and also hidden inside that is an LED notification light. Below that is the htc logo, proximity and accelerometer sensors and the front facing VGA camera.
The 3.4″ HVGA display has the same 320 x 480 pixels as the HTC Wildfire S. That said it is quite nice indeed, it isn’t the brightest of displays on the market but it does show colours really well in most conditions. Just below the screen are 4 touch sensitive buttons they are: Home, Menu, back and search and then finally below them is the Facebook button.
At the top of the device are the power/lock/unlock button and the 3.5mm headphone jack.
On the left of the phone are the up/down volume rocker and the MicroUSB port.
The right of the device houses the dedicated camera button only.
On the bottom there is only a little hole for the microphone.
Finally on the back is the loudspeaker, 5 megapixel camera and the LED flash. And obviously the HTC logo is there too.
- HTC Sense lock screen
- Facebook integration
- Battery life surprising
- Poor bottom cover
- Camera could be better
- Design a little too familiar
Here we are nearly at the end of June a full 4 months after Mobile World Congress and by next month all 6 devices that they announced plus the HTC Sensation will be available to buy. Here I have the final one that will be released, the HTC Salsa which is of course the second of HTC’s handsets to possess a dedicated Facebook button.
Let’s get started with the hardware itself, the first thing that I noticed when I picked the Salsa up is how much it looks like the HTC Legend from last year, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it does show a distinct lack of imagination from HTC as they seem to be making most of their smartphones in a similar vein to one another. I will say though that the colour of the Salsa is really nice as they have used multiple shades of blue to make it look more attractive.
The build quality is MOSTLY really good but I found one pretty huge design flaw! The removable bottom cover doesn’t even fit the phone properly, it goes so far but they seem to get stuck on something and because I didn’t want to break it I left it like that. Pretty poor from such a massive company to be honest, other than that though the build quality feels solid and also the phone feels brilliant in the hand. This phone is slightly different from as an example the HTC Desire S because it isn’t crafted from 1 piece of aluminium; it is however very similar to phones with that design just without the aluminium. I will be honest and say that it feels just as robust as if it did have the unibody design.
The 3.4″ HVGA 320 x 480 display is really nice but…I do think that HTC could have got a 3.7″ in the space available but I guess then it would be too similar to the HTC Desire S? The display as it is though performs well for what it is, it has the same pixel count as the 3.2″ display in the HTC Wildfire S and it performs just as well as that does. When the brightness is turned up to full the most vibrant colours do looks quite nice as you will hopefully be able to see in the screenshots later in the review. Where the display does falter a little is in direct sunlight, I could hardly see a thing when the sun shone on it which for me wasn’t cool! Even when the brightness was full I found it difficult to see properly, yes it was better at that brightness setting but still not awesome.
If you have seen the setup process on a HTC smartphone before then this will mostly be no different apart from 1 choice that you get, the option to set up Facebook straight from the setup.
As you can see above there are 9 setup screens to go through in order to setup your handset ready to use, as with any android handset you don’t have to go through and do all of the processes if you would rather just dive straight into using your new phone so there is an option to skip through most of them.
The HTC Salsa has a very surprising addition to HTC Sense that I didn’t think we would see on anything other than the Sensation, of course I am talking about the very cool new Lock screen.
You will see that at the bottom of the screen there is a Lock ring instead of an instruction to swipe across or down to unlock. You will also notice that there are 4 icons above the Lock ring? Well you will see in the screenshots below why they are there.
To unlock the phone is really very simple, as all you have to do is move the lock ring to anywhere on the screen above it and it will unlock.
As for the 4 icons above the lock ring this is where the new lock screen becomes really cool! If you want to quickly jump into an application such as the phone dialler then all you have to do is drag the icon you want into the lock ring and the application will then come up without having to unlock the handset. The icons are of course customizable and this is done simply also, on the home screen there is what looks like a paint pallet well press that and the personalisation screen will appear on screen, all you do then is choose ‘Lock screen’ then tap the icons you want to change. Simple, but really effective in everyday use.
Once you have gone through the initial setup process you will be greeted with the main home screen, with every android phone I’ve reviewed I’ve customised the home screens straight away and the Salsa was no different. So the screenshots below are my personal preference and not the default ones. As with every HTC Android device there are 7 fully customisable home screens as shown below.
The home screens begin in the middle on HTC Sense 3 others either side of it, I have customised all of them to suite the way that I use a smartphone. From the left they consist of:
- Weather widget-This widget shows a full 5 day forecast for locations of your choice (add and remove from the settings) This widget also has a full screen animation which reacts every time you update it, there’s also a sound to the animation so for example if it’s raining it will make a rain sound and windscreen wipers will appear.
- Full screen Calendar- This shows the month view and highlights the day you are on, it will also display any events that you have set up in the application.
- Friend stream- A widget that merges your Facebook, Twitter and Flickr accounts into 1 unified list.
- ‘Home’- I’ve customised this screen to show friend stream updates just underneath the clock, and to have the basic icons that I use the most like internet, messages etc.
- Photo Album- This widget allows you to choose a folder of photos to show.
- Music player- This is a widget that allows you to play your music without opening the application.
- E-mail- This widget allows you to choose an e-mail account to show recent e-mails from, it also allows you to show a unified inbox with more than 1 address’s mails.
The customisation options are almost never ending due to HTC being very kind and providing you with lots of widgets and shortcuts to choose from out of the box. But obviously this is an Android device so you can download more widgets and apps to add to the screens.
There is a very cool way of accessing your different screens without the need for swiping, this is a feature that HTC call ‘Leap’ view. There is a couple of ways of accessing this view, the first of which is to press the ‘Home’ button and the second is to pinch the screen. Leap view is shown below.
At the bottom of the home screens you will notice that there is a constant bar with 3 buttons, the ‘Apps Launcher’, access to the phone dialler and the personalisation section of settings, this section allows you customise anything from the wallpaper to the lock screen icons.
The notifications bar that you access by pulling down from the top of the screen has been customised by HTC to include the most recently used applications. This really comes in handy because it provided another way of accessing applications with little hassle.
Below this list any notification that you receive will appear, this can include any accounts that you have synchronised such as e-mail addresses and twitter etc, it just provides a way of accessing things easier than opening the actual apps. There is also a ‘quick settings’ button in the notifications bar, this shows settings like Wi-Fi on/off, GPS on/off and then quick access to the ‘all settings’ page. I definitely found this feature positive as I found myself using this instead of pressing lots of buttons to access the settings.
The scenes feature of HTC sense was first introduced when the HTC Hero was released way back in 2009, and with every update to android and the subsequent HTC sense update there has been additional scenes to choose from. On the HTC Salsa there are a total of 5 to choose from, all of them offer different widget layouts for the home screens for different lifestyles.
HTC offer the following scenes on this handset:
As well as the above choices there is the chance to download lots more from HTC directly from the choice page or via HTC Hub, all of them are free and there are some very nice ones to choose from.
Skins are quite a new feature for HTC smartphones; they are basically another example of how expansive the Android + HTC Sense platforms are. Skins do much more than Scenes as when you change the skin it literally changes everything from the colour scheme to the way the lock screen looks.
On this phone you get 2 skins pre-installed with the option again of downloading more from HTC’s hub (If you have a HTC Sense account). The default skin is shown below, the second skin I have already shown earlier in the review.
As with every smartphone these days the settings menu is a pivotal part of everyday life as you are constantly trying to save battery life by turning brightness down and turning Wi-Fi on/off. On HTC devices the settings menu is customised to make it look a bit more interesting, it makes a bit of a difference but to be honest it’s a settings menu so it doesn’t need to look like an A class model or anything.
Nearly all of the settings that you are able to change are very simple to manipulate, because everything has a nice colourful logo alongside the text you know instantly what setting you want at any given time.
Here is the section that I expect anyone wanting to buy a smartphone wants to know about, Apps are such a popular feature with in particular Android and iOS devices. I expect you all would like to know what comes pre-installed with the Salsa? Take a look below to find out.
I will say though that the screenshots have been taken when I had downloaded my own applications so I will tell you the downloaded ones so you can sort of gather what comes as default.
- Angry birds
- Adobe reader
- Air control Lite
- Labyrinth Lite
- Phit Droid
- Rio Ferdinand
- Quadrant standard
- Word search
Phone Dialler & Call Quality
I thought I would add this into the review as Matt has been inundated with questions about the different features etc, I suppose nowadays though we sometimes do completely lose track of the fact that a mobile phone is in fact a mobile phone! I know that I do quite often!
The dialler on the Salsa is much the same as any other HTC handset in that it has the number pad in the middle with 3 buttons at the bottom of the page. They are: show/hide keypad, call button, and contact button. The dialler has a very cool function though, if you have no idea what your friend’s phone number is then you can type a portion of his name on the keypad and his number will appear just above it. Such a lovely addition because, to be honest when you want to call someone quick it’s not always a speedy process to go into your contacts page and then call that person.
Call quality on the Salsa is really good up until you get a lot of background noise; I then found it quite difficult to ignore the slight hiss on the call. It wasn’t a major issue as I could still very clearly hear the other person on the phone which is obviously a good thing with any mobile phone today.
This is a vastly popular feature among many smartphone users today, including me. HTC last year provided a really nice update to the e-mail client which made it a joy to use, and from what I’ve gathered so far they may have updated the client again on this handset because again it is a joy to use due to the way it looks and performs.
The client has multiple exchange support along with Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo mail etc, there is a very nice view that I’d not seen before until now and that is if there is a web link in the e-mail then the preview internet page will appear below the email. I found this to be quite cool as it meant that I could look at offers on the web page without going into the internet to do so.
The first page you are greeted with when you open the e-mail client is the ‘All Accounts’ page which shows a consolidated view of all of your accounts’ e-mails from most recent to least recent. This I found really good as I could clearly identify which address the e-mails were from because the different addresses are colour coded.
There are other views as well such as the ability to just look at 1 of your accounts at a time if you don’t like the consolidated view much, as you will see in the screenshots above there are also views such as ‘Conversations’ etc. The application is just really nice to use and it makes e-mail look good somehow. Along with the application itself there is the opportunity to add an E-mail widget to your home screen (As shown earlier in the review) there are a couple to choose from but I just stuck with the standard white background one as it’s the largest and means that more often than not you aren’t required to go into the app to look at your newest e-mails.
Of course because this is an Android device a Gmail account is required to connect to the Android market etc, but fortunately I do use Gmail as my main e-mail account now as I just prefer it. Users who are like me and use Gmail a lot can access their e-mails via a separate Gmail application from the apps screens.
The HTC calendar application is also very nice to use as they’ve made everything so simple but they know also how to make something look attractive. There is support for multiple calendars and you can also synchronise Facebook, this is a feature I would rather not be there but seen as though the Salsa is a Facebook integrated handset I will let it slide.
As with HTC’s e-mail client there are a number of home screen widgets available to pick from, I used the full screen one simply because it looks better! But they do all look nice on screen. When you add the calendar to your home screen you have the option to choose which calendar updates you wish to see, cool really.
Keyboard and messaging
HTC as with most things on their phones have their own unique keyboard, it isn’t much different from the standard android Gingerbread keyboard but there are some obvious differences. To begin with there is the ability to hold a key to get the different symbols, and the symbols pages are laid out slightly differently.
I’m not greatly fond of this keyboard to be honest, I much prefer to colour and layout of the Gingerbread standard keyboard although I’m not sure why. As you will see below the size of the keyboard is large enough for swift text entry but there is a couple of pretty obvious things missing as you will hopefully see in the screenshots below. One thing that I will also mention is the fact that the keyboard is the same throughout the handset’s applications-Internet, messaging, e-mail etc.
You will see that in the internet extensions .co.uk is totally missing! I’m not sure if HTC just didn’t bother or whether it’s due to the company’s’ origin but it is quite annoying all the same!
Text messaging on this device is much the same as any other android handset; it is simple and very useable. The default way to look at your text messages is conversation format, this I found to be really nice which I think has a lot to do with the fact that iOS uses a very similar format or text messaging.
Another thing that makes texting nice is the keyboard, I was able to text quite quickly which surprised me quite a bit. Screenshots are below.
This is one of my favourite parts of a review as I am quite an internet addict! I don’t go a single day without browsing the internet for stuff that I know I will never afford but to be honest isn’t that the fun of the internet? Being able to look at anything you want to?
Having a 3.4″ display makes browsing really nice indeed, I mean yes a 4.3″ display such as the Sensation would be mind blowing to browse on but the Salsa does a really nice job of browsing in general. Web pages that take quite a while to load on my iPhone 3GS take a matter of seconds on the Salsa and that I suspect is down to the upgraded processing power.
One thing that wasn’t great about the browser is that it doesn’t really like flash based sites very much, it made the phone behave in a super laggy way which meant that I was unable to browse those sites comfortably. A real shame that flash isn’t fully integrated on any HTC device as I think the experience would greatly improve if it did.
You will also find a quite brilliant You Tube application pre-installed on the Salsa, I have found personally that the android version of the application is the best of its kind, it works very smoothly and plays video in quite High quality (obviously this is dependent on the device)It’s the simplest of the you tube apps also as to play a video in full screen is turn the handset horizontally 90 degrees and it will automatically play.
If you are an avid Facebook or Twitter user then HTC have got you covered well and truly with their fantastically simple Friend Stream application, this application merges your Twitter, Facebook and Flickr accounts into 1 easy to read feed. What makes it so simple I think is the fact that there is a little logo just on top of the messages to let you know which feed it originates from.
You can do a couple of simple things from the Home screen widget, you can set your own status updates and you can read the latest messages from your feeds, its just a simple way of accessing your social networking accounts without having to go into separate applications all of the time.
The application itself has different tabs at the bottom of the page to make it even simpler to navigate! I mean HTC really do have you covered from all angles with this app, the first is All updates, the second is status updates, third is photos and videos, fourth is links, fifth is lists and finally the sixth is notifications.
If you are a guy or gal that prefers the separate Facebook and Twitter applications then there are both pre-installed also, the Facebook app that is installed in the standard Facebook for Android and the Twitter app is HTC’s own simple Twitter client called Peep.
Now as this handset has the special Facebook button there are features attached to that button that make doing certain tasks very easily. Basically it has different functions which I will try my best to describe for you guys.
1. Press the Facebook button at any time to access the ‘Post to my wall’ page from Facebook, this basically allows you to upload maybe a photo or just a simple status update.
2. The next function with the button is if you hold it then the ‘Places’ page will appear which basically allows you to ‘Check in’ to whatever location you are in at the time.
3. The third function is when you are listening to music, if you simply press the button then an upload page will appear so that you will be able to upload a link to the particular track for other people to enjoy.
4. The last function that I found was the ability to upload a photograph to your Facebook account, you do this in the same way as you upload a song link to facebook
Also available to use is an app called Peep; this is a basic but very nice twitter client.
One thing that HTC cannot ever be faulted for is not providing stuff for its customers, they have even added a HTC recommends section inside the Android Market, it basically is filled with apps and games that HTC themselves recommend for your device. Other than that tiny addition the market is no different to any other android smartphones’ market.
Music and Media
The music application has pretty much stayed the same since the HTC hero, it is OK but not the best I’ve had the fortune of using but it’s also not the worst. The interface is very simple to use and looks very nice, especially if you have album artwork on your phone as well as the music. The sound quality of the app relies a lot on the quality of your headphones, luckily from my point of view I have a set of ibeats headphones which made the sound good but I imagine that if you use anything less than brilliant then you won’t much like listening.
Also pre-installed on the Salsa is an FM Radio app, it’s a very basic app that does its job quite well but I don’t imagine a lot of owners using it at all to be honest. A more promising radio application is a downloadable one from the market, called Tune in Radio which allows access to internet radio and DAB stations so it’s worth a go if you like that sort of thing.
News & Weather
I have a very similar view to Matt on news and weather, I’m not so sure smartphone users will be occupying their time reading the news but nevertheless the News & Weather application is pre-installed as part of the Android OS and it provides news updates with links to various news related websites. There is also weather updates provided by Accuweather, it’s not as nice as HTC’s weather application but it works all the same.
This is a feature that’s not so new with smartphones but with HTC we have a manufacturer who certainly doesn’t hold back on making applications simple to use. All you do to begin using your phone as a hotspot is, simply start the app, give your phone a router name or SSID and switch it on. Then all you just connect to the Salsa in exactly the same way as you would join any other Wi-Fi Hotspot
Unfortunately the camera on the HTC Salsa isn’t great; it seems to be exactly the same camera as the HTC Wildfire S which as Matt reported in his review. It is quite good for random photos every now and then but not much more than that to be honest. The interface is exactly the same as the Wildfire S just a bit of a larger screen. The camera app has limited settings to change to enhance the photos quality but I guess on a mobile phone you really don’t need lots of settings do you?
Below are a couple of photos taken with varied settings to show you different sides to the camera.
As you can see in the above photos the picture quality isn’t too bad but it isn’t anywhere near amazing, the shutter speed isn’t too bad at all either considering that it’s no HTC Sensation or anything so overall I’ve been relatively happy with the camera on the Salsa but not overwhelmingly so.
I thought that I would add this to my review seen as though it’s a feature that more and more people are beginning to care about. The HTC Salsa has an 800Mhz Qualcomm processor that during the benchmark test performed ok, I guess you could say that the score was about right for a mid range smartphone. Let me know what you think.
One thing I have to mention is that the Salsa performs really quite well for most things; you really notice the processor difference compared with the Wildfire S. The problem though is that the handset struggles when it comes to games, the lag when playing Angry Birds is ridiculous to be honest and in my opinion was totally unplayable.
See the benchmark score below.
Here we are at the end of another exciting review, I have to say that during my time with the Salsa there have been some good moments and some annoying ones but my overall opinion is that it is simply a revisited handset with the addition of a facebook button. It is way too much like the HTC Legend for my liking.
The phone performs well but without the finesse of a more expensive HTC like the Sensation, and its design and build quality is questionable in places. But I do think that it has a place of its own in the industry because of the very cool facebook integration and I think I would go as far as buying one as a gift for someone but I don’t think it’s quite good enough for me.
Reviewed by: Chris