By December 23, 2007

HTC S730 review

So the QWERTY candybar returns.

INTRODUCTION

This is another BIG device for HTC. Perhaps not to the same scale as the TyTN II or the Touch series – but it’s got to be number 3 in line. It sounds too good to be true really – a candybar phone, a large QWERTY keyboard and the still new Windows Mobile 6, with decent connectivity via 3G.

HTC S730

HTC S730

What’s in the Box?

HTC have really got their act together when it comes to presentation and style. I’ve got a lot of respect for HTC. Having had the very first SPV phone, it’s amazing to see how quickly they’ve almost become a household name alongside Samsung, Nokia and the rest. If I mention HTC – people actually know what I’m talking about now!

HTC’s massive expansion of their brand has been helped by good quality stylish handsets, which they now try to push into the packaging as well. It’s a very appleish box, some might say it’s even better than apple – but if you’ve seen Matt’s unboxing video – you’ll know its a very good effort from HTC.

Inside you’ll find:

  • HTC S730
  • 1050mAh battery
  • Mains Charger
  • CD-Rom with ActiveSync etc.
  • USB Sync/Charge Cable
  • Handsfree headset/headphones
  • Manual
  • Warranty Card
HTC S730 box

HTC S730 box

HTC S730 specification:

  • Windows Mobile 6 Standard (Smartphone)
  • 400Mhz ARM1136EJ-S CPU
  • ROM: 256MB ; RAM: 64MB SDRAM
  • 2.4″ TFT LCD 240 x 320
  • Quad-Band HSDPA/UMTS
  • WiFi: 802.11b/g
  • 2.0 Megapixel main camera
  • Bluetooth version 2.0
  • 1050mAh Lithium Ion battery
  • MicroSD card slot
  • 22-key fixed phone keypad
  • Slide-out QWERTY keyboard
  • 50mm x 100mm x 19mm
  • 120 grams

GENERAL

At 51×105.8×19.4mm it’s not the smallest of phones on offer, and although perfectly acceptable in other areas, its “fatness” is a bit cumbersome when sat in a pocket. Of course that’s the price you have to pay for the slide out keyboard – although I’m not sure why the S730 is actually even fatter than the S710?!

On the front, the large display sits recessed slightly from the plastic shell, with a VGA forward facing camera above it to the right, and the speaker + indication lights combo common to most HTC devices.

Directly below the screen, we find the main phone keypad taking up nearly every centimetre of the remaining space. Although snug, the keypad is easy to use. The keys are close together, but large in size and texting seems to be fairly easy. The Send and End keys are in a slightly unusual place – being to the left and right of the main number pad area, but again, it doesn’t have any adverse effect on usability. The two softkeys are located immediately above the Home and Back keys, in a layout that really pays tribute to the very early HTC smartphones. Between these 4 keys is the 5 way direction pad. No rocker or jog wheel here – just a flat system which is simple to operate.

HTC S730 keypad

HTC S730 keypad

Sliding the front of the phone to the left produces the full QWERTY keyboard – and the phone switches to landscape mode. The keyboard is very similar to HTC’s other QWERTY devices, although the keys are raised slightly and feel more rubbery in texture. The very useful Caps and Fn mode lamps are above the keyboard, as well as two more soft keys (for use in landscape mode).

HTC S730 keyboard

HTC S730 keyboard

The bottom of the phone is standard HTC kit really – enhanced mini standard USB socket, and a lanyard loop for phone charms (Shudder) or to connect to a key ring or similar.

HTC S730 bottom

HTC S730 bottom

On the right hand side is the camera button – used to both activate the camera application, and take shots. There is also a microSD slot with rubber seal. The card slot mechanism is fairly well recessed away from the edge of the phone so it is quite difficult at times to remove and insert the tiny microSD cards.

HTC S730 right side

HTC S730 right side

The left hand side contains the volume control buttons, and a dedicated button for the comm. manager – almost a requirement of WiFi phones.

HTC S730 left side

HTC S730 left side

To the top of the phone, where there is a well defined power button – quick press for the quick menu, hold to turn off/on.

HTC S730 top

HTC S730 top

Finally on the back of the phone we find the 2mp camera, with mirror area and a speaker grille. There is no flash with this handset.

HTC S730 back

HTC S730 back

Just a final note about the side of the phone – because of the separation required, there is a little gap between the “front” and “back” of the phone. It’s a necessity but for the image conscious, it’s worth noting.

HTC S730 with keyboard open

HTC S730 with keyboard open

SOFTWARE

Let’s take a quick look through the start menu then – but don’t expect many surprises from the vanilla WM6 – this is HTC after all. Internet Explorer is there, so is Windows Media Player, and the usual array of productivity built in apps such as Tasks, Calendar and Contacts.

Phone tools, including Call History and Messaging are on the first page as well, which is completed with the Settings app and Office Mobile – yep Office is there too!

On the second page of the start menu – more common Microsoft stuff with Games and Accessories subfolders, Voice Notes and the built in Pictures and Videos tool. Connectivity in the form of ActiveSync and Internet sharing appears too, and the page is completed with Windows Live and Messenger, and Adobe Reader LE.

Things get interesting on the 3rd page though – HTC have gone to town, especially in the music area. An ‘Audio Booster” app provides fairly basic Graphic Equaliser style functionality for the earphones. The HTC Audio Manager seen elsewhere is there too, and “MP3 Trimmer” which cuts out silence from the beginning and end of files – useful to get the most from your storage space.

Bluetooth Explorer is also available on the device – something missing from the early HTC phones and a very welcome addition. Internet add-ons, eJava and Flash Lite are also shown here, along with more predicable links to the Camera, Comm. Manager and File Explorer.

The 4th and final page is pretty tedious stuff – links to quick notes, speed dial setup, streaming media and Task Manager. The link to the Video Recorder is also here, along with something called “HTC Debug Tools” – I suspect this will go missing before it hits stores!

Highlights:

  • QWERTY Keyboard on a candybar: Lets face it – no one else bothers with this form factor so good on HTC for making not only a success of the S710 – but on providing a worthy upgrade as well.
  • HTC Xt9: This, along with the Touch Dual (review soon!) are the first devices I’ve used with the new style T9 input on HTC phones. Weirdly there are a few differences between the devices – and the S730 comes out on top in every aspect. The T9 input is so good – for speed, its sometimes faster then the qwerty keyboard
  • WiFi: WiFi in a phone: very good thing.

Lowlights:

  • Poor slider mechanism. Bit disappointing this one really – the phone feels robust, but the slide mechanism is rather loose – both when opening and closing, and when actually closed. It’s a shame because it renders the “unlock on open” function useless really – since I’ve found the phone sometimes opens itself in the pocket. This is a demo unit though so could have been subjected to some abuse by previous reviewers.
  • Battery life: Not great in my experience here. WiFi turned off, Bluetooth off, just a few data calls, GSM calls and a lot of texts, and it was well down by the end of the day.
  • General speed of the device: Maybe I was expecting too much, but the phone certainly isn’t the quickest in the world. Even its USP – the sliding keyboard suffers, and the screen doesn’t switch to landscape as quickly as I’d have liked.

REVIEW

Firstly I’d like to clear something up (or try): To the best of my knowledge, the retail HTC S730 will NOT have GPS. However, as this is a test ROM (remember the HTC Debug Folder)… there is a little app called HTCGPSTest, which most definitely finds something on COM4. The signal is terrible (I didn’t manage to get a fix), but it does search for satellites.

Having looked into this, it seems that the final retail units will 100% NOT have GPS Enabled. Whether this means the chip will be removed – I’m not sure. Whether the clever chaps over at XDA-Developers will be able to make it work – I’m not sure. And finally – will it be any use even if they do manage to enable it? – guess what – I’m not sure. Nice and clear then!

So to the device then…

It’s pretty good. The QWERTY keys are hard to get used to at first – and also seem quite stiff at first, especially compared to my older TyTN, but if this helps them to remain working beyond six months it’ll be a welcome improvement!

The S710 is a tough act to follow I guess, having both WiFi and a QWERTY keyboard already. Luckily HTC have replaced and upgraded the CPU, added extra memory and provided a shiny new OS. Oh and 3G/HSDPA as well! A decent upgrade specification wise then but in terms of design, not much has changed. It’s a little more chunky than the S710, which I put down to the added hardware.

The S730 is not overly large – certainly not when you take into account the feature set – but phones should be getting smaller right? The QWERTY keyboard has had some minor adjustments and improvements, and despite what you might, think having seen the photos above, the full stop button location isn’t as annoying as it appears.

HTC S730 vs HTC Touch Dual

HTC S730 vs HTC Touch Dual

In general, you have to give credit to HTC for the constant software improvements and tweaks. Things like the HTC Home screen and new Xt9 input style might seem minor – but they are the only company who seem to be willing to improve the WM6 OS.

As I mentioned above, the slider feel pretty flaky in general and a bit too loose for my liking. It clicks into place well when opening, but at other times is very ‘floppy’. A shame – and I’m not sure how this compares to the S710?

There’s not much else to complain about though – bar a few random phone issues which I’ll put down to the test ROM. The size is forgotten when you realise the power you have in what is, in the smartphone world, a small form factor. Just to continue the size theme a little more – compared to the N95, its not too dissimilar.

Oddly, in my opinion, HTC have seemingly tried to turn the S730 into a music phone. I get this from the multitude of audio enhancements and applications in the ROM, but I’d say this phone would be better suited to business users. Send texts with the keypad, reply to emails with the keyboard. I’m just not sure the youth will ditch the iPod for this phone. We shall see.

CONCLUSION

It’s a good phone. There were too many niggly pre-production buglets about to do a full scale review, but it’s a great improvement over an already impressive S710.
The styling is very reminiscent of the early SPV units sold on Orange around Europe. In my view, that’s not too bad a thing – ‘old skool’ sells after all.

The keyboard size is fantastic, and for it to be in such a small chassis is great news for any market they try to sell the unit in to.

Apologies for the slightly shorter review – it’s Christmas and I need to get drunk but the HTC S730 is definitely recommended!

Don’t forget, you can win an HTC S730 in our Christmas Comptition!

Review by: Mark

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About the Author:

More than 20 years in the IT industry. Blogging with a passion and thirst for new technology since 2005.
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