When HTC phoned and asked us to pop round for a Brew, we didn’t realise this is what they had in mind…The Brew OS from Qualcomm has been reserved for low-end, social networking phones in the past, but now HTC has given it an injection of quality with the HTC Smart.
Used as the favoured platform for the INQ series of social networking devices, HTC has opted to add Brew to its portfolio of smartphones.
The HTC Smart is nowhere near as advanced as HTC’s Windows and Android devices, but it still has the newest version of HTC Sense that disguises the native Brew UI.
There are seven different homescreens to fill up with widgets and shortcuts, just like on Android HTC phones, although there’s obviously no App Store to download additional ones.
HTC has also added the ability to swap between different modes, such as work and lifestyle. If you’re at work for example, you can ensure you have work-based widgets on the homescreens such as email. In lifestyle mode, you can make Friend Stream the first application for quick access.
Although a good idea in principle, it seems a little pointless to swap between these different modes. After all, it’s likely you’ll want to access the same applications whatever the time of day.
Highlights of the Sense UI include the preinstalled widgets including Friend Stream for keeping all of your social networks in one stress-free stream, a weather widget and People screen where you can add your favourite contacts all in one place. It works exactly the same as on any of HTC’s Android devices and is one of the Smart’s best facets.
The HTC Smart’s hardware is where you begin to notice that the device isn’t a flagship phone. There’s nothing wrong with the design, with a 2.8-inch screen taking up most of the front and some rather irregular-sized keys below.
The oversized back button doubles as a menu key in standby mode, while the tiny sliver of a softkey changes function depending on which app you’re currently using.
The call answer and end keys make up the rest of the bottom panel, with the latter also functioning as the screen lock button.
The display itself is probably the Smart’s biggest flaw. It is laboriously unresponsive and typing on the keyboard (whether using it in portrait or landscape mode) screams for a stylus. Viewing web pages is also quite a chore and without multitouch capabilities, you have to rely on the zoom bar to read the text on a page.
What really demonstrates the Smart’s budget status is the fact it only includes a 300MHz processor. It’s not radically noticeable when using a couple of applications at a time, but some processes do take longer than you’d expect, such as taking a photo on the 3.2-megapixel camera.
The photos themselves are pretty good quality, although the flash does tend to bleach out a lot of the photo if you’re taking a close-up snap.
The HTC Smart only supports POP and IMAP email, with presets for most commercial web email services such as Gmail. However, there’s no support for Exchange.
The HTC Smart is a decent option if you’re looking for something cheap with limited smartphone features. HTC’s Sense UI does make this feel like a fully-fledged smartphone, but it still lacks the applications and email support to suit everyone. Until Brew is adopted by more companies, it will always be a peripheral product.
The HTC Smart is a budget smartphone that struggles to justify its smartphone status. Although it does include HTC’s Sense UI, the Brew platform doesn’t match Android or Windows Mobile in functionality. There’s no Exchange support, no Wi-Fi and an unresponsive screen, which is disappointing, even if you can snap it up for just £100 prepay on O2 currently. The HTC Smart may be a good choice if you’re not interested in applications or advanced features, but the HTC Tattoo or Wildfire are much better choices, just in case you change your mind in future.
Ratings (out of 5)