The HTC Smart offers some touch-screen glamour at a relatively low price, and will suit buyers who are attracted by the user experience of a smartphone but do not necessarily want to download new applications. However, for existing smartphone users looking for their next device, the Smart is probably too limited.
HTC Sense user environment; good screen; easy access to social networks.
No Wi-Fi or GPS; browser experience not comparable to smartphones.
2.8in touch-screen phone based on Brew MP with HTC Sense user environment, Quad-band GSM and HSPA up to 3.6Mbit/s, Bluetooth, 3-megapixel camera with fixed focus and flash.
The HTC Smart is intended to be a less costly and less complex handset than other smartphones on the market, yet still offers the touch-screen user interface, internet and social media functions seen on such devices.
In other words, it is an attempt to create a more mass-market smartphone, targeting users who would not otherwise consider buying one.
Available now on O2 and soon via resellers such as Expansys, the Smart does a fairly good job of living up to these objectives. It is rather like a less feature-rich version of HTC's Android-based phones, but retains the Sense user environment that keeps a familiar look and feel across many of the company's devices.
The handset is available free on all O2 monthly tariffs, or for £100 on Pay & Go. SIM-free it costs from about £178 from various resellers.
However, there are some downsides. The Smart has no Wi-Fi for speedier browsing, and no built-in GPS for navigation. It also feels less responsive than HTC's high-end devices, with the touch-screen in particular seeming to require a forceful swipe before it reacts.
Unlike the iPhone or handsets based on Android, there is also no built-in application store facility from which users can download new applications.
The Smart's browser also gives a less satisfactory experience than on full smartphones, while the email client lacks support for Microsoft's ActiveSync protocol for connecting to Exchange mail servers.
These criticisms aside, the HTC Smart is actually a fairly decent phone, and one that should appeal to those who want a touch-based handset but not the complexity of the high-end smartphones.
Compared to HTC handsets like the Desire, the Smart has fairly modest specifications, with a 300MHz processor and 256MB memory. It has quad-band GSM capability for voice calls, which means it should work in many countries worldwide, but it supports only the European 3G/HSPA standard for high-speed data up to 3.6Mbit/s.
Although the device is an O2 exclusive in the UK, our sample came from HTC so our review was carried out using a test SIM provided by Vodafone. This worked perfectly fine in our tests, providing an HSPA connection in central London, dropping back to 3G outside the capital.
At 108g, the Smart is lighter than almost any other smartphone, save perhaps for RIM's BlackBerry Pearl models. It features a 2.8in screen with 240 x 320 pixels, which is also smaller than most touch-screen devices, but this does not affect usability too much, as there are fewer icons and other on-screen furniture to show.
A slight retro touch is the presence of green and red 'call' and 'hang up' buttons for voice calls, common on conventional handsets but often replaced by on-screen controls in smartphones. Other controls include a menu button just underneath the screen, plus a large back button that, rather bizarrely, also provides access to a list of applications if pressed when the home screen is displayed.
A volume up/down control on the left of the case and a camera button on the right complete the external controls. A 3.5mm jack socket is on top of the case, while a mini USB connector for charging and connection to a computer is on the bottom.
The software powering the Smart is Qualcomm's Brew Mobile Platform, rather than a full-blown smartphone operating system such as Android or Windows Mobile. However, this is effectively hidden under HTC's own Sense user environment, giving it a similar look and feel to those devices.
For example, the home screen shows the familiar animated clock and local weather, plus a strip of icons for applications at the bottom. These can be customised via the menu button.