While everyone might be waiting for HTC to release its next Google Android phone, the smartphone manufacturer is plugging on with its commitment to Windows Mobile devices, and the latest model to come to market is the HTC S743. First announced at CES 2009, the S743 is a variant of the HTC S740, which has been available in Europe and Asia for some time now, and it stands out for its design. The S743 boasts a compact size while managing to pack in a full QWERTY keyboard, all the wireless options, and productivity tools to help mobile professionals manage their information on the go. It's a nice compromise between the more consumer-based HTC Touch Diamond and the corporate-centric HTC Touch Pro.
You do lose the touch screen though, and we weren't thrilled with the call quality of the phone. Plus, without a U.S. carrier, you're looking at a $500 price tag for the unlocked phone. However, if you don't want to be locked down to a carrier or contracts and can afford it, the HTC S743 packs a lot into its compact frame and delivers snappy performance. It nicely fills the spot when a regular cell phone isn't enough and the Pocket PC smartphones are too much. The HTC S743 is scheduled to be available from online retailers, including Expansys USA where we got our review unit, around April 5.
HTC is all about offering different styles of handsets to meet individual needs, and as we mentioned earlier the HTC S743 falls somewhere between the Touch Diamond and the Touch Pro. The handset is smaller than the Touch Pro, measuring 4.5 inches tall by 1.7 inches wide and 0.6 inch deep and weighing 4.9 ounces, yet still manages to pack in a full QWERTY keyboard using a slider design, so it's a good device for the mobile professional who needs to keep on top of e-mail, appointments, and such.
The thinner profile makes it feel more like a regular candy-bar style cell phone in the hand and when on calls, but the S743 is still on the thicker, longer side so it might make for a tight fit in a pants pocket. It's a solidly constructed handset, however, and has a pretty sleek look with its classic black chassis and mirrored face. The smartphone also has a similar geometric design on the back like the unlocked GSM version of the HTC Touch Diamond, but it now features a soft-touch finish so it's not as slippery or smudge-prone as the Touch Diamond.
On front, you'll find the 2.4-inch QVGA nontouch display with a 65,000-color output and 240x320-pixel resolution. The S743 isn't part of the Touch series, so you don't get a touch screen or HTC's TouchFlo interface. Instead, you get the more traditional Windows Mobile UI. It's not as flashy as TouchFlo, but at least with Windows Mobile 6.1 the Home screen offers more of your information right at a glance. For example, you can preview new e-mail, scroll through bookmarked Web sites, launch your media player, and more. You can also choose from other Home Screen options under the Settings menu.
Below the display, you get a standard navigation array of two soft keys, Talk and End buttons, a Home shortcut, a back button, and a four-way toggle with a center select button. Overall, the controls are pretty easy to use, though we're not huge fans of the tiny Talk and End keys. Fortunately, the alphanumeric keypad features large buttons, so we didn't have many misdials or errors when composing simple text messages.
For longer e-mails, you'll probably want to use the four-row QWERTY keyboard, which you can access by pushing the face of the phone to the right. The sliding mechanism is smooth and securely locks into place, and the screen orientation also automatically switches from portrait to landscape mode. For such a compact phone, the keyboard features good-size buttons so we think most users won't have too many problems. The one thing we do wish for is a bigger spacebar. Though we appreciate the inclusion of extra SMS/MMS shortcut key on the bottom row, we'd much prefer that was taken out to make the spacebar larger since we had to stretch to reach it as is. That said, the smaller size and lighter weight of the S743 over the Touch Pro also makes it more comfortable to hold while typing messages, since it doesn't feel quite as top heavy from the slide-up screen.
On the left side, there's a volume rocker and a camera activation/capture button on the right. The power button is located on top, and on the bottom of the unit you'll find a Mini-USB port/headset jack. We're once again disappointed by the lack of a 3.5mm standard headphone jack, though you can get an audio adapter so you can use your own headphones. Another annoyance is the location of the microSD expansion slot. It, along with the SIM card slot, are located behind the front cover, so the phone needs to be in an open state to access it. Our gripe isn't its location but rather the fact that the microSD slot is located under the SIM card so you have to remove the SIM card every time you want swap a memory card. Granted, you probably won't do this often, but it's still an annoyance. Last but not least, the camera is located on the back.