When HTC unveiled the HTC S720 (the CDMA variant of the Vox) at CTIA 2007, we couldn't help but be disappointed that it was being released in Canada first. And here we are, four months later and still no signs of a U.S. release--though the company has said it will come out later this summer. Lucky for us, we got our hands on an unlocked version of the HTC Vox S710, and the Windows Mobile 6 smart phone delivers on almost every front. It offers excellent call quality, all the tools to keep a mobile professional productive on the road, and a dynamite design that packs a full QWERTY keyboard into a compact slider chassis. So what's its downfall? The lack of 3G. The extra boost of speed could really have pushed the S710 ahead of its competition. Even without it, however, the HTC Vox remains a very powerful and able smart phone. There's no word yet on when the Vox will be officially released in the States, or whether it will be a CDMA or GSM version, but if you can't wait, you can purchase an unlocked version (for use with T-Mobile or AT&T Wireless) now for about $450.
The main attraction of the HTC Vox S710 is its design, and it's easy to see why. The smart phone combines some of the best elements of the company's other smart phones to make for one killer device. It has the compactness and cell phone chassis of the Cingular 2125, while still managing to pack in a full QWERTY keyboard thanks to a slider design much like the Sprint Mogul. The S710 measures 3.9 inches long by 1.9 inches wide by 0.6 inch thick and 4.2 ounces with a candy-bar style and soft-touch finish, making it more comfortable to hold and use as a phone than the bulky Cingular 8525 or wider T-Mobile Dash. The trade-off is that the S710 on the thicker side, so it will make for a tighter fit in a pants pocket.
On front of the device, there is a 2.4-inch diagonal screen that displays 65,536 colors at a 320x240 pixel resolution, but be aware it's not a touch screen. That said, text looked sharp, and images and videos popped with vibrancy. We didn't have much problem reading the screen in various lighting conditions, though it gets a bit washed out in direct sunlight, and we also noticed that it can get pretty dirty with smudges and fingerprints. To personalize your phone, you can change the layout, color scheme, and background image of the Home screen, as well as adjust the backlight.
Below the display, you'll find another benefit of the Vox's design--a dedicated alphanumeric dialpad along with the standard navigation controls. The keypad allows you to dial numbers without having to search for the number buttons in a sea of other keys (Ã¡ la Dash or BlackBerry Curve). You also get two soft keys, a shortcut to the Home screen, a back button, the Talk and End keys, and a four-way navigation toggle with a center select key. Given that these controls are squeezed onto the lower third of the face, they are a bit on the smaller side, so users with larger fingers may encounter some difficulties when first trying out the smart phone.
To expose the full QWERTY keyboard, just slide the front cover to the left, which also triggers the screen to automatically switch from portrait mode to landscape mode. As we've come to notice with similar slider smart phones, the S710 experienced a delay when changing screen orientation. Otherwise, the sliding movement is smooth and solidly locks into place. We wish there was the same kind of locking mechanism in its closed state, as it's easy to nudge the front flap when holding the phone.
The HTC Vox S710's keyboard features smallish, square buttons, but the extra spacing between them makes it quite manageable for cranking out e-mails, text messages, and notes without much problem. It may require a short period of acclimation, but it's certainly roomier than any of the latest BlackBerrys and the Dash, so if you can use those keyboards, you'll be fine with the Vox. Like the T-Mobile Wing, there are two small LEDs at the top of the keyboard that illuminate blue to confirm the Caps or Alt functions, as well as two additional soft keys.
On the left spine, you will find the volume rocker and voice command/recorder launcher, while on the right side, there is the camera activation key and microSD expansion slot. The camera is located on the back of the device, along with a self-portrait mirror. The power button is on top of the unit, and a mini USB port is on the bottom. Finally, in a unique twist, the SIM card slot is located on the back of the front cover, which you can access when the phone is in its open state.