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HTC ChaCha sashays on to Three network, Facebook button a-twinkle

Three is the first UK network to call the dashing HTC ChaCha to its dancefloor -- it's available free on £20 per month contracts and pay as you go.

The HTC ChaCha has finally been called to the dancefloor, and is slinking down the stairs with its gorgeous partner, the Three network.

We've known for several months that Three would offer the Facebook-centric smart phone in June, and the network has started swinging its snake-like hips sooner rather than later. It's available free on £20 per month contracts, or for £29 per month on The One Plan. This gets you unlimited data, 2,000 any-network minutes, 5,000 Three-to-Three minutes and 5,000 texts.

Alternatively, pay as you go customers can get it for £249.99 -- the same price as Amazon UK is selling it for SIM free -- and then opt for one of Three's All In One plans.

The HTC ChaCha runs Android and is designed to appeal to Facebook fanatics -- it has a dedicated button that fires up the social network's app -- as well as those who do a lot of texting and instant messaging and need a real keyboard (even a fairly tiny one) to do it on.

The 2.6-inch, 320x480-pixel resolution screen isn't huge, but it will respond to your touch and is perfectly adequate for scrolling through your Facebook news feed. Other goodies include a 5-megapixel rear camera with LED flash, a front-facing 0.3-megapixel camera and storage on up to 32GB microSD cards.

There's also good news for speed freaks. The processor was originally clocked at 600MHz but has since been boosted to 800MHz. In all likelihood, HTC hasn't upgraded the chip itself but simply removed the speed cap, allowing it to run faster, to the possible detriment of battery life.

It'll come fully loaded with the latest Android 2.3 Gingerbread software, plus HTC Sense tacked on top. Though that may not be to everyone's taste, it is one of the best manufacturer-added interfaces and it opens the door to dedicated applications from the HTCDev community. That said, the mid-range ChaCha may not benefit much from advanced, non-standard apps. 

If Three's not your bag and you don't want to pay upfront for a handset, you'll have to wait a little longer for the ChaCha on other networks. Vodafone has it listed as "coming soon", while O2, Orange and T-Mobile make no mention of it at all.