The messaging-focused, Windows Mobile-running HTC S740 doesn't break any new ground, but it performs well and has a striking design. With top-class connectivity and an impressive slide-out keyboard, the phone is a viable alternative to a BlackBerry for those who need serious messaging features on the go
Before launching the Touch range of handsets, HTC was perhaps best known for producing the S710, a Windows Mobile smart phone with an innovative Qwerty keypad that slides out from the main body of the phone. The S740, which costs around £350 SIM-free, is HTC's latest update to this form factor, and is targeted at those who need good messaging features when they're on the move.
In terms of design, the S740 borrows heavily from HTC's recent Touch Diamond, which is no bad thing, as that's a seriously stylish handset. The S740 shares the same clean, masculine lines on the front, and has a Nokia Prism-esque effect on the rear, creating a very striking overall look.
The slide-out keyboard is one of the phone's best features and, to access it, you simply slide the rear of the body to the right, away from the front of the handset. The keypad may be small, but the keys are easy to type on using your thumbs, making it quick to tap out emails or text messages. There are also some good extra touches, such as the lights to show when the caps lock and function keys are active.
HTC has set the phone up to use the latest 'sliding panels' home screen featured in Windows Mobile. This gives you access to most of the phone's features via a series of panels that you click up and down through, without having to enter the main Windows Mobile menu. It's a big improvement on the previous Windows Mobile interface, and much easier to use.
Seeing as its grunt is provided by a speedy 528MHz Qualcomm MSM7225 processor, it's no surprise to learn that, for most day-to-day tasks, the handset feels pretty responsive. There's also 256MB of ROM and 256MB of RAM for storing documents and applications, and this can be further boosted with microSD cards.
As this is a candybar-shaped handset, the screen is smaller than on most Windows Mobile devices. Nevertheless, the 61mm (2.4-inch) display still does a good job of rendering text and graphics, thanks to its 320-by-240 resolution.
Connectivity is top-class, as the phone supports HSDPA, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, plus there's an onboard GPS receiver and an FM tuner. The S740's voice quality is generally good (although it can sound on the tinny side at times) and battery life is impressive by smart-phone standards, as we got around two and a half days of medium to heavy use out of the phone.
The S740's keyboard may be one of the phone's best features, but it also makes the phone a good deal bulkier than the majority of candybar-style handsets around at the moment. You certainly notice the extra girth when you hold it in your hand.
Another minor annoyance is that, although the phone automatically switches the screen from portrait to landscape mode when you slide out the keyboard, there is a short pause before the screen re-orientates itself.
Also, even though we like the phone's very modern-looking design, the awkward shape of the prism-style rear means that you can't type on the phone when it's laid flat on a desk.
We think the camera is relatively basic for such an expensive handset. Although it's got a decent 3.2-megapixel resolution, it lacks both autofocus and flash. Plus, as the phone only has a single camera, it can't be used for video calling.
Unlike the S710, the HTC S740 isn't a revolutionary device -- but it is a decent evolution of that original concept. It may not win over many new fans to this form factor, but it does well what it sets out to do and, if you need serious messaging features on the move and aren't convinced the BlackBerry range of handsets, then it's worth checking out.
Edited by Charles Kloet