The Snap will appeal to a specific segment of business-minded road warriors who need good messaging but don't want to pay for extras like media or social networking.
Editor's note: HTC hasn't announced an official RRP for the Snap in Australia. The RRP listed is an indicative amount based on pricing used by numerous online vendors.
For the last 18 months, HTC has been streaking ahead in terms of design. You can say what you like about its usability of Windows Mobile products, but the physical design of its phones have been exceptional. So imagine our interest to find that the HTC handset that we received looked so familiar. Its 2.4-inch screen, full QWERTY keyboard, and the way these elements sandwich in a translucent trackball are almost too close in design to the BlackBerry for comfort; though you'd also be awarded points for spotting Nokia's excellent E71 in this design as well.
Surrounding the screen and covering the battery is a soft-touch matte plastic finish that feels like a stiff rubber. This is probably the most aesthetically pleasing aspect of the Snap, it feels nice and secure to hold, and it won't be left smudged with fingerprints after you're finished. Under the back plate you'll find a 1500mAh battery, huge for a phone of these specifications, and a 2-megapixel camera.
The QWERTY keyboard on the Snap is a disappointment, especially when compared to this handset's obvious inspirations. Each of the keys in the four rows is bunched together, and while each is raised in the middle slightly, this isn't enough to define them from the key to its left and right. People used to typing with their thumbs will find this keyboard very hard to use and will probably resort to "hen-pecking" the keyboard with a single index finger as we did during our review period.
Unlike HTC's high-end Touch Pro2 and Touch Diamond2, the Snap is basic in design and features, though this doesn't mean you'll miss out on any necessary hardware. The Snap makes use of HSDPA capable radios, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth v.2.0 with the A2DP profile, and a built-in GPS receiver. The phone charges via a combined USB port on the side, which doubles as the headphone input, and HTC has included a USB cable that plugs into a wall charger adapter, meaning you don't need separate cables for charging and data transfers.
The Snap comes with a basic build of Windows Mobile 6.1 installed, offering MS Exchange compatibility via ActivSync or Windows Mobile Centre, Office Mobile software and Windows Live messenger and mail. Our review unit also came with Telstra services pre-installed; Foxtel, My Place, Where Is Navigator, etc, reflecting Telstra's exclusive arrangement with HTC until November 2009.
Those hoping to see either of HTC's TouchFlo 2D or 3D interfaces will be disappointed, though its interface solution on the Snap is clean, simple and easy to use. Expanding on the default layout of WiMo 6.1, the homescreen menus are laid out vertically, with horizontally-accessed sub menus. For example, you scroll down once from the clock to find the messaging menu and then scroll horizontally to move between SMS, email and call history. Again Telstra hog most of this precious real estate, creating a void of BigPond links between useful menus like the calendar and media player, and this list can't be customised.
HTC also adds a nifty feature it calls Inner Circle. At its core this feature is an email filter; you add favourite contacts to your Inner Circle and when you receive emails from them they are collected in both the main email message list and a separate Inner Circle list of messages. IT even earns its own dedicated keyboard shortcut, giving you one-touch access to these emails.
As with the features and design, the performance is adequate but not outstanding. The Snap's 528MHz processor steps through everyday tasks relatively smoothly, but can get bogged down in more heavy duty applications, like the web browser, and on more than one occasion we had to remove the battery to restore the phone after a crash. When we reviewed the Touch Diamond2 and Touch Pro2 we made special mention that memory management is essential to working with Windows Mobile. These more advanced handsets include easy access to the task manager, but the Snap doesn't. The task manager is available by digging into the accessories folder in Programs, but we feel this should have been made more prominent, with a keyboard shortcut perhaps.
Though it may seem capable on paper, web browsing isn't one of the Snap's strengths. This is despite the pre-installed Internet Explorer browser doing a decent job of rendering pages and including a convenient zoom in/zoom out button. The fault falls here on the sticky jogball and the size of the screen. Viewing full-sized web pages quickly becomes tedious as you flick the little ball over and over, pushing the cursor slowly across the screen. As with the task manager, we needed a few more keyboard shortcuts here to optimise web page navigation.
Thanks to the numerous large screen touchscreens available at this time, our expectations about battery life in smartphones is adjusting quickly, with a single full-day of battery life being the standard for heavy users of data and calling features. The Snap is a phone for users who expect more, with HTC including a large 1500mAh battery pack, which is the same battery in the HTC Touch HD whose screen is almost twice as large. For our tests, we left Wi-Fi on constantly and activated push email and made at least two hours of calls each day and found that we needed to charge the Snap at the end of every second day. Users who won't use Wi-Fi or set interval delivery for email should see this number improve to include at least a third day.
The combination of features and design strongly suggest a specific type of user for the Snap. The basic Windows Mobile build plus HTC's email-focused Inner Circle will appeal to road warriors who need to stay connected to an MS Exchange email server, make calls and keep appointments and want to do so without spending a fortune on other features they aren't likely to use. This is not a fun phone, and though it includes suitable software, it will not replace your music player. If web browsing and social networking are important to your daily life you should look elsewhere, such as Apple's iPhone or HTC's upcoming Hero handset.