It was only a matter of time until something like the HTC Status came along. While this Android-based smartphone isn't an official "Facebook phone," it's pretty darn close. With its dedicated Facebook button below the keyboard and its tight integration with the social network, the HTC Status makes its purpose clear. That's exactly why it may not appeal to anyone who isn't already a Facebook junkie.
While it will likely appeal to a young crowd, the HTC Status actually has the look of an older, business-friendly smartphone. It has the form factor of a BlackBerry, with a small (2.6-inch) screen on top, and a full QWERTY keyboard on the bottom. The case is an attractive mix of silver and white, and the phone feels solid and well constructed in your hand.
The full keyboard is well designed, too, with nicely spaced keys that make thumb typing easy. The tradeoff for this convenience is the too-small screen, though, which feels especially miniscule when compared to the 3.5-, 4.0-, and even 4.3-inch screens that most of today's advanced smartphones offer. The display was bright, though, and -- for the most part -- decently crisp and clear.
The connection between the HTC Status and Facebook is apparent as soon as you turn on the phone. You're immediately asked if you'd like to connect to the social network. You provide your login info and grant the phone access to your Facebook wall and contacts, and you're good to go. You also can add login info for other networks like Flickr and Twitter.
Status updates from Facebook are displayed in a small widget on the phone's main home screen. Small is the key word here: I had to squint to read the text. Like other HTC phones, the Status also includes the Friend Stream feature, which occupies a secondary home screen (the Status has five of them.) Here, you can see a slightly larger version of those status updates.
You also can access various Facebook features through the hardware button that sits below the phone's keyboard. Press it once and you'll be taken to a page where you can post something to your own wall or to a friend's wall. If you press and hold the button, you can check in to Facebook Places. When you're using the phone's other features, such as the camera or Web browser, the Facebook button will let you integrate those actions to Facebook, whether it's by posting a photo or sharing a Web link.
Luckily, the HTC Status is not just a Facebook phone: it's also an Android-based smartphone. It comes with the latest version of Android, 2.3, which is easy to use and easy on the eyes. Unfortunately, trying to take advantage of all of Android's features is a bit of a challenge on the Status, with its small screen. For more information about Android, see my full review of the Android OS.
On top of Android, the Status runs HTC's Sense interface, which is designed to make the OS easier to navigate. It's a bit superfluous here, as the Status' small screen makes it hard to really see what Sense is all about. You get the Friend Stream feature, mentioned earlier in this review, as well as the Leap feature, which allows you to see thumbnails of your home screens so that you can easily switch between them. Viewing the thumbnails on such a small screen is challenging, though.
Good Calls, So-So Surfing
The HTC Status supports AT&T's 3G network, but doesn't run on the carrier's HSPA+ network, which delivers 4G speeds. Still, I found that it delivered decent data speeds. Web pages and images downloaded quickly. Viewing Web pages and images on the small screen is not as impressive, though. I strained my eyes trying to read text, and found the overall experience a bit frustrating.
Voice quality in my test calls was very good, for the most part. I occasionally noticed some background noise and some distortion, but callers said my voice came through loud and clear.
The 5-megapixel camera performed better than expected in my tests. My snapshots came out crisp and clear, though colors did seem a bit washed out. I also had some trouble capturing moving subjects. Video clips looked decent, too.
The camera offers some special effects -- you can, for example, apply filters such a sepia and aqua tones to your photos. And the phone also includes a forward-facing VGA camera for self portraits.
Additional multimedia features include HTC's Sense music player, which is attractive and easy to use. You also get AT&T's U-Verse Live TV, as well as additional AT&T apps, such as Family Map, Navigator, Shop Music, and more.
Price and Availability
The HTC Status is an absolute bargain at $49.99 when you sign a two-year service contract. That requires that you commit to a voice plan (AT&T's options start at $39.99 per month) and a data plan (which starts at $15 per month). For a full-featured Android phone, that price is phenomenal.
The HTC Status is an attractive, easy-to-use phone that will appeal to a young crowd with its Facebook integration and its low price. The Status is hampered by its small screen, but if you can live with that flaw, there's a lot to like here.