From a quick glance at the Snap, it's clear that HTC is aiming this messaging phone at BlackBerry users. It may have a similar design to the BlackBerry Curve range, but the question is: does the Snap, which costs around £280 SIM-free, have enough fancy extras to tempt BlackBerry users into making the switch?
The Snap apes the Blackberry Curve range both in terms of its overall design and the layout of its controls. The top of the phone is dominated by a fairly large, 61mm (2.4-inch) screen. Beneath this sits a row of buttons, plus a mini trackball that's virtually identical to the pearl trackball found on many BlackBerry handsets. The bottom half of the phone is given over to the full Qwerty keyboard.
Although the Snap's screen looks very bright and sharp, its 320x240-pixel resolution falls short of that of the similar BlackBerry Curve 8900's screen, which packs a 480x360-pixel resolution. This is especially noticeably when you're using the Web browser, as the Snap's screen can't display as much text and graphics in one go, and so forces you to scroll around pages more often.
But, while the screen is slightly disappointing, the keyboard is truly brilliant. The keys are circular and rounded on the top, leaving you with a wide surface to press with your fingers or thumbs. As a result, it's very easy to tap out messages and emails at considerable speed.
Software ups and downs
The Snap runs the Windows Mobile 6.1 Standard operating system. Although it's easy to move through the various menus and option screens using the mini trackball -- the Snap doesn't have a touchscreen -- the layout and design of the Windows Mobile interface is confusing and dated. For example, it can be a long-winded process to track down specific settings -- often you have to wade through pages of unnecessary menu entries to find the one you're after. While HTC has previously papered over some of these cracks by adding its TouchFLO interface over the top, the Snap doesn't feature any interface tweaks at all.
HTC has, however, kitted the Snap out with its Inner Circle software, accessed via a dedicated key on the keyboard. It essentially provides a way to quickly check incoming messages from your most important contacts. Once you've added contacts to your 'inner circle' via either the email application or contacts list, messages from these contacts will automatically be filtered to the top of your inbox when you hit the Inner Circle button. It's a smart approach and a significant help when trying to keep on top of a busy inbox.
Under the bonnet, the Snap is pretty well-specified. The phone's Qualcomm processor is relatively speedy, at 528MHz, and it's backed up by 192MB of RAM, so things tick along at a sprightly pace. There's only 256MB of ROM for storing files and documents, but this can be bumped up with a cheap microSD card.
Connectivity options are good too, with both HSDPA and Wi-Fi support for browsing on the move, and Bluetooth for using the phone with wireless car kits and headsets. As the Snap's quad-band, you'll be able to use it in most countries around the world, and the impressive on-board GPS, which works well in Google Maps, means you won't get lost when you're on your travels.
The Snap's meagre 2-megapixel camera is very basic by today's standards. It lacks both autofocus and a flash, so it's unsurprising that the photos it takes are pretty poor. We can overlook this problem to an extent, as the Snap is aimed primarily at business users.
More difficult to ignore is the phone's poor battery life. Whereas most BlackBerry devices manage to squeeze a few days of life out of their power packs, the Snap only managed to keep running for around a day and a half under normal usage conditions.
We love the HTC Snap's brilliant keyboard and innovative Inner Circle feature, but it's let down considerably by its short battery life and dated Windows Mobile user interface. Consequently, we can't see many people rushing to swap their BlackBerry for a Snap.
Edited by Charles Kloet