The HTC Tattoo, a bargain version of the company's flagship phones, is like an elderly HTC Hero -- shrunken and less perky, but still with plenty of fun times left in the tank. You'll definitely notice the corners that have been cut -- the resistive touchscreen is especially annoying -- but, if you're looking to save some pennies, you can't beat a bargain handset that offers all the power of an Android smart phone.
The Tattoo is available from free on a £25-per-month, 18-month contract, or for around £290 SIM-free.
Android for all
The Tattoo offers the same powerful Android operating system and social-networking goodies as the Hero, but in a cheaper, smaller phone. That means you can have all the power of a handset running Android -- a usable, feature-packed smart-phone operating system -- at a price that would usually score you a more stripped-down phone.
The Tattoo comes with a good suite of applications pre-installed, including Google Maps, a Twitter app and a YouTube app. If they're not enough, the Tattoo will also allow you to shop in the Android Market, which hosts heaps of little programs that give the phone even more powers. Happily, many of the apps in the Android Market are free, and it does a good job of making it easy to download and install everything from Spotify to Skype.
HTC has also iced the Android cake with its Sense user interface -- the same one we raved about on the HTC Hero. There are seven home screens, which you can customise to your heart's delight with wallpapers and widgets. These include Twitter and email widgets that show your missives as they pop-up in real-time, without requiring you to open an app, like you would on the iPhone, for example.
You can also change your whole configuration, depending on your mood, by creating your own themes, known as 'scenes'. For example, you may want to see your work calendar during the week, but avoid it at all costs during the weekend. Your 'weekend' scene might show your music-player widget instead. But the phone is also well set-up right out of the box, so you don't have to change anything if you don't want to.
Kiss my Facebook
We also love the way Sense grabs our Facebook and Gmail contacts and merges them together into our address book, so we can see the smiling profile pics of our chums on our phone.
The Tattoo also pulls in your Facebook and Flickr photo albums, and your friends' albums, and shows their snaps alongside their contact info. Unfortunately, it doesn't support any other social-networking sites, like MySpace or Bebo. You can get apps and widgets for those sites from the Android Market, though.
Ouch -- my fingers!
HTC hasn't short-changed us with the Tattoo's software, but the hardware is another story. To cut the price, the company's plunked a resistive touchscreen onto the handset, and that breaks our little hearts. The screen requires the pressure of a fingernail to register inputs, and it's just not as pleasant to use Android when you can't swipe over the screen with wild abandon. Instead, each selection has to be a slow and deliberate, and, if you don't have fingernails to speak of, you're stuffed. It doesn't help that the touchscreen is also smaller than average, measuring only 71mm (2.8 inches).