HTC S740 Review

by Reads (30,650)

The HTC S740 is a Windows Mobile Standard smartphone with a slightly unusual design; it has a numberpad and display on the front, and a slide-out QWERTY keyboard. 

This review covers the HTC S740, a European device which is being sold unlocked. This GSM phone is virtually identical to the upcoming HTC S743, which will in essence be the U.S. version of the same model. The S740 doesn’t support the N. American 3G networks, while the S743 will.

HTC S740Inside this Review

Design and Hardware

If I could choose only one word to describe this phone, it would be stylish. While many mobile phones these days are nothing short of ugly, the S740 is both elegant and solid.

The front of the phone, including the edges and the keys, has a mirror-like glossy finish. It’s beautiful, but also a fingerprint magnet; I found myself “polishing” the phone often because I found the fingerprints to be a distraction.

It measures 4 5/8 inches long, 1 5/8 inches wide, and just under 5/8 of an inch thick. When the QWERTY keyboard portion of the phone is extended, the device measures just under three inches wide. Since the keyboard portion is the heavier part of the phone, it’s comfortable to use and isn’t “top heavy”or difficult to hold when the QWERTY keyboard is in use.

On the front of the device you’ll find a QVGA non-touchscreen display. Below that are two menu keys on either side of the five-way navigator button, the call and disconnect buttons, and then the Home key and the “Back” key. Underneath all that you’ll find the dial pad.
 
The entire front of the phone is almost completely smooth; the call and disconnect buttons are raised, which can help you use the phone one handed more conveniently, without having to look at the keys. There is also a very small bump on the 5 key, which is designed to help you find the middle of the numberpad without looking, but it is a little too small and unnoticeable for me to find it effective.

The power button is located on the top of the phone, and the camera button is on the right side. The left side features the volume control buttons, while the combined charge/sync and audio jack port is on the bottom.

The back of the phone is made of a different material that is softer to the touch than the glossy metallic finish on the front of the phone. It is also slightly beveled in a “diamond” pattern that provides a nice grip in the palm of your hand.

The Keyboard

As I mentioned earlier, the S740 is a slider-style phone, and the mechanism works very well. It is easily opened with one hand if necessary; the keyboard pulls out and the screen snaps into place with a satisfying click.

When you pull out the slider, the display instantly switches to a quick menu of sorts, allowing you to jump to the functions you’re most likely to use in that configuration, namely SMS, email, or Messenger.

Inside you’ll find a full QWERTY-style keyboard with separate tab, shift, control, space, punctuation, and arrow keys. Numbers and extended punctuation are accessed by first pressing a green “function” key and then the appropriate button; press the function key twice to initiate a function lock mechanism for number entry.

HTC S740The keyboard is as large as the design of the phone allows, but even after a week of use I find it to be difficult to get used to, especially coming from the iPod touch side of things. There is very little tactile feedback when you press a key; the slight noise of the physical key click wasn’t really enough, or perhaps I’m just spoiled by Apple’s near-perfect implementation of an on-screen keyboard. I think this keyboard would be easier to use with slightly smaller, but more defined keys, though with practice I am becoming slightly more accurate.

The menu keys at the top of the keyboard, while a nice addition, were more difficult for me to use than simply reaching up to the front of the phone to use the slightly larger menu keys located just below the screen.

The keyboard is illuminated, which is a must-have feature for sending text messages to your friends when you’re in a poorly lit area such as a club. There are also a few extra keys that allow you to jump right to your text messaging or email inbox, or access the symbol menu for access to additional characters not found on the physical keyboard.

As a Phone

The HTC S740 includes everything I would expect to find in a modern smartphone. One particular note is that the call reception and voice quality on this phone are excellent. All of the test subjects I called using this phone praised the clarity of each call and said that they could hear my clearly, without any extraneous background. This was true even outside in windy conditions, which often cause a “whooshing” noise that can make it quite difficult to hear the other party or make yourself understood without yelling.

The buttons are well laid out, with the call and disconnect buttons being raised enough to provide adequate separation between the upper and lower face buttons. They are somewhat narrow though, and it can be hard to hit them in just the right spot. When you do though, you find that everything is perfectly arranged; hit the Call button at any time and up pops a list of the most recent calls you’ve made, followed by your contact list.

Searching for names and numbers is lightning fast; as you keep pressing keys and narrowing down your choices, the screen is updated instantly. Press left and right on the five way navigator to choose whether you want to call, email, or text your contact. Everything works exactly as it should, and very quickly.

Productivity

All Windows Mobile 6.1 Standard devices include a basic productivity suite of applications, namely Word Mobile, Excel Mobile, PowerPoint Mobile, and OneNote Mobile, in addition to Internet Explorer and an email application.

While obviously far less feature packed than their desktop counterparts, Office Mobile is an adequate viewer that also offers basic editing capabilities as well. Documents will not be formatted exactly the same was as they are on the desktop, but this suite certainly works, especially for viewing files received as email attachments.

Multimedia

The phone also comes with Windows Media Player and supports a variety of music formats (see specifications). I found the music playback to be pretty good, but fairly “tinny” to my ear, though the sound quality improved somewhat when I choose the “Bass Booster” option in the included Audio Booster application preloaded onto the phone. If you’re not a big fan of the Windows Media Player interface, HTC also includes an Audio Manager application with a more streamlined interface.

An FM Radio is also built in, which uses the supplied wired headset as an antenna. This application was a nice surprise; it features a “Scan & Save” option which will scan through all of the available stations in your area and automatically set the first ten it finds as presets. The application is well designed and very easy to use; just press left and right on the five-way navigator to tune in your station, or hold it down a moment to jump to the next strong signal. RDS is also supported, allowing you to get the name and artist of the current song playing if the station offers that service. A sleep timer is also included, and the radio will play through the phone’s external speaker, though the headset must be plugged in at all times to receive a signal.

HTC S740The camera deserves special mention as well. While the zoom functionality is somewhat slow and frustrating, I found that the photos it takes are better than I expected, even in comparison to the similar 3.2 megapixel camera on the LG Dare, which is my everyday phone. This is especially true in low light situations, as well as those times that I want to take a quick photo.

The HTC S740 is definitely much faster and more responsive than the Dare, as long as you aren’t using the zoom feature. It also includes video capability, and the resulting videos are of good quality. The video mode certainly won’t replace a dedicated camcorder, but considering the fact that you’ll almost always have your phone with you, you may find yourself using it more than you might think.

Connectivity and Expansion

This phone is equipped with both WiFi 802.11 b/g and Bluetooth 2.0, and both worked exactly as expected.

Wi-Fi does have the effect of draining the battery somewhat faster than usual, but it is a good trade-off if you don’t have an unlimited data plan or you live in the U.S. and you want a very fast wireless connection (No U.S. 3G, remember?)

The microSD card slot is stuck in a very inconvenient place; this is one instance in which it makes sense to get the largest card you can afford, because you will not want to switch out smaller capacity cards on a regular basis. To access the slot, you must first open the slider and then turn the phone over; the slot is located underneath the dial pad on the face of the phone. The compartment is easy to open, but you must then disengage the SIM card lock, flip up the SIM card holder, and remove the SIM card in order to access the microSD slot. You must then pull up the tab and insert the card according to the diagram shown on the microSD enclosure. The process is relatively simple, but not something that I would want to do more than once in a great while.

Battery Life and Performance

One of the most important considerations when purchasing a mobile phone is determining whether it will both fit your lifestyle and be able to handle everything you need it to do. Unfortunately smartphones will likely never match the battery life of their simpler featurephone brethren, and the same is true for the S740.

The battery is charged with a combination USB cable/AC adapter that plugs into the bottom of the phone. While it is charging, the ring around the five way navigator pulses until the phone reaches full charge, after which the light ring will glow solid white.

Following a full overnight charge of the phone, I found that the battery had discharged almost completely within two days of relatively average use; approximately twenty minutes of voice calls, several photos, and roughly two hours of Wi-Fi web browsing.

The manual does state that the battery will not reach its full capacity/efficiency until after several full charge and discharge cycles, but it does seem that the battery life is somewhat less than I might have hoped for. A true road warrior who talks on the phone a great deal will certainly need to charge the phone every night and potentially carry a spare charged battery just in case. This is not as much of a problem as it could be; compared to the difficulty of SIM and microSD card insertion and removal, the battery is much easier to replace. To do so, simply slide down the back cover and pop in the new battery.

Performance is definitely not an issue either. It is obvious that the processor is up to the task and that HTC has optimized the device appropriately for maximum performance. I didn’t experience the frustration that I often do with my Windows XP laptop, where I often stare at the Windows hourglass with frustration. No matter whether I was taking a photo, making a call, or using one of the included applications, I experienced almost instant gratification.

While there are a few quirks, they are due to Windows Mobile 6.1 Standard, not the device. This is especially true of Internet Explorer; it was quick and responsive, but some sites are simply not usable, especially those that rely heavily on frames.

Specifications

Processor: Qualcomm MSM7225, 528 MHz
Platform: Windows Mobile 6.1 Standard
Memory: ROM 256 MB; RAM 256 MB
Display: 2.4 inch TFT-LCD with backlight LEDs
Network: GSM/GPRS/EDGE Quad-band 850, 900, 1900, 1900 MHz
Connectivity: Bluetooth 2.0, WiFi 802.11 b/g, HTC ExtUSB (11 pin mini USB 2.0 and audio jack in one)
GPS: GPS and A-GPS ready
Camera: 3.2 megapixel color camera with fixed focus
Audio: Built-in microphone and speaker; Ring tone supported formats: AAC, MP3, WMA, WAV
Dimensions: 116.3 x 43.4 x 16.6 mm
Weight: 140g with battery
Battery: Rechargeable Lithium-ion polymer battery capacity 1000 mAh; Standby time up to 400 hours for WCDMA or 260 for GSM; Talk time up to 300 minutes for WCDMA or 350 minutes for GSM

In the Box

HTC S740
Battery
Slip case made of a soft black mesh fabric
USB charge/sync cable
AC Adapter–works with a USB input, so you can charge the phone and other portable devices as well

Conclusion

The HTC S740 is a beautifully designed, well made, solid device that offers snappy performance with Windows Mobile 6.1 Standard. The specs are impressive enough to appeal to almost anyone, but it is aimed primarily at the consumer who wants a stylish looking device that says something about their hip lifestyle.

While I personally prefer touch screen phones, I do admire the sleek good looks and overall functionality of the device. The camera is exceptional, and the voice quality is excellent.

The S740 certainly deserves a closer look, as does the just-announced S743, which is quite similar to this phone. This is true especially if you want the option of having a full QWERTY keyboard but don’t plan to do an excessive amount of data entry.

 


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