Everything about HTC's Status screams Facebook. Photo: Jon Snyder/Wired.com
Facebook has always maintained it is not working on a phone. And while it’s not exactly an official Facebook phone, the HTC Status is as close as you’re going to get to one.
The entire device screams “Facebook” in functionality, form and aesthetic. To begin with, there’s the most obvious social feature: A Facebook-branded “F” button located at the lower-right corner of the phone, dedicated entirely to updating your status (hence the name of the phone).
The premise is frightening. Imagine your Facebook feed packed with status updates coming from a single friend, nonchalantly broadcasting every minute of his life from his HTC Status. If you decide to buy this phone, take it easy on the F trigger, or prepare to be unfriended en masse.
Whatever your feelings are on the phone’s primary function, HTC nails it on the look. Against the phone’s stark silver and white color palette, Facebook’s trademark blue and white logo is the center of attention. In an added flourish, the back-lit keyboard letters shine white while in use, with the alt-text offsetting the white letters in an attractive glowing blue. The phone’s entire look mimics the social site with understated (yet still appreciable) flare.
Combining a 2.6-inch touchscreen display with a full QWERTY keyboard, the Status reminds me of a BlackBerry Torch sans slide-out functioning, or perhaps the Palm Pre of yesteryear. The idea behind the phone’s hybridity rests in its social roots: The easiest way to update your Facebook status is, of course, on a physical keyboard. Yet only hardware manufacturers living in the stone age would put out a smartphone without touchscreen capability.
The Status comes with a full Qwerty keyboard as well as a touchscreen. And of course, there's the Facebook button. Photo: Jon Snyder/Wired.com
But there’s almost always an inherent problem in putting forth a compromise. Instead of concentrating on doing one thing very well, it usually means you’re doing two things half-assed. Luckily for the Status, HTC got it half right. The keyboard doesn’t suffer; it’s the screen that’s difficult to adjust to.
The Sense software — HTC’s tailor-made Android interface — was made with bigger screens in mind. With its giant clock icon and a fat status box that features rolling updates from your friends’ feeds, the home screen feels cluttered, almost claustrophobic. Even on the menu screen that displays a full list of your apps, there’s not always enough room to show an app’s full title if it’s longer than 10 characters.
Fortunately, the Status ships with Android version 2.3.3 (Gingerbread), one of the most up-to-date releases of the software. It’s not quite 2.3.4, but let’s not nitpick too much.
The 800-MHz Qualcomm processor is ample enough to accomplish simple enough tasks, but it’s no match for Nvidia’s Tegra 2 dual-core chip. But to be fair, the Status wasn’t built to compete with the latest full-size, power-packed smartphones hitting the market. It’s made for Facebooking, not for gaming.
The back-facing camera is decent enough to get the job done, though nothing to text home about. The front-facing camera, however, is atrocious. Pictures displayed grainy, and not in the cool Instagram way. It is capable of video capture, so if you want to upload mini movies to Facebook, you’re good to go.
Ultimately, I’m skeptical about recommending a phone like the Status. It’s reminiscent of Microsoft’s Kin One and Kin Two phones from about a year ago, both of which were mid-level devices dedicated to Twitter and Facebook updates. And they both flopped big time.
But HTC’s version of the so-called ‘Facebook phone’ is done far better than Microsoft’s. The Status’ hardware still lands it squarely withing the realm of smartphones, while the Kin models existed in a vague territory between smart and dumb (i.e. smartphone versus a traditional feature phone).
I personally wouldn’t buy a Status, but I’m also more judicious with my status updates. On the other hand, if you’re one for broadcasting what you had for breakfast, the Status was made for you.
There's nary a menu screen that doesn't direct you to Facebook on HTC's Status smartphone. Photo: Jon Snyder/Wired.com
The HTC Status will be available in U.S. stores beginning July 17 for a mere $50 with two-year AT&T contract.