HTC S743

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INTRODUCTION

    The non-touchscreen variety of Windows Mobile is becoming scarce these days, which is a shame because these class of devices are notorious for fantastic one-handed usability and top-notch performance. When we first learned about the HTC S740 and the US-destined S743, we were excited to see HTC take the design cues and some features from their flagship Touch Pro and bring it to a less-expensive, non-touchscreen device. In this review, we’ll cover the HTC S743 in detail. Read on for more!

WHAT’S HOT

    Let’s talk specs. The S743 is running with a Qualcomm MSM7225 CPU clocking in at 528MHz. It has 256MB ROM and RAM, with microSD expansion behind the SIM card. It’s an unlocked device with quadband GSM (850/900/1800/1900) and dualband UMTS (850/1900) with HSDPA and HSUPA. It has Bluetooth 2.0 +EDR, WiFi (b & g) and aGPS. On the back is a 3.1MP camera with no flash. Powering everything is a modest-sized 1000mAh battery. For even more specs, check out PDAdb.net.

(all images link to larger versions)





Here is the unboxing video in case you missed it. Like I mentioned in the video, the final packaging will be different than what you see here.

Device
Size (inches)
Weight (grams | ounces)
4.44" x 2.47" x 0.52"

132 | 4.65
4.44" x 2.27" x 0.63"

156 | 5.61
4.74" x 2.63" x 0.43"

157 | 5.53
4.33" x 2.09" x 0.59"

117 | 4.12
4.66" x 2.48" x 0.47"

130 | 4.58
4.56" x 2.33" x 0.67"

188 | 6.63
4.64" x 2.36" x 0.48"

129 | 4.55
3.96" x 2.34" x 0.67"

133 | 4.76
4.68" x 2.44" x 0.67"

188 | 6.63
4.58" x 2.42" x 0.47"

120 | 4.20
4.56" x 2.33" x 0.65"

178 | 6.28
3.92" x 2.41" x 0.60"

137 | 4.83
4.24" x 2.09" x 0.53"

117 | 4.12
4.17" x 2.00" x 0.85"

151 | 5.34
4.41" x 2.24" x 0.49"

122 | 4.30
4.57" x 1.70" x 0.64"

140 | 4.94
4.88" x 2.44" x 0.53"

130 | 4.56
4.21" x 2.20" x 0.55"

120 | 4.20
4.53" x 2.47" x 0.47"

146 | 5.15
4.63" x 2.19" x 0.67"

158 | 5.57
4.35" x 2.07" x 0.67"

158 | 5.57
4.56" x 2.41" x 0.51"

125 | 4.41
4.44" x 2.36" x 0.55"

133 | 4.69
4.01" x 1.98" x 0.55"

124 | 4.37
8.28" x 4.67" x 1.08"

640 | 22.5
4.48" x 2.52" x 0.59"

154 | 5.43
4.17" x 2.38" x 0.68"

147 | 5.18
4.01" x 2.00" x 0.71"

165 | 5.82
4.41" x 2.24" x 0.49"

122 | 4.30
4.41" x 2.28" x 0.73"

140 | 4.94
4.01" x 2.00" x 0.45"

110 | 3.88
4.56" x 2.36" x 0.70"
200 | 7.05
4.30" x 2.40" x 0.60"
120 | 4.23
4.20" x 2.30" x 0.60"
136 | 4.79
3.70" x 2.30" x 0.60"
126 | 4.44
4.48" x 2.39" x 0.51"
116 | 4.09
4.60" x 2.60" x 0.50"

134 | 4.70

4.10" x 2.10" x 0.60"
150 | 5.30
4.40" x 2.32" x 0.75"
190 | 6.70

THE DEVICE

The S743 is a very shiny device with hard corners.

Though the device is relatively thick, it’s narrow, so in-hand, it feels petite and nice.

Like the Touch Pro, the keyboard on the S743 slides to the left. When you open the keyboard, you get this quick launcher, which we’ll cover later.

And here is a close up of the keys, which are wider than those of the Touch Pro, and have a similar feel. Because this is a smaller device, we don’t get a dedicated number row up top – so they’re embedded in the letters.

On the top of the device, we see the speaker and the light sensor.

    Closer in on the keypad, we can see the tiny call start and call end keys. Also, we can get a sense for the beautiful symmetry that HTC has designed into the S743. Like the Touch Pro and Diamond, the area around the D-Pad is the system status light. If you have a new message, it will blink in white. If you’re charging your device, the light will fade from top to bottom, and once it’s charged, it will become solid. Nice touch!

This profile shot lets us see that the number keys are completely flat, which sadly makes them difficult to feel for without looking. The D-Pad is raised and thus easy to feel for.

On the top we have the on/off button. Since this is Windows Mobile Standard phone, pressing the power button doesn’t put the device into standby – it brings up the Quick List that allows you to change phone profiles or lock the device.

On the bottom we have HTC’s hybrid port for syncing and charging. It will work with all of your miniUSB connectors.

On the right side we have a camera button.

And on the other side, we have volume up/down rocker.

We get the same faceted rubbery backing on the S743 from the Touch Pro.

And we even get the sleek piece of brushed metal that surrounds the camera sensor. The camera takes images at 3.1MP, and doesn’t have a flash. More on photo quality on the next page.

Taking off the easy-to-remove battery cover, we reveal the 1000mAh battery.

Yikes – to access the SIM card and microSD slot, you have to slide out the keyboard, and finagle with an annoying trap door. This means you’ll have to turn off your device to swap microSD cards.

The keyboard is fully backlit…

…and so is the number pad.





Here is our hardware tour of the S743.

COMPARISONS

Here we have a shot comparing (from left to right) the Samsung BlackJack II, SE XPRIA X1, HTC S743, HTC Touch Pro, and Apple iPhone.

And here they are again in the reversed order, stacked.

Click onto page 2, where we’ll cover software for the S743, plus gauge camera quality.

     HTC’s recent devices, such as the Touch Diamond, Pro, and HD, all have the most recent version of TouchFLO 3D which brings a finger-friendly, information rich, and attractive design to the main screen of Windows Mobile touchscreen devices (seen above). But in the case of the S743, where the platform that they used – WinMo Standard – is not as capable, they made several small changes, none of which are hugely impressive.

    This is the default Home screen, called HTC Home. It’s essentially the default sliding-panel WinMo Standard interface, but with a few changes. I should mention that you can dial right from the home screen by using the numeric keypad. So to bring up Bob, you’d type 2 – 6 – 2, and the device would find relevant matches. This allows for very speedy dialing. The default background is actually solid gray – this beach scene was built into the device and I think it has a better look.

HTC has added the ability to preview email messages and SMS through one of the panels. Nice.

Also new – we can cycle through our Internet Explorer favorites, and launch a page right from this screen.

HTC has added weather to the sliding panel interface (sans the animations)…

…which can be expanded to a simple five-day forecast.

    Now, if you slide open the keyboard while on the home screen, you’ll get this Action Menu for about five seconds. The idea is that if you’ve opened the keyboard, you probably want to do something relating to messaging. If this is not the case, you can exit, or wait a few seconds, and you’re back the Home screen. This can be turned off if it’s annoying.

Ok, let’s drill down into the Start menu. You’ll find that HTC’s offering of added programs isn’t terribly interesting (I have added Skyfire myself, seen above).

Here is a huge annoyance, there are no scroll bars in the Start menu! You have to hit More to move on.

Here we are in the multimedia folder.

Here’s something great – HTC has brought over the look of the Camera Album app found on their newer devices. It is a pleasant way to look through your photos.

And from the Camera Album, you can rotate the image, save as a contact, etc.

Then, when you open a photo, you get this menu that allows you to email the photo, add to contact, start slideshow, etc.

The S743 comes with Office Mobile 2007.

If we drill into Accessories, we can access Connection Setup which will configure your device to various GSM carriers, plus Adobe Reader LE for PDFs, Comm Manager, and the other usuals.

The skin for the Comm Manager is among the best I’ve ever seen on a Windows Mobile non-touchscreen devices – it’s similar to that of the Touch Diamond/Pro/HD.

In the second pane of Accessories, we can access Task Manager to kill programs, Internet Sharing (always helpful for tethering to a laptop), and QuickGPS (for getting quicker GPS fixes).

Though not as good as Microsoft Voice Command, Voice Commander lets you talk to your device and issue commands without training it…

…and it’s pretty easy to use.

    When someone calls, you get a larger than usual photo in the caller ID…nice! Also, like the Touch Diamond/Pro/HD, the device will vibrate when a caller picks up when you call someone. This avoids you holding the phone up to your ear until someone answers.

Here’s a small HTC innovation: while on a call, you can use the D-Pad to access certain functions that would normally be buried in the right soft key: speakerphone, hold, conference call, view contact, and mute.

And as we expect, this is what the calendar app looks like.

And here is the contacts app. As mentioned earlier, you can dial right from the home screen, so you don’t need to go into Contacts first.

Does this look familiar? It’s the volume meter from the Touch Pro/Diamond/HD, brought over to the S743.

Let’s drill into Settings to see if we have any unique entries.

From Power Management, you can switch on and off automatic lighting. This is recommended to conserve battery.

Here is the second pane of Settings.

This is where you turn on and off the Action Menu, that is, the four-choice messaging picker shown earlier.

And this is the third pane of Settings. Nothing interesting here.

In case you missed it, here is the software tour we took.

CAMERA

The camera application performs well and is similar to that of the other HTC devices.

Once you take a picture, you can use the D-Pad area to exercise certain commands like: trash, add to contact, email, etc.

You can change settings such as brightness, white balance…

…plus adjust the resolution and quality.

Here is an outdoor shot from the 3.1MP camera. If you click on the image for the original, you’ll find a lot of noise, and the colors are not accurate. The snow looks more gray than it does white, etc.

And indoor shots aren’t much better. The S743 doesn’t have autofocus, so a macro shot like this comes out blurry and dull. Overall, the camera on the S743 is poor.

Click onto the last page where we’ll wrap everything up, plus talk about battery life and performance!

PERFORMANCE

   The Windows Mobile Standard operating system (non-touchscreen) is consistently better performing than the Professional (touchscreen version). The S743 is a well optimized device that can multitask smoothly and moves from screen to screen quite quickly.

BATTERY
    The S743 has a modest 1000mAh battery. That said, it has fantastic battery life. With moderate usage (several web browsing sessions, a few calls, some GPS activity), I had about 50% battery left at the end of a day. That’s great. With heavy use, expect one day, and with light use, expect 3-4 days.

BUGS AND WISHES

    I think that HTC sometimes favors form over function – they rather make it look good than have it be easy to use. A good example of this is the flat D-Pad on the HTC Touch Diamond/Pro. Yes, it is totally sleek and clean, but it’s exceedingly cumbersome. The S743 has similar issues. The number buttons on the front are completely flat, and thus difficult to feel for. Also, the call start and end keys, while lending to symmetry, are far too small.

    Here is another big usability problem – there are no scroll bars in the Start menu! Yes, this could be remedied with a registry hack, but it will certainly cause confusion for people not realizing that there is more than one screen of icons in the Start menu.

    And one more for the usability column – the microSD card has been placed behind the SIM card slot, and is thus not hot-swappable, meaning to change your microSD card, you have to turn off the phone, remove SIM, change microSD, and turn phone back on. That could be a two-minute process.

    Admittedly, the S743 doesn’t feel thick because it’s so narrow – in fact, it feels like an old-style candybar cell phone, and that feels nice. But it’s still thick – just 1.7mm thinner than the clunky Touch Pro.

    As of late, HTC has increase the quality of their cameras. Devices like the Touch Pro include a flash and have autofocus, both of which the S743 lacks, leading to blurry, noisy, and muddy pictures.

    Finally, the exclusion of a 3.5mm jack for audio is not surprising considering that the S743 isn’t a high-end smartphone, but it’s still bothersome. To use your own headphones, you’ll have to use HTC proprietary converter jack. Blek.

PURCHASING

    The HTC S743 can be had for $489.99 at eXpansys USA.

PROS

  • Beautiful design
  • Excellent build quality
  • Feels good in hand
  • Two keypads
  • Above-average battery life
  • Improved phone experience compared to other Windows Mobile non-touchscreen phones
  • Automatically configures itself to your carrier and works with US 3G (AT&T)
  • Vibrates when caller picks up
  • aGPS/WiFi/HSDPA/HSUPA

CONS

  • Use of flat/small buttons impedes one-handed usability
  • Almost as thick as the Touch Pro
  • Poor camera with no flash or autofocus
  • Screen rotation isn’t fast enough
  • No scroll bars in Start menu
  • microSD slot is hidden, not hot-swappable
  • No 3.5mm headphone jack
Value
Ease
of Use
Features

Overall

What
do these ratings mean
?

OVERALL IMPRESSION

    If you’re looking for a simple messaging non-touchscreen device that is elegant, capable, and has terrific battery life, the S743 is a great choice. But if you need the best in one-handed usability and productivity, the S743 will disappoint. You’re better off going with the Motorola Q9h, which can be found on most of the cell phone carriers in some form (and with better specs than the original Q9h).

PERFORMANCE

   The Windows Mobile Standard operating system (non-touchscreen) is consistently better performing than the Professional (touchscreen version). The S743 is a well optimized device that can multitask smoothly and exibits great performance.

BATTERY
    The S743 has a tiny 1000mAh battery. That said, it has really fantastic battery life. With moderate usage (several web browsing sessions, a few calls, some GPS activity), I had about 50% battery left at the end of a day. That’s great. With heavy use, expect one day, and with light use, expect 3-4 days.

BUGS AND WISHES

    I think that HTC sometimes favors form over funciton – they rather make it look good than have it be easy to use. A good example of this is the flat D-Pad on the HTC Touch Diamond/Pro. Yes, it is totally sleek and clean, but it’s exceedingly difficult to use. The S743 is rife with such issues. The number buttons on the front are completely flat, and thus difficult to feel for. Also, the call start and end keys, while lending to symmatry, are far too small.

    Here is another big usability problem – there are no scroll bars in the Start menu! Yes, this could be remedied with a registry hack, but it will certainly cause confusion for people not realizing that there is more than one screen of icons in the Start menu.

    And one more for the usability column – the microSD card has been placed behind the SIM card slot, and is thus not hot-swapable, meaning to change your microSD card, you have to turn off the phone, remove SIM, change microSD, and turn phone back on. That could be a two-minute process.

    Admitedly, the S743 doesn’t feel thick because it’s so narrow – it feels like an old-style candybar cell phone, and that feels nice. But it’s still thick – just 1.7mm thinner than the huge Touch Pro.

    As of late, HTC has increase the quality of their cameras. Devices like the Touch Pro include a flash and have autofocus, both of which the S743 lacks, leading to blurry, noisy, and muddy pictures.

    Finally, the exclusion of a 3.5mm jack for audio is not suprising considering that the S743 isn’t a high-end smartphone, it’s still bothersome. To use your own headphones, you’ll have to use HTC propritary converter jack. Blek.

PURCHASING

    The HTC S743 can be had for $489.99 at eXpansys USA.




PROS

  • Beatiful design
  • Excellent build quality
  • Two keypads
  • Above-average battery life
  • Automatically configures itself to your carrier
  • Vibrates when caller picks up
  • Works with US 3G (on AT&T)
  • aGPS/WiFi/HSDPA/HSUPA

CONS

  • Use of flat/small buttons impedes one-handed usability
  • No scroll bars in Start menu
  • Almost as thick as the Touch Pro
  • Poor camera, no flash or autofocus
  • microSD slot is hidden, not hot-swappable
  • No 3.5mm headphone jack
Value
Ease
of Use
Features

Overall

What
do these ratings mean
?

OVERALL IMPRESSION

    If you’re looking for a simple messaging non-touchscreen device that is elegant, capable, and has terrific battery life, the S743 is a great choice. But if you need the best in one-handed usability and productivity, the S743 will dissapoint. You’re better off going with the Motorola Q9h, which can be found on most of the cell phone carriers in some form.

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About The Author
Brandon Miniman
Brandon is a graduate from the Villanova School of Business, located near Philadelphia, PA. He's been a technology writer since 2002, and, in 2005, became Editor-in-Chief of Pocketnow, a then Windows Mobile-focused website. He has since helped to transition Pocketnow into a top-tier smartphone and tablet publication. He's so obsessed with technology that he once entered a candle store and asked if they had a "new electronics" scent. They didn't.