HTC Snap (HTC Maple 100)

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INTRODUCTION

    Remember the T-Mobile Dash/HTC Excalibur? It was a thin and light messaging device with snappy performance and a fantastic keyboard. It took HTC a couple of years to make a successor to the celebrated device, and today, we finally have one. It’s called the HTC Snap, and it has gotten a lot of attention from those that appreciate a petite Windows Mobile Standard device that is built for messaging productivity. But does the Snap deliver like the Dash? How does the keyboard compare to other similar devices? We’ve got the full review ahead!

WHAT’S HOT

    Let’s go over the specs. The HTC Snap sports a Qualcomm MSM7225 processor running at 528MHz, running on Windows Mobile 6.1 Standard. It has 256MB ROM and 192MB RAM. The non-touchscreen is 2.4" and QVGA 320×240 resolution. It’s a quadband GSM (850/900/1800/1900) phone with dualband UMTS (900/2100) with HSDPA. It also has assisted GPS, WiFi b & g, Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR, USB 2.0, and microSD expansion. The rear camera is 2.0MP with no auto focus or flash. Powering all of this is a 1500mAh battery which is quite large for a device of this type. For even more specs, check out PDAdb.net.

(all images link to larger versions)

As seen in the picture, the Snap is the stylish successor to the Dash, which came out in October of 2006. Take a look at this side-by-side comparison of the Dash versus the Snap.

The Snap is a super slim device at just 12mm thick, which is 0.8mm thinner than its predecessor. It’s also quite lightweight at a mere 120 grams.

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

WHAT’S IN THE BOX



Here is the unboxing video for the HTC Snap. Included is a charging/syncing cable, audio headphones, a wall charger, the battery and the device. No case is included.

THE DEVICE

The HTC Snap is one of the first Windows Mobile device to have a BlackBerry Pearl-like trackball instead of a D-Pad.

The Snap’s design is characterized by circular shapes, probably thanks to the Inner "Circle" feature (more on that later). The entire device is rounded at the edges, and the main row of hardware buttons in the center are circular.

Zooming into the top we see a status indicator on the left of the speaker grill. To the right is a light sensor, which is only used to turn on and off the keyboard backlighting, and not to regulate screen brightness.

First, take note to the nice-looking piece of brushed metal that surrounds the center strip of hardware buttons. There we have (from left to right) a call start button, a soft key, home button, trackball (which presses inwards to select), back button, second soft key, and call end/power button.

At first glance, you may suspect the Snap’s keyboard to lend to a fantastic typing experience. Well, the truth is, unless you have smallish hands, you are going to find the keyboard to be cramped. Also, there is a Tab key placed where the "A" key should be. For those coming from the Dash, Moto Q9h, BlackJack, or another similar device, this is something you are going to have to get used to. In the first few days of using the Snap, I would always strike the Tab key when I meant to press the "A". Note the green button in the bottom right. More on that later.

On the left side of the device we find the volume rocker. Notice how thin the Snap is!

And on the right side, under a rubber flap, is the ExtUSB port used for charging, syncing, and audio.

On the back we have a nice rubbery coating that does not pick up fingerprints.

There is a nice piece of brushed metal that surrounds the 2.0MP camera sensor, which has no flash and no autofocus. More on picture quality on the third page of this review.

Taking off the back battery cover, we find the 1500mAh battery, the SIM card slot, and the microSD slot, which resides just below the SIM card area.

And when you are in a dark place, the keyboard backlighting kicks on. The trackball even is illuminated.



Here is the hardware tour video in case you missed it.

COMPARISONS

Here we compare the HTC Touch Pro2, Samsung BlackJack II, HTC Snap, and Moto Q9h.

Here they are in reversed order, stacked.

Click onto the next page where we’ll get into the software on the HTC Snap, with screenshots galore!

As with other Windows Mobile non-touchscreen devices, we have the great sliding-panel home screen interface. HTC has made some additions. Here we have the time panel.

And here is the calendar panel which shows you your next appointments.

The next panel will show you if you have any new SMS, voicemail, missed calls, or email.

This is new. It is an extended email screen that lets you get a quick preview of all of the emails in your inbox. Tapping on any message will link you to that particular email.

This is also new. We now have the weather right from the home screen.

And if you click on the weather, you get a nice five-day view.

Also new is the panel for internet favorites.

Another new panel is that for audio. The Snap will automatically search for music on your device.

If you enter the audio manager, you get iPod-like controls to drill down by Artist, Album, Genre, etc.

Here we see the list of songs on the album that I’m listening to.

And here is the Now Playing screen, which will display album art if you have any. This is a great way to manage music right from the home screen.

SOFTWARE

The system volume is straight out of HTC’s higher end devices. A small, but nice addition.

Here we are in the Start Menu. Standard stuff.

The Snap actually comes with a newer version of Pocket Internet Explorer, now called IE6 mobile. It is a bit better than PIE, but not by much. It’s a bit better at rendering full websites, but it doesn’t handle Flash video well, or at all.

Using Skyfire is much better, but there is a bug. Scrolling down the page in Skyfire on the Snap is VERY slow using the trackball for some reason, regardless of the sensitivity setting.

But of course, Skyfire does do Flash so you can watch YouTube and Hulu videos.

If we go into multimedia, we find the Album, camera/video applications, a streaming player for streaming internet video, and the audio manager.

The album again comes right out of HTC’s higher end devices. It’s a very nice way to view photos.

Once you choose a picture, you can set it as your wallpaper, assign it to a contact for picture caller ID, start a slideshow, etc.

And zooming in will reveal the above selection box.

In accessories we have standard stuff.

The Connection Setup will automatically configure the Snap to your carrier. It even has settings for carriers in the USA.

And the Snap has aGPS, which allows it to get a GPS fix within 15 seconds on a cold start, and 2-3 seconds on a warm or hot start.

INNER CIRCLE

The premise behind Inner Circle is simple. Say you get emails from 30 people per day. Of the 30, only 10 people have critical things to say. Well, you can add them to your inner circle list. Then, when you get a little circle notification in the system tray (see below), you hit the green button on the keyboard, and are taken to a filtered inbox with emails only from these people.

The big red arrow is pointing to the Inner Circle notification that I mentioned.

Too add people to your Inner Circle, you are taken to your contacts.

And this is what the email filter looks like. Quite simply, you select a message to read it, or you can go into your Outlook email via the All Email left soft key.

There is a short tutorial associated with the Inner Circle. Really, it’s very easy.

Click onto the next page where we’ll cover settings and go over photo quality on the HTC Snap. Does it take good photos?

The phone portion of the Snap works well. Simply dial the name of the person you want to call from the Home screen, and a list of matches will appear.


Here is what Call History looks like.

When you get a call, you get a nice-sized caller ID picture if you have a photo associated to that particular contact.

Then, once on a call, you can drill into the right soft key menu to flip on speakerphone, or you can hold down the Call Start button. The speakerphone works quite well with loud volume and good sensitivity.

SETTINGS

Here is the sleek-looking Communication Manager which lets you mange all of the wireless radios. The Snap has WiFi.

There aren’t that many settings on the Snap that are unique. We’ll go through the ones that are now.

As with other HTC devices, you can choose to reject a call with a text message. Also, you can turn on and off the feature that will vibrate the phone once the other caller has picked up.

As with other Windows Mobile devices, you can change the home screen layout.

The best choice seems to be HTC Home, which gives you the added panels that we showed you on the previous page.

You can adjust the backlight on four levels. I kept it on three most of the time, with four being max brightness.

Oddly, the light sensor will not regulate screen brightness. Rather, it will only control keypad backlight.

By default, aGPS was disabled. Weird. You’re definitely going to want to have this on to get a faster GPS fix.

And finally, here is the adjustment for trackball sensitivity. Even on the fastest setting, the sensitivity wasn’t quite high enough.



This video shows some software features that we’ve written about so far in this review.

CAMERA

The camera application on the HTC Snap works quite well.

You can make changes to brightness, white balance, resolution, and so on.

Because the Snap has no autofocus, close up shots come out blurry. Also, the colors on the shot were dull.

Because there is no flash, the Snap doesn’t do well in low light conditions, such as those indoors.

And here is a shot taken outside. The Snap did generally well with the colors, but if you click the picture to see the original, you’ll see lots of noise.

Click here to see a sample of some QVGA video in 3GP format. The video quality isn’t great.

Click on to the next page as we finish up the review with notes on battery life, Pros and Cons, and more.

BATTERY
    When we first did the unboxing and saw that the 1500mAh battery that came with the Snap was the same used for the Touch Pro2, we knew the device would have killer battery life, and it does. With moderate usage of GPS, WiFi, and a handful of calls, the Snap will get you through 2 full days. With light use, expect 3-4 days. Very good!

BUGS AND WISHES

    By far our biggest gripe with the Snap, which was supposed to be its biggest selling point, is the keyboard. The keys feel cramped compared to the Moto Q9h and Samsung BlackJack, which will be a problem for those with large-sized fingers. Also, there is a Tab key where there should be an "A" key, causing there to be a significant learning curve for those coming from other similar devices.

   The camera on the Snap is pretty bad. The pictures are noisy, the colors aren’t vivid, and because there is no auto focus or flash, it’s tough to get a crisp picture. Coming from other newer HTC devices like the Diamond2 and Touch Pro2 that have terrific cameras, it’s hard to jump down to such a low quality camera.

   The trackball is a great addition and allows for a smooth navigation experience compared to a D-Pad. But in Skyfire, the browser that makes browsing in Windows Mobile non-touchscreen usable, scrolling is intolerably slow using the trackball.

   And then there are some other small gripes with the Snap: the microSD slot is under the battery cover, there is no case included, and the screen resolution is lower than it should be (how about some 320×320 like the Propel Pro?).

PURCHASING

    The HTC Snap is only being sold in Europe right now, but you can import it to America and have it work on T-Mobile and AT&T, just without 3G. Rumor is that several global carriers will see some variant of the Snap come summar/fall 2009. If you want a Snap now, hop on over to Clove Technology where they are selling it for about £255, which, depending on the current exchange rate of the day, comes out to $400-500 USD. They’ll ship worldwide.




PROS


  • Great build quality


  • Thin and light


  • Outstanding battery life


  • Rubbery coating feels great in-hand


  • Inner Circle feature may be very useful to some


  • Good performance


  • Screen has good outdoor visibility


  • Reasonably priced


  • Trackball is a welcomed D-Pad replacement

CONS


  • Keyboard feels cramped, has unusual key layout


  • No flash or autofocus on camera


  • No case included


  • Trackball doesn’t work well with Skyfire

  • Light sensor doesn’t regulate screen brightness

  • microSD card slot is under battery

Value
Ease
of Use
Features

Overall

What
do these ratings mean
?

OVERALL IMPRESSION

    We had high hopes for the Snap. We thought it would be the killer messaging device that the Dash/Excalibur once was. And despite it having a terrific in-hand feel thanks to a very thin and light form factor, despite it having battery life better than 90% of smartphones out there, the keyboard really hurts the Snap. For those with large sized hands, the cramped keyboard on the Snap will feel unusable. And for those that are coming from a Moto Q9h, BlackJack, or any other candybar-style QWERTY phone, the strange placement of the "A" key will a big annoyance for a period of time. If you’re looking something with a more capacious keyboard, check out the HTC S743/S740.

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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.