Is the HTC ChaCha worthwhile?

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from  Arizona
| Published: June 23, 2011

We’ve talked about defining features in a smartphone. We’ve even talked about how a company might focus on one feature more than others in a particular handset, all in hopes of getting more people to buy it. It’s a common practice, and one that won’t go away any time soon. It’s one of the reasons why when rumors about a “Facebook phone” started popping up I wasn’t all that surprised. After all, Facebook’s popularity has only been getting bigger, and it was only a matter of time before other companies out there started figuring out ways to capitalize on that popularity. But, is a Facebook phone really worthwhile?

Facebook and smartphones isn’t a rare occurrence these days. It’s still one of the most popular applications downloaded on any mobile platform out there, and it’s rare to find some way not to integrate the contacts you’ve got on Facebook with your phone’s phonebook. But, for those Facebook enthusiasts out there who want more Facebook action, a Facebook phone was the only logical step forward. Unfortunately, I don’t think the HTC ChaCha (or Status) is the way to get that done.

Let me first say that the rumors about a “Facebook phone” way back in the day were interesting because there were so many questions about the mobile operating system inside the device, and the user interface that would be developed. It was unique, back then, in that a completely unofficial product might actually bring some new elements to the table, even if they were focused around a social networking site.

But instead, we have an Android-powered device that has a button to access Facebook more easily. What’s more, the button actually has the Facebook logo on it, so everyone will know you’ve got a dedicated Facebook button. Sure, the button is an extra piece beneath the keyboard, but that’s possibly more distracting than actually just having it be a function key on the regular keyboard. It’s going to be attractive to some, but to me the Facebook button just doesn’t make sense.

It doesn’t make sense because it’s not hard to launch the Facebook application now, on any device. Even if you’re using a handset that doesn’t have a touchscreen, accessing Facebook is usually no more than a few scrolls away. And if you’re using Android, then you know that getting into your Facebook account is as easy as touching the icon to launch the app, or even using the dedicated Facebook widget to catch up on what’s going on in your contacts’ lives. If it were a hassle on “regular” phones to get into Facebook, then the Facebook button on the Facebook phone would seem appropriate. Now, it just seems like a gimmick.

And unfortunately, it’s a gimmick that isn’t necessarily “exclusive” to the HTC ChaCha/Salsa. Sure, no other device out there has a Facebook button (yet), but it’s not like the device is showcasing any other exclusive features. Pushing that button gets you instant access to your Facebook profile, the Android Facebook application. Truth be told, I think the HTC ChaCha/Salsa could sell quite well on its own, if the physical keyboard is up to par. It doesn’t need the Facebook button at all.

What do you think of the ChaCha/Salsa? Is the Facebook button completely worthwhile, or just a pointless gimmick? And are you waiting to get your very own Facebook phone? Or do you just want that hardware keyboard with Android’s Gingerbread build? Let me know in the comments below.

Products mentioned