I just got my hand at this brand new HTC Salsa two days ago; thanks to the promo held by XL last weekend which slashed the price, practically drop it into the entry level pricing. This is a condition which set forward the schedule of renewing my cellphone from almost none existed, to last weekend; because even though I’m quite happy with my Samsung Galaxy Mini, this offers is too good to be missed.
So here’s my short review from interacting with the phone within a day:
After playing with HTC Salsa for a while, I’m quite pleased with the enhancements and additional features of HTC Salsa with its HTC Sense, which is not available in Samsung Galaxy Mini; like the availability of self-facing second camera, and the fascinating auto focus camera along with its two steps ergonomically correct shutter button, including the good lens placement for landscape portraits at the upper right corner of the back cover. Samsung Galaxy Mini is quite sluggish at this part, especially with the center-placement lens which makes taking picture is prone to lens blocking by your own fingers.
Another interesting feature is the touch on display screen to point the camera focus, LED flash inclusion, and surely the better system performance with its faster processor and higher quality display.
Though differs only about 1 cm tall from the Galaxy Mini’s screen, with its higher resolution display and higher grade display, HTC Salsa have a significant bigger screen real estate and display performance than Galaxy Mini.
Phone materials and built are significantly better too; it felt much firmer and solid on HTC Salsa, compared to the rather plasticky feel of Samsung Galaxy Mini.
Phone call quality are significantly better too, using the same GSM network.
From the drop-down top menu, you can access more features compared than Galaxy Mini’s, including the button to enable/disable the data connection, which I uses frequently and was not available on Galaxy Mini’s shortcuts.
Judging from the price level though, they’re certainly not a balanced match, as HTC Salsa is more like a mid-entry Android phone, compared with Samsung Galaxy Mini which is at the entry level.
What I find unpleasant from HTC Salsa though, is the placement of power button to awaken your device’s display from sleep which located at the top part of the phone; which is unnatural position for a single handed operation, and it’s hard to press which meant extra efforts are required. During browsing, it also got hotter much faster than Galaxy Mini.
Removing the back cover to access the SIM card, battery, and the Micro SD card is not an easy task, as the slide-down cover presses hard to the body while the surface itself is quite smooth hence there’ not enough traction available to channel your finger’s pressure on. It requires you to uses both hands with half of the pressure point falls on the glass surface part of the front side, which creates uneasy feeling that you might accidentally harm your front display on the process. It’s significantly harder compared with Samsung Galaxy Mini snap-on back cover which requires you to just slip you nail in between the given cavity space and slides it around to unsnap the cover.
There’s also no shortcut to enable/disable the auto-rotate function, which from my past experiences are quite accessed a lot; and is available on Galaxy Mini’s shortcut.
And though it’s powered with 800 Mhz processor, it plays only limited format of videos thus you have to install additional third party video players with bulky codecs size. Though buggy, unlike HTC, Samsung has their own application, Kies, which handles this issue very well with providing a function to convert videos into playable format on Galaxy series devices.
However what I find surprising is that User Experience wise there’s no rush of excitement felt, unlike the very first time I encountered Android platform. Perhaps due because they uses only a slightly different version of Android; Gingerbread (2.3) on HTC Salsa, and Froyo (2.2) on Samsung Galaxy Mini, and Google has been consistent in (pre)serving the User Experience standards.
Judging from the differences in phone-related User Interface and features, I still likes Samsung Galaxy Mini User Experience better for this single feature: Swype. Without it, typing long sentences on HTC Salsa is quite a drag for you have to press the tiny on-screen keyboard keys one at a time. There are predictive text input available though, but it’s just not the same, hence I’m not convinced that HTC Salsa is a better option for blogging, though for maintaining your social networking live it offers many advantage in form of widgets and the dedicated Facebook sharing button.
However up to this point I don’t know how I can quickly put my HTC Salsa into silent mode, while on the Samsung Galaxy Mini you can do it from the quick-access status panel and from the standby screen.
Connectivity wise, HTC Salsa does provide WiFi Tethering like Samsung Galaxy Mini, and it’s accessible from the top menu shortcut. While on Samsung Galaxy it’s called WiFi tethering, on HTC Sense it’s called WiFi Hotspot. HTC Salsa also wins on the easy to setup USB Tethering function, which Samsung Galaxy Mini lacked behind due to the unavailable drivers for Windows 7 yet. This way, you can chose to share your internet connection to multiple devices, or connects it through USB to your Windows 7 laptop without much of a hassle.
The biggest issue I encountered however, was the itsy bitsy tiny internal storage size at 150 MB. While Galaxy Mini has the same amount of space and it feels quite okay, then with all the enhancements HTC Salsa & HTC Sense thrown in to provide a kind of User Experience they deemed necessary, including the two Facebook applications, it occupies about 50 MB space. It means that with addition of an antivirus, power management, and social connectivity tools like WhatsApp and Foursquare mobile app, you’ll quickly runs out of free space.
Not to mention that to be able to play a wider range of videos, you would want to install 3rd party video player along with its bulky codecs.
HTC Salsa is a fine phone; both in technical performance and User Experience performance. It looks good, its features are well-thought, and it’s well-suited to support your online social networking needs. With its small internal memory and bulky HTC Sense though, the User Experience and device functionality is not so customizable. HTC Salsa could be benefited from a slimmer restricted apps, to enable users to tap in the true power of Android devices.
Compared with Samsung devices though, personally I think the absence of Swype-like feature is a big drawback; however I believe this is the common case which also applies to other brands outside Samsung on the market at the moment as well.
Should you need more thorough comparison please refer to the screenshot from GSM Arena below:
Android vs iPhone
Android platform wise, I get more confidence in saying that Android is one excellent system to run mobile devices; you can get from beginner into advanced level user without even have to consult a single manual.
Not to say that iPhone or iOs has lesser User Experience quality, but the fact that they are only available from Apple will quickly make it a market minority. Android on the other hand, is installable to entry level phones, and is available from a wide selection of brands.
With China emerges as the cheap phone manufacturer, you can even have Android on a “less than entry level” phones, for a very decent price. ZTE Freddo (ZTE Dreamer in China market) for example, is available in Indonesian market for a price of almost 1 mil IDR, while for iPhone, even for the earlier model of iPhone 3 you need to spend 4 times as that.
The big story with winning the majority market is, Android can have the privilege of setting the new standard of mobile devices, just like what Nokia used to do when they rules both the casual and business phone market with its Symbian OS (and they’re already suffering to Blackberry now on the later segment). Judging from the performance and User Experience, Android is not really that far different with iPhone, so it’s unlike the match between MacOs with Windows on Personal Computer market where Apple holds the upper hand on User Experience quality.
Will Android be the standard mobile OS of tomorrow? (byms)
p.s.: If you are having a trouble activating the USB Tethering function on HTC Salsa, first you have to choose to connect it as the USB Drive; it will enables you to access the included HTC Sync application folder to install it, which during installation will also supply your PC with required drivers to enable the USB Tethering function. After the HTC Sync is installed, just unplug the USB cable, re plug it and choose USB Tethering connection, and Windows will now recognize the HTC Salsa as tethering device.