Facebook Phones at MWC: HTC ChaCha and Salsa

Amid rumors and news of dedicated Facebook phones, HTC decided to pre-empt such devices by introducing two new Android 2.3.3 handsets Tuesday, each with a dedicated Facebook button. The pair of phones, known as the HTC ChaCha and HTC Salsa, provide quick posting and sharing to Facebook through the special button, which pulses when there’s an opportunity to share something with Facebook friends. Both devices use the popular HTC Sense user interface and include special Facebook widgets for chat and status updates. Facebook data is also integrated within the phone’s dialer and contacts applications.

The pulsing reminder feature of the button is intriguing, as is the button itself, which takes the place of several screen taps to share pictures, video or status. Here’s how HTC explains the new Facebook button, found at the bottom right of both phones, as well as the overall social networking integration:

With a single press of the button, you can update your status, upload a photo, share a Website, post what song you are listening to, ‘check in’ to a location and more. For example, you can take a photograph of friends on your phone and upload it instantly to Facebook by simply pressing the button. Or let your friends know what song you’re listening to by pressing the button while listening to music on the phone. The track is automatically identified and shared on Facebook.

When you make a phone call, the dialer screen displays your friend’s latest status and photos, and even tells you if their birthday is approaching. The same updates are also displayed when you receive a call from a Facebook friend. You can also use your phone’s existing contacts to help you connect with them on Facebook or personalize your handset further with a number of new, Facebook-branded widgets.

Truly dedicated Facebook phones are likely to leverage the social network as the primary way for users to communicate with friends, so HTC’s efforts offer a happy medium: Users can use the special Facebook button and widget integration, or choose HTC Sense and Android’s native apps for emails, status updates and such. It’s a smart compromise on the part of HTC and potentially beats true Facebook phones to market, depending on launch timing. Here’s a closer look at the two devices, which of course are full Android smartphones too!

HTC ChaCha

This handset actually reminds me of the first Android prototypes seen in early 2008. ChaCha’s touchscreen is small at 2.6 inches, but packs QVGA or 480×320 resolution into the display. A QWERTY keypad sits under the screen, and the bottom third of the phone is angled out like a chin. ChaCha is powered by a 600 MHz CPU and 512 MB of memory with a microSD card for storage expansion. Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and GPS round out connectivity for this GSM handset, which includes a 5-megapixel, auto-focus rear camera and front-facing sensor for video chat.

HTC Salsa

Salsa looks more like the traditional, all-screen HTC handsets but shares many internal features with ChaCha. The 3.4-inch touchscreen uses the same QVGA resolution and 600 MHz CPU, as well as the same connectivity and camera specifications as the ChaCha. The biggest difference may be in the battery capacity at 1520 mAh, which makes sense as there’s a bigger display to light up.

Aside from the dedicated hardware button, many of the Facebook integrations are already available in widgets or natively in Android. Does a handset button for Facebook sharing appeal to you or do you think HTC is simply trying to leverage the popularity of Facebook for its new phones?

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