The HTC Salsa is a well designed, mid-range Android smartphone that integrates superbly with Facebook. It combines a sturdy design, a full touchscreen, and a dedicated Facebook button that allows easy integration with the world's most popular social networking service. The HTC Salsa is good value for money, but its ultimate appeal will depend on how much you use Facebook on a daily basis.
HTC Salsa: Design and display
The HTC Salsa closely resembles the HTC Legend in design. Like the Legend, the Salsa has a very distinctive form factor; it features a unibody aluminium casing that’s carved from a single block of aluminium, along with an angled lip on the bottom of the phone that gives it a unique look and feel. The Salsa is very comfortable to hold in the hand, and its compact size means it slips easily into your pocket.
The unibody construction means the HTC Salsa doesn't have a regular battery cover on its rear. Instead, a small, rubber cover sits at the bottom of the phone, and slides off to reveal the battery, microSD and SIM card slots. You'll need to turn off your phone to replace the SIM or the microSD card — the plastic cover concealing both slots holds the battery in place.
The design of the HTC Salsa simply oozes quality, despite its low-end price. One of the best inclusions is a dedicated camera shutter button; it feels remarkably like a digital camera shutter key would, and the etched pattern on top gives it a grippy feel when pressed. The lock key and the right-mounted volume controls are less impressive — we feel they could have been slightly raised in order to provide more comfort.
The HTC Salsa has a 3.4in capacitive touchscreen display with a resolution of 320x480. Viewing angles are adequate and the screen is bright, but it has poor sunlight legibility. Importantly, the screen is responsive, but the default on-screen keyboard is a little cramped and does have a rather steep learning curve. Below the screen are four touch sensitive, backlit shortcut keys — the standard Android home, menu, back and search keys.
HTC Salsa: Facebook button
The HTC Salsa's Facebook button is located below the screen on the bottom edge of the phone. It works contextually and lights up whenever you can share multimedia content or status updates through the social networking service. For example, after a photo is taken with the HTC Salsa's camera, you can simply push the Facebook button to automatically upload the image, and it also works as a secondary camera shutter key. In the music app you can press the Facebook button to share the name of the song you're listening to through Facebook. You can also press and hold the button to automatically check in through the Facebook Places feature, or press it once to update your Facebook status.
In addition to the Facebook button, the HTC Salsa also has Facebook integration built into the user interface. You can view a friend's latest Facebook status and photos on the dialler when you make a call, and when you receive calls. The Salsa also has a dedicated Facebook chat widget, which is part of HTC's Sense user interface. Though these features work well enough, they aren't really a deal breaker, given all aside from the dedicated Facebook chat widgets are available on most other HTC Android smartphones.
HTC Salsa: Software and performance
The HTC Salsa runs the latest version of Android, 2.3 "Gingerbread" and also features HTC's Sense UI overlay. It remains similar in look and feel to most other HTC Android phones, with the main point of difference the heavy Facebook integration. The Salsa has the usual HTC extras including "skins" that change the look of windows, the dock and the lock screen, seven home screens for live widgets and shortcuts, and an app menu that can be sorted by all, frequent, downloaded and Vodafone specific apps preloaded onto the handset. Most of the latter is best described as telco bloatware, with the only exception being the excellent Who2Call app, marking which contacts in your phonebook are on the same phone network as you, so you can take advantage of free calls between the networks.
We love the fact that the HTC Salsa displays your eight most recently opened applications at the top of the notifications panel in a horizontal scroll bar, along with quick setting toggles including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi hotspot, GPS, mobile network and a link to all phone settings. The ability to import contacts and calendar entries from your old mobile phone via Bluetooth through the setup menu is also a handy tool.
Perhaps the best feature of HTC Sense on the Salsa is the new lock screen, which has been borrowed from the HTC Sensation. The Salsa's lock screen comes with four customisable shortcuts that can be dragged into the 'unlock ring' to unlock straight into an assigned app. The lock screen also displays missed calls, emails, and SMS notifications (and album art when you are playing music), but you annoyingly can't directly unlock straight into these apps unless you have them set as a lock screen shortcut.
With an 800MHz processor and a respectable 512MB RAM, the HTC Salsa has reasonable specifications for a phone in this price range. This also translates to a smooth user experience: the Salsa's speed won't blow you away, but we did not experience any lag or slowdown during everyday use.
HTC Salsa: Camera, battery life and other features
The HTC Salsa has a 5-megapixel camera with a single LED flash, and there is also a front-facing, VGA camera for video calls. The rear camera also doubles as a standard-definition video recorder. The flash works reasonably well in dim lighting, though video recording is of a below average quality. We love the fact that you can use the external volume controls as zoom keys, and the excellent camera shutter button makes taking photos a breeze.
The HTC Salsa has 512MB of internal memory, but comes with a microSD card slot, and there is a 2GB card included in the sales package. Battery life on the HTC Salsa is about average for an Android phone: it should last a full day, but will need to be charged daily with regular use.