HTC ChaCha Review

I’ve had an HTC ChaCha for about 10 days now. The experience has been, in one word: lame.

I’ve had a few Nokia’s – E61, E71, E72. Not really something you want to browse the web on, but they worked pretty well. I’ve had a few iOS devices.

Why did I not just get an iPhone4?
1) Not the best reception / antenna design. I often struggle to phone iPhone users.
2) No keypad. I don’t like typing on a screen.
3) Battery life.
4) I could not find a free SSH client. Not sure I like the ecosystem.

The HTC ChaCha was the first phone I spotted which was close enough in design to the E72, but which could probably have a useful web browsing experience. Yes, the Facebook button is UBER lame, but there are not many designs like this.

My Experience
It cost about R3300. It runs Android 2.3.3. Two minutes after I took it out of the box I noticed the plastic casing on the one side did not line up. Took it back, got a new one. A day later I noticed the one key only works about 70% of the time. Can’t sync my calendar and contacts with Apple iSync. Battery lasts only 1.5 days max. UI apps have crashed a few times. Finding a very simple app to make notes is painful – 500 half baked apps (all rated 4.5 stars) to experiment with. It seems to want a Google account for everything. General UX of iOS is much more polished.

Rock and a hard place
Is this it? Did IQ’s just drop suddenly? Why in 2011, can I not find a replacement for the Nokia E series? How hard can it be to make a phone with a keypad which has 3 days of battery life? FFS. HTC build quality is shockingly bad. Android is okay, but I expected more.

When the phone was 8 days old, I took it back to the shop. They told me that because it’s more than 7 days old my only option is to have it repaired.

So on Friday, I’m going to print out section 56 of the CPA and go tell the mobile phone shop that I want one which actually has functional keys.. but what I really want is my money back and a Nokia E6.

Probably the most annoying part is that for a number of years it was easy to know which phone I wanted next. At the moment I’m clueless. I don’t really want any of them.

Apple and Google – you suck, thanks for taking us a few steps sideways (if not backwards). Thanks for dominating the market and leading it to create this crap.

HTC – You are true Muppets.

Nokia – why, oh why? …so many wrong choices.

UPDATE Friday 12 Aug

I visited the Vodacom shop today. They confirmed the one key was faulty. They needed to order a new keypad to fix it. They asked me what I wanted to do. I said: I’d like my money back. They wanted to know if I’d had the phone for more than 7 days. Well, yes.. 13 days. So, the lady responded with “In that case, hell no”.

I said, I’m just going to go fetch a print-out of the Consumer Protection Act from my car and then we’ll talk again.

Section 56 of the CPA: Implied warranty of quality
(2) Within six months after the delivery of any goods to a consumer, the
consumer may return the goods to the supplier, without penalty and at the supplier’s risk and expense, if the goods fail to satisfy the
requirements and standards contemplated in section 55, and the supplier
must, at the direction of the consumer, either:
(a) repair or replace the failed, unsafe or defective goods; or
(b) refund to the consumer the price paid by the consumer, for the goods.

When I returned she seemed busy for about 5 minutes. She returned with a copy of an internal document.

She read my printed CPA page. Then she read the company brief on what to do. The Vodacom document’s wording was similar to the CPA wording but it seemed to require me to follow the Vodacom processes and policies.. not really the way I read the CPA. I pointed out that the CPA gives me the option to choose how I’d like the matter resolved.

At this point the lady insisted that the Vodacom doc was the same or more relevant than the law. I suggested a solution. Let me give you back this phone and I’ll buy the more expensive Nokia E6?


“Well, then I have to send the phone to Joburg,” she said. She started filling in a special form for “CPA Implied warranty” matters.

I have to wonder if she knew about this form when she told me “hell no” I’m just going to have to live with the lame phone because I’ve had it more than 7 days.

So. Now I’m without a phone. Awesome. I’m wondering if the “without penalty” wording above is relevant. It seems a lot like a penalty to me. It’s most certainly very inconvenient.

They agreed to respond within 10 days.

UPDATE Tuesday 16 Aug

Today, 4 days later, I get a text message saying my phone is ready for collection.

I phoned the Vodacom store. They were very happy to inform me that they have repaired the HTC ChaCha… really?

They seem to now have no recollection of the process of filling it the CPA form or saying they would send it to Joburg. I asked who the person was who changed the plan and decided they should repair the phone. They offered to give me some other call centre number if I wanted to find that person. Very useful dead end.

From the Vodacom Trade Bulletin I have:
The Act states that if the device fails within 6 months to meet the standard, a customer can return the device and the supplier must at the direction of the consumer either: a) Repair or replace the failed or defective goods b) refund the consumer the price paid. It is imperative to communicate to customers that the above WILL happen within the company’s prescribed policies and procedures. A request from a customer for one of the above does not mean that they are entitled – the company still has the right to determine its course of action and the REPAIR process will remain our first course of action because our starting point is to determine if the device is in fact faulty and what the nature of the fault is.

Does the above seem a bit contradictory to anybody? The Act certainly does not say that the company may ignore the customers requests.

I have a name for the person who wrote the document, so I’ll try and track her down.

Lets zoom out a bit… I bought a phone from Vodacom. I was never able to test or inspect a working model without buying it. It clearly failed twice in under 14 days. Do I really want to risk accepting back a phone with this track record?

I clearly explained the outcome I wanted based on the law – a very reasonable outcome in my mind. They clearly ignored me. Not very nice.

UPDATE Tuesday 17 Aug

After I mentioned this post to Twitter.. @Vodacom responded. They phoned me and explained the situation. Seems the staff in their shops will get more training on this topic soon.

They are going to arrange that the Vodacom shop I was dealing with take back the HTC and give me a Nokia E6. I have to pay the difference, but I’m happy to do that. I’m going there on Friday.

Yes, I realise that Symbian is a dead duck, but I’m happy to just stick with what I know while I ponder my options.

Good to see Vodacom’s social media customer services process is working.

UPDATE Friday 19 Aug

I returned the HTC box and cables today and fetched my new Nokia E6.

Happy again. Thanks Vodacom.

I’ll write a review for the E6 soon.

9 thoughts on “HTC ChaCha Review

  1. Have you tried the Samsung Galaxy Pro?
    Only runs 2.2 and has a slightly slower processor, but that could give you a better battery life, it’s got a very high claimed battery life.
    Notes app – I use Epistle, which syncs with dropbox, all txt based, works really well.
    The only other option is a Blackberry. But I do agree, the manufacturers are putting all their efforts into full touch screen phones, and leaving the others behind.

  2. For notes I use “Text Edit” – basic, let’s me send text as email, or as attachment. Bit primitive but does the job.

    HTC build quality seems very variable – have a Desire Z and it’s pretty good. Battery life was good, but two SW updates back it suddenly went to hell. 2 days max (and keeping GPS, background data etc turned off)

  3. I share your sentiment about an onscreen keyboard, and although I was on the verge of giving up and taking the plunge into a soft keyboard (which incidentally can be easily reconfigured to your favourite layout ;p) I stumbled upon the Motorola Milestone, which was the only phone worth considering in May 2010, seeing as that the Samsung Galaxy S was not available yet, and the HTC Desire, et al, were getting dated.

    Well, while it’s nice to have a full size keyboard, I’ve had to jump through endless hoops to make the phone not-annoying to use: Overclocked it from 600Mhz to 1200Mhz, installed SetCPU that clocks it down to 125Mhz when the screen is off; Had to wait on continually extended deadlines for Froyo which improved the performance vastly. Without 3G on, only on Wi-Fi, the battery can last just over a day (and I have a spare battery just for in case).

    A somewhat painful experience, but in short it has served as an excellent replacement for a laptop. Needless to say, I won’t ever again touch Motorola with a barge pole.

    I’ve also been impressed by the Xperia X10 Mini Pro, which also has a slide-out keyboard, and better UI and battery life even on a much older Android.

    Well, everyone but me seems to have the Galaxy S II nowadays. It’s light as a feather and the first Android phone that packs the performance needed for Android to thrive in. Considering Dual Core 1.2Ghz I don’t think one day’s battery life is bad, and I’m sure it can be stretched.

    A strategy that I used at the beginning, which worked well, was to carry a Nokia 1600 for phone calls (aahh… 1 week battery life, can’t they build this separately into Android phones?!) .. and run my Android in Flight Mode with Wi-fi on, (got Wi-Fi everywhere) – that stretched the battery to 3 days sometimes…. :0

    Enjoy your last stint of Symbian. The Nokia E6 looks and feels stunning, had to set something up for someone on one the other day… – if GSMArena’s to be believed the S II beats it on battery life though ;)

    PS Here’s a useful link to MOST phones with QWERTY keyboards:

  4. Looks like you and I had similar experiences in the Vodacom store, and we bouth found our solution on the social media channels:

    They really need to find a way to spread the culture they have on Twitter to the stores as well. But at the same time, I also recognize how incredibly difficult that must be, making sure everyone in their stores know how to deal with exceptions, trusting them to make those calls, etc. Especially when it comes to CPA stuff.

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