A more affordable version of HTC's Hero, the company's flagship Android smartphone, the HTC Tattoo includes most of the functionality of its bigger brother but has a lower resolution screen.
The HTC Tattoo smartphone employs a much more familiar smartphone design when compared to the Hero. There is no oddly shaped Jay Leno chin here — the Tattoo has a compact, rounded body and its curved edges feel comfortable and reassuring when the handset is cupped in the palm of your hand. The matte finish means fingerprints aren't an issue, though you'll need a cloth handy to continually keep the display free of grubby marks.
Our HTC Tattoo review unit was finished in a dark grey colour, but users of the Tattoo can also order customised snap-on covers from HTC's website for $29.90 each. You can choose from standard designs or upload your own photo to be used.
The main difference between the Tattoo and the more expensive Hero is the display. The HTC Tattoo smartphone has a 2.8in resistive touch screen with a lower resolution than the Hero. Though the touch screen remains responsive for general use, the resistive design means you often have to press more firmly to make a selection. The Tattoo's display possesses poor viewing angles and is also hard to see in direct sunlight.
The HTC Tattoo smartphone features similar physical keys to the Hero, with the exception of the trackball. This has been replaced by a large five-way navigational pad that’s easy enough to use but does take up quite a bit of space. Users with large fingers may not appreciate its rather thin edges, but for general navigation it works effectively.
Despite its positioning as an entry-level Android smartphone, the Tattoo still features HTC's Sense user interface. The main component of Sense is a seven-panel home screen that can be swiped from side to side to reveal any number of shortcuts, folders or widgets (both Android widgets and specific HTC-developed widgets). These home screens are completely customisable; for example, you can have the native Twitter client on one screen, the clock and calendar on the other and your e-mail on the next. Because these are all live widgets, there is no need to delve into the main menu to access these features. The Twitter, clock and weather widgets are a few of the most impressive widgets the HTC Tattoo has to offer, though another widget worth mentioning is Footprints. This allows you to take a geotagged photo and store the image in a particular category, for example restaurants or shopping. You can then instantly share the content with others via e-mail.
A pleasing aspect of the Tattoo is its speed — the interface rarely felt sluggish during general use. Some of the more taxing widgets, such as Twitter and Mail, can be a tad slow if you have them live on the home scree, but this doesn't detract from the overall user experience.
Another impressive feature of the HTC Tattoo is the integration of contacts with social-networking sites like Facebook. Contacts in your address book can be matched with Facebook contacts, so you can use a person's profile picture, see details of their birthday and view status updates all from a single contact screen. When you view a single contact, you can also see all interactions with that particular person: information, messages, mail, updates and events, photo albums on both Facebook and Flickr, and call history.
A limitation of the HTC Tattoo's smaller screen is the on-screen keyboard. Due to the size of the display, the keys are smaller than the HTC Hero when in QWERTY mode, especially when in portrait orientation. Though the auto-correction feature is an excellent aid, the resistive screen means typing isn't as smooth as it is with the Hero. In addition to the regular QWERTY keyboard, the HTC Tattoo allows the selection of a numerical keypad with T9 predictive text and a compact QWERTY keyboard.
Like all Android devices, the HTC Tattoo's integration with Google services is excellent. Android automatically synchronises your Google calendar, mail and contacts over the air. When you add a new contact or calendar event on your PC, it will automatically appear on your phone and vice versa. If you don't have a Google account, you can create one on the HTC Tattoo itself; you can then easily import a contact list from Microsoft Outlook or even Apple's address book. Support for Microsoft Exchange is included out of the box.
The HTC Tattoo is a very handy multimedia smartphone largely thanks to a 3.5mm headphone jack, music player and an FM radio. The music application isn't up to the lofty standards set by Apple's iPhone and iTunes combination, but the live music widget looks slick and works effectively.
Another limitation of the HTC Tattoo is the lack of multitouch capabilities. This absence is mainly noticeable when you use the Web browser. The browser supports Flash and is quite responsive, but the lack of multitouch zooming is a feature we really missed. The HTC Tattoo is a 7.2Mbps HSDPA-capable smartphone but operates on the 900/2100MHz bands, so it won't work on Telstra's 850MHz Next G network.
Other features of the Tattoo include a basic 3.2-megapixel camera without autofocus or a flash, a built-in accelerometer, a digital compass and a GPS receiver. The Tattoo also has a microSD card slot for extra storage. Battery life is about on par with the iPhone 3GS — with push e-mail, Twitter, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth all turned on, you'll need to charge the Tattoo every night.
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