NEW YORK (
) -- The search for an alternative to the
is leading to some interesting places. Take the HTC Snap, for example.
For all their buzz,
Research In Motion's
remain niche devices.
trumpeted its 2.5 million new iPhone subscribers last quarter. And Research In Motion loves to brag about its "dominance" of the smartphone market with its 28.5 million active subscribers. But there are close to 300 million active cell phone users in this country, and 4.1 billion worldwide, according to the International Telecommunications Union.
There's plenty of room for new companies to step in and innovate. For small businesses, this can't happen soon enough. While iPhones and BlackBerrys make accessing information easier on the go, they're not without their flaws. If you're tired of the iPhone's touchscreen keyboard or the BlackBerry's trackball and menus, check out the
($149 with a plan from
) from Taiwan-based
What you get:
The Snap is a cute, little small-business smartphone that works great with computers that run on
Windows operating system.
It's just a half-inch thick and weighs 4 ounces, so this light device fits easily in a pocket. Although it's made of plastic and lacks the metallic finish of the iPhone, the Snap didn't seem fragile.
It has a crisp, bright 2.5-inch screen. While the keyboard was a bit cramped, it was organized well, with special function keys for calling, Web surfing and other features. Most of its major functions are easy to manage, and Sprint offers clever tutorials to help users learn about their phones.
The phone runs Windows Mobile 6.1 and offers all the major business software titles, including Office products. A microSD card slot makes media expansion easy. And there was a reasonable, if not stupendous, library of applications for the unit.
The unit supports both WCDMA and GSM modes for world travel, which I expect to be robust based on previous Sprint units I have tested abroad.
Most importantly, we got solid voice performance from this unit. My assistant carried the Snap along with his iPhone around New York and on a trip to Michigan. He says the Snap generally offered better coverage than the iPhone.
What you don't get:
This isn't the ultimate small-business smartphone.
Web browsing was fast, but finding the address bar was tricky at times and scrolling down a page was awkward. The quality of its materials was a step down from the iPhone and high-end BlackBerrys, like the Bold. The camera was an average 2.0-megapixel unit that took too long to boot up.
The biggest problem was battery life. The phone offers 300 minutes of talk time. That seems skimpy to me, considering that calling was one of the phone's main strengths. It will also take some practice to get used to the phone's small keyboard.
The HTC Snap is best suited for heavy callers and e-mailers who are accustomed to Windows. The phone is also a little pricey at $150 with a plan. That's more than the entry-level iPhone, but comparable to many BlackBerry models. If this phone ever goes to $79, jump on it.
This unit, even with its flaws, has most of the features small-business owners need. Don't be afraid to try it.
-- Reported by Jonathan Blum in New York
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Jonathan Blum is an independent technology writer and analyst living in Westchester, N.Y. He has written for The Associated Press and Popular Science and appeared on FoxNews and The WB.