Name: HTC Status

Carrier: AT&T

Price: $50 (w/two-year contract)

The Back Story: Gimmick, DOA, epic fail—those were the sentiments of many smartphone consumers once they heard CEO Mark Zuckerberg hint at the possibility of a Facebook phone. But after the social media icon cleared things up by stating there would be no single Facebook phone, instead dozens of devices hitting the market featuring FB integration, the skepticism died down. Smartphone trendsetters, HTC, have taken on the challenge and joined the Facebook soiree by releasing the first set of Facebook integrated phones in Europe labeled the ChaCha.

Aimed towards younger crowds and loyal Facebook users, the manufacturer saw its stateside potential and repackaged the phone for U.S. consumers under the Status moniker. Sporting Google’s latest OS, one of the best mobile keyboards, and a variety of UI-based Facebook features: Are we looking at the new wave of social messaging phones? Or will the HTC Status become this year’s Microsoft Kin?

Dope

Facebook integration: Straight out the box, the Status automatically throws you into the social media universe—taking your Facebook (and Google) account information and merging all contacts before bringing you to the homescreen. A handful of shortcuts are available, with the “F” button at the bottom of the phone serving as the fastest option to post or upload images onto someone’s Facebook wall. Holding it down opens Facebook Places and lets you check in and share recently visited locations. HTC also introduces a new Facebook Chat widget that allows you to chop it up with online friends and displays conversations in an open thread. The popular FriendStream widget is still present, as well as the regular Facebook widget and app. 

• The network's best keyboard phone: History's proven that the greatest messaging phones have always donned great keyboards. Add the HTC Status to the list. Not since the Sidekick 4G have we experienced such a comfortable, solid, and well-spaced QWERTY keyboard. Tactile feedback is on the money and the large oval buttons provide better typing efficiency. The addition of D-pad navigational keys, along with shortcut keys for camera mode and voice activation are a plus.

• Gingerbread and customized Sense UI: Google proves you don’t have to own the most powerful smartphone to bask in the sweetness of Gingerbread. Users can enjoy new features like enhanced animations, one-touch text selection, voice commands, and a power management app. In addition, HTC has modified its Sense 3.0 interface to accommodate FB users, as we mentioned with the Chat widget. Other than that, the UI flaunts the same customizable shortcut unlock screen found on other heavyweight phones like the Sensation 4G.

• Speedy performance: As spoiled dual-core enthusiasts, we were shocked by how speedy the Status’ 800MHz chip performed. The phone does a great job with multitasking and showed no signs of lag, even after we had up to 10 programs running in the background. One-touch commands were accurate and apps launched immediately as well. But what impressed us most was how quick the phone powered on and off, which was no more than 10 seconds and no less than five. Other HTC phones with stronger processors (the EVO 3D) took twice as long to do either.

• Affordable price tag: A Gingerbread-ready phone with awesome social networking features for only $50? Duh, winning!

Nope

• Small touchscreen, cluttered real estate: We’re accustomed to HTC’s large and vibrant displays. So adjusting to a 2.6-inch low-res screen wasn't only disappointing, but it took away from the Android experience. Each of the seven homescreens felt congested with apps and widgets, plus watching YouTube clips and playing games became extremely difficult to view.

• Android Market issues and software bugs: For some odd reason, the Android Market gave us a hard time downloading apps. The progress bar would display "starting download," but nothing would download or show up on the notifications bar. And when we did manage to download certain third-party apps like Speednet.Net, the interfaces were shown sideways at a 90-degree angle. The Facebook app also crashed a few times. 

• No groundbreaking specs: Software aside, the Status lacks the high-powered specs found on other HTC devices. For instance, it doesn’t come 4G or DLNA-enabled. Add an HDMI port to the list, too. And while the 800MHz processor does perform well, it wouldn't have hurt to put a 1GHz chip under the hood. 

• Removing the back case: The Quick Start manual says to ”push the bottom cover up to remove it.” It's not that simple. The slippery casing and tight-lock mechanisms force you to apply serious pressure on the device, making both the keyboard and touchscreen susceptible to damage. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself using something to pry it open.

Final Say: The HTC Status is a software-heavy, mid-level phone suited for messaging addicts, and in this case, Facebookers. User-interface upgrades like the Chat widget, plus shortcuts like the Facebook button speed up the social interaction by providing immediate access to motions like posting and instant messaging. The good call quality and 3G coverage are also worth noting. Top honors though go to the physical keyboard for its spot-on tactility and feel. It’s the phone’s biggest selling point next to the Facebook and Gingerbread integration. Yes, its Blackberry-inspired form is a slight downgrade from the sexy and opulent finish of HTC’s popular phones, and the cramped screen isn’t best suited for watching movies or web-surfing. Still, for just $50, you won't find a better messaging phone on the market for the price.