HTC Gratia review: Body double

GSMArena team, 7 January 2011.

Reasonable retail package

The HTC Gratia comes in a plain looking box with standard issue stuffing. There’s a microUSB cable in there, a one-piece headset and a very sleek charger. The microUSB cable is used for both data connections and charging.

HTC Gratia HTC Gratia
The HTC Gratia box and its contents

There’s also a 2GB microSD card to get you started – if you want more storage, the HTC Gratia can handle up to 32GB cards. You’ll find the usual set of user guides too.

HTC Gratia 360-degree spin

The HTC Aria stands at 103.8 x 57.7 x 11.7 mm – the exact dimensions of the Aria and the HD mini. The handset ranks well among other compact smartphones in terms of pocketability. The weight of 115 grams is a bit more than we expected, but combined with the screws and the seamless casing, it gives the impression of a rock solid phone.

The Gratia is the spitting image of the HTC Aria and that shouldn’t come as a surprise – the Gratia is the European version, though it did see some changes other than the name (mostly in the software department rather than in hardware).

Design and construction

The HTC Gratia is a rare thing – a compact Android. While most other models are scrambling to get bigger and bigger displays, the Gratia stays focused on pocketability. Unlike the few other compact droids, the Gratia doesn’t compromise the screen estate.

The size of the display is respectable for a compact phone – some of the other 3.2” droids are often a whole centimeter taller than the Gratia. The HVGA resolution is also suitable for a 3.2” diagonal, though if you’re coming from a WVGA screen, you’ll notice the loss of sharpness and details right away.

HTC Gratia HTC Gratia
The Gratia display compared to one of the best displays in business

Still, the LCD screen on the Gratia looks quite nice – it’s bright with good colors (not as good as OLED though) and the viewing angles are ok too. Sunlight legibility is not among the display’s strong points though: direct sunlight makes it very hard to read.

The controls on the front of the HTC Gratia comprise four capacitive keys and a clickable optical trackpad. The keys are the standard Android foursome – home, menu, back and search. The optical trackpad is flush against the surface and you can use the added accuracy it gives to go back and correct typos. The trackpad has a confirming action too – though we very rarely used it.

HTC Gratia HTC Gratia HTC Gratia
There are four capacitive keys and an optical trackpad below the display

Above the HTC Gratia display is the earpiece dead center and a status LED to the left of it. It glows red while the phone is charging or blinks green in case of a missed event.

On the right to it, you can see the proximity and ambient light sensors.

HTC Gratia
The earpiece is above the display

The left side features the volume rocker, which works throughout the interface, controlling the ringing and system volumes. It’s well sized and solid to press.

The right side is completely bare – by now you probably know HTC aren’t too fond of putting camera shutter keys on their phones. Instead you’ll have to rely on continuous auto focus and the optical trackpad serving as a shutter key. There’s touch focus too.

HTC Gratia HTC Gratia
The volume rocker on the left • nothing on the right

The mouthpiece is at the bottom of the HTC Aria, right next to the lanyard eyelet and the microUSB port. There is no cover over the connectivity port to keep dust and moisture away.

HTC Gratia HTC Gratia
The unprotected microUSB slot is next to the mouthpiece

The same holds true for the 3.5mm audio jack on top. It is placed on a sloping surface so the jacks you plug in will always slightly stick out even if they are properly connected. Also on top, sitting on the nice chrome accent is the power/lock key.

HTC Gratia HTC Gratia
The 3.5mm audio jack and the power/lock key are on top

At the HTC Gratia back is the deeply embedded camera lens and the speaker grill, which are placed on a chrome plate. There’s no flash, so low-light shots will be doubtful.

HTC Gratia HTC Gratia
The 5 megapixel camera and the loudspeaker grill

The other prominent feature rearside are the four screws in the corners. They look like they’re holding the back cover – they aren’t really, but it’s enough to give it that rugged look. Once you pop off the back cover, you’ll notice that under the black cover is the matte yellow plastic of the inner body – even the battery itself is yellow.

HTC Gratia HTC Gratia
Taking a peek under the hood

That’s the third phone with this design – the HD mini, the Aria and now the Gratia. We kept hoping that the yellow would be more prominent in a variant of the basic design (combined with the screws it gives the phone the look of a power tool) but HTC designers have another concept obviously.

Anyway, once you get over the color, under the hood you’ll find the SIM card compartment, the microSD card slot (ready to accommodate cards of up to 32GB) and the 1200 mAh battery. Despite its location under the rear cover, the microSD card is fully hot-swappable.

Going back to the battery cover for a moment – it adds a good couple of millimeters to the width of the Aria. This is mostly due to the tapered edges, which give the illusion of a thinner phone, so it’s a fair trade-off.

The HTC Gratia is powered by a 1200mAh Li-Ion battery, which is quoted at fifteen and days of standby (in 2G, a day and a half more in 3G) and 7 hours of talk time (in 2G, an hour less in 3G).

Screen size is one of the few things in gadgetry that can’t ever be big enough. But all mobile devices run into the same roadblock – they do indeed have to be mobile. The neat and small HTC Gratia will easily slip into any pocket – even in the summer, when pocket space is scarce.

And the screen is probably the biggest that could possibly fit on the small face of the Gratia – there’s very little bezel. Overall, keeping the size within limits was a top priority when the phone was designed, and the end result is great.

HTC Gratia HTC Gratia
The HTC Gratia held in hand

The compact dimensions, combined with the tapered edges, make the HTC Gratia perfect to handle. The lines are clean and simple but those four screws on the back make all the difference – it looks like a rugged trustworthy tool.

And last but not least, we were pleased to see that the matte plastic at the rear is great at keeping forensic evidence like fingerprints to itself. The glossy-backed Aria literally had to be wiped clean every time you got it out of your pocket.