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Review: HTC Aria

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Is It Your Type? Body The Three S's Touch  

The HTC Aria is a slick little number. It's much smaller than I expected, looking at press photos. It's a third of an inch shorter than the HTC Hero on Sprint, and it's one of the smaller tablet phones I've seen.

There are plenty of unique design elements that set this phone apart; some I liked, some I did not. The sides and back of the phone are all part of a single battery cover. It's very difficult to remove, but underneath you'll find canary yellow guts. It's a cool look, and it's interesting that HTC is even paying attention to internals this way on recent phones (the HTC Evo 4G is bright red inside). On the back of the phone are four large exposed screws. It's an interesting style choice, and HTC says these are part of the phone's structural body, not just for show. I'm not a fan. The phone is otherwise sleek and classy, but the rivets make it seem more like a rugged device, which it is not.

The front of the phone is dominated by the 3.2-inch touchscreen. That's the same size you'll find on the HTC Hero. Beneath the screen are four touch sensitive keys: Home, Menu, Back and Search. I'll always miss the Send and End keys on phones; when did we all agree to give these up? In any case, these buttons worked just fine.

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Below the buttons there is an optical joystick button. Android doesn't really need an mouse option; it works fine by touch. Sometimes the button's purpose was counterintuitive, and less useful than, say, the trackball on the Nexus One. On the home screens, for instance, it would scroll from panel to panel, but not from item to item on screen. It's best used for moving the cursor between letters to correct spelling errors, and for this it was helpful.

There are very few buttons around the sides of the HTC Aria. There's a screen lock / power button up top, nicely raised and easy to find without looking. There's a volume rocker switch on the left side. The rocker was flush with the phone, and was difficult to use. Sometimes it didn't react properly or quickly when I pressed if my aim was off. I would like to see more buttons on HTC's Android phones, especially a camera shutter button and maybe some media playback controls.

I like the design of the Aria, except for those exposed rivets. HTC doesn't go too far with its mix of textures. The front face is glossy, everything else is soft touch. There are a few polished metal accents, and these break the all black color scheme nicely. Tablet phone designs can be quite boring, but this phone is stylish, like a little black dress.

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