HTC Gratia review: Apps/widgets

The HTC Gratia comes stuffed with widgets and apps aplenty, many of which we've already highlighted in relation to their function elsewhere in this review. The key ones we've yet to look at are the much-touted Friend Stream widget, plus the Android Marketplace for expanding the phone in the direction you want to take it, so let's examine those now, along with a few other bits.

Friend Stream takes two forms: a continuous torrent of little updates from various media accounts in one scrollable list; and a short status updater/tweet writing panel to quickly fire off your thoughts to the world.

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By default, the latter will update both your Facebook status and tweet it too, but you can tweak this as you wish. Unfortunately, you can't access the keyboard in landscape orientation this way, so we didn't feel like we'd use it much.

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The list view is a handy way to passively stay in touch with your friends' thoughts, and a great jumping on point for all the links, witticisms and random stuff you've come to expect from your contacts online. It offers exactly what the name implies – integrating your Flickr, Facebook and Twitter accounts into single stream of short, digestible chunks.

If you're after a more fully fledged experience, however, you'd be better off turning to dedicated apps – both Twitter and Facebook are catered for here by default.

As widgets go, the iconic HTC Sense clock/weather view is actually our favourite. It's handy to get an impression of what it's doing outside, and the big clock is easy to read at a glance.

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You can also set multiple alarms by tapping on the widget and selecting the appropriate page, which offers simple options to repeat the alert on different days, and to toggle your wake up calls on and off. Within a day we'd set up entries to get us out of bed at the right time for work, lying in on a Saturday to a reasonable hour and getting where we needed to be on Sunday. Ace.

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To try some gaming, we downloaded Angry Birds, Angry Birds Seasons and Tank Hero from the marketplace, but they did more to highlight the Gratia's slower-than-average processor speeds than anything else we tried on the handset.

In all three, there could be noticeable lag between inputting a command to fling an irritated avian or lob a bomb and the result occurring on-screen. It was only occasional, often occurring the first time we performed an action after loading, but frustrating. Not a big deal perhaps, but hardly a wonderful experience.

The Android Market app is simple enough to use, and ever expanding, so you can usually find what you need. There's a neat little carousel when you first log into to the store, and the ever-popular Top Paid, Top Free and Just In categories are around to make intuitive finding easier.

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There's a dedicated search button in the top right for locating something specific, and categories to browse as and when you need them.

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We could go on, but it suffices to say that there's masses of apps to get you started on the Gratia, and you can expand your selection to suit your preferences and use case. The real question is how many you'll actually use, and whether gaming is important to you.