O2's Xphone II is a classy, feature packed smart phone with a promising future, but a few glitches and missing basic features had us wondering if less would have been more.
After a complete makeover, O2 has released the Xphone II, a feature-packed smart phone that wouldn't look out of place in a Boss or Armani suit pocket.
The phone we received for the review was a test model, so some features may have changed or been improved by the time it is readily available. In addition, we received no instructions or PC software for the phone, so we were left to our own devices to fully explore the features available.
O2's designers have really excelled themselves and given the Xphone II a stylish and modern appearance. The generous colour screen takes up around half of the front of the phone, nicely balanced by the dark grey graphite-coloured keyboard and shiny centre joystick. Although the case is predominantly plastic, it feels quite solid and not likely to loosen up over time. The rear of the phone sports a VGA camera lens and self-portrait mirror, but no photo assist light or flash. The entire handset weighs in at 102g and measures 107.5 x 44.5 x 18mm, pretty similar to Sony Ericsson's popular K700i.
The layout of the keyboard, joystick and buttons on the Xphone II are pretty standard and practical to use. We found the joystick to be more accurate and user-friendly than most, but an occasional incorrect option can still be chosen if not careful. The tiered keyboard, although quite solid and precise, might take a few minutes to get used to, as the keys are quite small in height to allow more space for the TFT screen.
The Xphone II's 64K colour TFT screen is one of the best we've seen, vibrant and clear regardless of the lighting conditions.
The Xphone II is a tri-band capable phone with all the standard connectivity options, such as GPRS, Bluetooth and infrared. But being a smart phone, it has more options for Internet connectivity and mobile computing. After setting up a simple GPRS connection, we were able to connect to the Internet via WAP and access a few Web sites without drama. However, without instructions and more time for the review, we decided against trying out a VPN or Secure WAP connection. We had a quick look around all the related menus and all conceivable options seemed to be covered, so professional users should be well catered for.
You will also find basic smart phone features such as photos, videos, MP3 player, calendar and the likes. In practice, we had some concerns with a few basic phone functions that seem to be missing from the Xphone II, such as the ability to have a vibrating ring tone in conjunction with a standard tone and handy shortcuts to everyday functions like the alarm clock and calendar functions.
In addition, we also experienced a few glitches with the SMS editor where it occasionally threw in random words or omitted words we had typed when finally sending the message. On one occasion, the popup menu available from the right hotkey appeared miniaturised, making the options on it impossible to read. A quick reboot had the desired effect and all was right again. We were left with the uneasy feeling that maybe the phone is a little too much like a PC and this type of glitch might occur quite regularly.
The phone's more than decent 64MB memory is expandable by putting a miniSD in the slot beneath the battery.
Users can also change the type of features they have on the background and have the option to show the most recently accessed functions, like on a PC desktop.
Performance-wise, the phone was able to deliver quality voice calls and even good SMS messages when the glitches don't act up. However, we found the speakerphone to be quiet. We also found that several calls were missed because the ring tones were quiet and had no vibrating alert.
We also found that there is some delay between pressing the button for photos and when the phone actually takes the photo. There seems to be a theme of slowness among the phone features. The menu was slow to come out; access to the Internet was slow and the video was slow.
The battery life was good, lasting around 5 days between charging even with regular use.
Overall, the Xphone II has the potential to become a popular smart phone. But with the rapid emergence of better smart phones with lesser glitches, the Xphone II might find it hard to convince users that it is the phone for them.
Justin Levis contributed to this review.
O2 Xphone II
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