Upside: Travellers will be glad to know the Xda IIs has been given a quad-band antenna (GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz) making it a 'world phone'. For connectivity, built-in wireless LAN of the 802.11b flavour is included, as is infrared and Bluetooth. Microsoft's ActiveSync is used to synchronise files, e-mail and Outlook items with the device.
The Xda IIs runs Microsoft's updated second edition of Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PCs, which allows the device to swap between portrait and landscape orientations on-the-fly through Settings. The update also gives the Start menu the ability to display frequently used programs -- similar to Windows XP -- and comes pre-loaded with office applications Pocket Word and Pocket Excel. Pocket Internet Explorer is included for Web browsing and instant messaging is available through MSN Messenger. ClearVue software is also installed to view PDF and PowerPoint files.
Aesthetically, the Xda IIs comes in a striking all-black case that features a 39-key, sliding out keyboard on the lower half of the device. From early 2005, O2 says the device will feature the BlackBerry Connect client.
Battery life is also said to be improved by 25 per cent -- we struggled to get two days usage out of the previous model -- although we suspect that the addition of Wi-Fi will be a draining factor.
Downside: The screen on the Xda IIs is identical to the Xda II; a 3.5-inch, 65K-colour touch screen TFT LCD (240 x 320 pixels). While it is still a crisp and colourful screen, at this size the Xda IIs is unable to make use of VGA screen support (480 x 640 pixels) that the updated operating system permits -- although the device might become a little too big if it did. For processing power, O2 has kept with the same chip found in the Xda II -- Intel's PXA 263 400MHz processor.
Measuring 71.6 x 125 x 18.7mm and weighing in at 210g, the device is slightly heftier than its predecessor. While many mobile phone manufacturers are adding one megapixel digital camera to devices, O2 has kept a VGA resolution camera on the Xda IIs.
Outlook: We gave O2's Xda II an Editors' Choice Award when it was released around this time last year. It will be interesting to see if the additions to the latest incarnation of the AU$1,599 device will grant it another award when we review it in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.