The Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) phone segment has just got bigger, with O2 launching the XDA Atom Life variant of its popular Atom phone.
It is all black with chrome lining, and this would appeal if you are looking for a good-looking phone. Compared to previous avatars of the Atom (comparisons restricted to physical appearance only), the Life certainly scores. The 262K-colour 2.7-inch TFT (thin-film transistor) QVGA LCD screen alone is a good enough reason to own it. Just below the screen is a panel of controls that includes a four-way round key that allows up and down movement in any menu as well as right and left wherever available. Ensconced within this is the “confirm” key that works as “okay” or “enter” in most commands.
Around this circular button area lie six more buttons that enable an easy choice of menus, let you answer and end calls, choose the Windows start menu and access the O2 MediaPlus area. It is the MediaPlus application, with its media player capabilities, that gives the phone its name. But more on that later.
On the left are two keys for volume control of the device and the earphone during a call. On the right are two more buttons, one for the camera and the other for recording, although, the second one can be configured to launch any application. The same side also houses the stylus. The top and the bottom are bare, with the power button and memory card slot on the top and the power input and audio jack at the bottom. The bottom also has a reset button that can be used with the stylus in case the phone hangs. The same function can be used through the phone interface as well if you can access it.
Around this panel of buttons are two speakers that will play audio and also double as speakerphone when the phone is on the “speaker” mode. A less-documented fact about O2 phones is the access of the speakerphone. It is activated by holding down the “call” key during a call for about five seconds. The quality of the speakers, largely tinny and low on volume, is acceptable for a phone.
The earpiece at the top also acts as a status indicator, with green for “normal” and orange for a missed call, unread messages and low battery. You have to refer to the screen to figure out what you are being alerted for. To the right of the earpiece is a camera to make video calls. However, with connectivity options in India still absent, it would be difficult for you to find people to conduct video calls with. There are no signs that this feature would be available soon or during the lifetime of this product.
Moving to the interface, there are some minor changes since the last release, but the phone still employs Windows Mobile 5.0, so the functioning is largely the same. The user interface has undergone a sea change compared to the initial O2 Atom launched around September 2006 and you would like it if you prefer a busy look on your phone screen. Of course, it can be customized to display nothing beyond necessary information, for which there are four preset options in the themes menu.
The crucial thing in the Life is the MediaPlus application. While the layout has changed, not much else has. The video and audio players use Windows Media Player and the picture viewer can also be accessed through this. This is primarily to suit entry-level users since finding the picture viewer and other applications through the Windows interface could be tiresome for most.
Transferring your music to the phone is easy using Bluetooth or the ActiveSync feature and the inbuilt memory capacity of about 750MB is a lot by any standard. This is without loading any third-party programmes. You should, however, install third-party programmes as these will be required. Getting an extra memory card would be a good option if you plan to use the phone as your primary music player. ActiveSync is the best synchronization software .
As a business phone, the Life is a great option. With Windows Mobile phones available at about half the cost, one wonders about the pricing, steep at Rs45,900. There are more users interested in buying PDA phones, as they are mobile offices, but the price is a deterrent. The O2 Atom originally retailed at about Rs38,000 and the addition of a camera for video conferencing and cosmetic changes cannot justify the increased price. This is a feature-rich phone, but some unnecessary ones push the price higher, driving potential customers away.