A Scottish holidaymaker was hit with a shocking £1,200 phone bill when he returned from Thailand, despite never making a call or sending a text whilst abroad…
A Scottish holidaymaker was hit with a shocking £1,200 phone bill when he returned from Thailand, despite never making a call or sending a text whilst abroad…
This is the year millions of owners of so-called feature phones — devices which handle little beyond voice calls, texts, and photos — will finally upgrade to true smartphones.
At least, that’s the hope of Microsoft and Nokia. The two tech giants have been floundering to get a foothold in the U.S. smartphone market ever since the iPhone launched in 2007. The two companies have partnered up to make a more cohesive play in the realm of touchscreens, apps, and streaming media, and this is their most accessible U.S.-bound device so far.
The Nokia Lumia 710 runs the latest version of Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 operating system. It’s not the beefed-up, feature-filled flagship phone for Windows Phone 7 fans to rally around. We saw that device, the Lumia 800, last month. But in all honesty, the 710 is an absolutely terrific option for the entry-level consumer.
Aside from being 4G, most of its specs tends towards “good enough.” But with a $50 price point and the ability to pair it with a low-cost data plan from T-Mobile, it’s cheap enough that even those living paycheck-to-paycheck wouldn’t bat an eye.
Windows Phone Mango seems like a lightweight OS compared to something like an HTC Sense-skinned Android. Why do I say that? The 710 runs on merely a single-core 1400 MHz Qualcomm processor with 512 MB of SDRAM, and yet the experience is quite smooth — just as you’d expect it would run on stronger hardware.
The 710’s 3.7-inch, 800×480 resolution ClearBlack LCD display isn’t as bright as that of its big sister, the Lumia 800. But unless you held the two Nokias side by side, you wouldn’t really feel like you’re missing anything. Colors are rich and images are sharp. There just isn’t that Pow! you get from something like a Super AMOLED screen.
The Lumia 710 feels almost like a large pebble when you hold it in your hand. The backside is curved and rubberized, which makes for a firm, comfortable grip. Rather than rely on the capacitive touch buttons common to the faces of most Windows Phone and Android devices, the 710 has a (likely more cost-effective) raised gummy button across the bottom of the front of the handset. It acts as a home button among other things. A discrete shutter button and volume rocker grace one side of the device.
Pictures from the 5-megapixel rear-facing camera are about on-par with that of the iPhone 4 (not the 4S). If you prefer to use the hardware shutter button over the onscreen controls, your photos will turn out slightly blurry unless you have an extremely steady hand. The single LED flash is strong. All in all, the camera is good, but not graceful.
Battery life is excellent — under regular use, the phone lasted about two days between charges.
The only quibble I had with this handset as opposed to other Windows Phone devices I’ve encountered was that it often took a few tries to successfully click a link from a tweet or status update in People Hub, as if I needed to tap the link in a particular spot (rather than anywhere on the URL) for the gesture to register.
This phone is proof that you don’t need top-of-the-line tech specs for a great mobile experience. Like the other cheap Windows Phone for T-Mobile, the HTC Radar, it’s good at everything it does, but it’s not out there to wow you. Although it’s targeted at new smartphone converts, in reality, the Nokia 710 is a good option for anyone looking for a phone with a new flavor and a lot of bang for your buck.
WIRED Cheap. Comfortable size, shape and materials. Comes with enough built-in apps and services (ESPN, Netflix, The Weather Channel, My Account) to be convenient, but not overburdened. Comes in black or white.
TIRED Call quality sounds slightly muddy, even though you sound very clear to people on the other end. Can only record video by pressing the hardware button. 8GB of storage, but not expandable — there’s no SD card slot.
Photo by Jon Snyder/Wired
You could say the original Sidekick was the first shot fired in the smartphone revolution.
With a flip of the thumb, you could expose the physical keyboard hidden behind the screen. It was aligned horizontally to make typing easier, but it wasn’t too bulky. And the large screen — bigger than most other phones in 2002 — made tasks like browsing the web and writing e-mails on your phone actually seem like ideas worth getting used to.
Over the years, the Sidekick and its successors ended up losing out to the newer breed of smartphones ushered in by the iPhone — devices with advanced operating systems and apps, and with touch displays in place of physical keyboards.
So, can the Sidekick make a comeback? Samsung hopes so: The latest iteration of the old classic, the Sidekick 4G for T-Mobile, stays true to its heritage while bumping up its specs and adding a host of media and entertainment perks.
It’s an Android phone built for the 4G now, but it has some hardware and software quirks that make it feel several steps behind.
Samsung stuck with the traditional Sidekick silhouette, with two buttons placed on either side of the 3.5-inch 480 x 800 resolution touchscreen. A Home button and Jump button grace the left side. A Menu key and Back key are situated on the right, with a small optical track button sandwiched in the middle.
Being right handed, it took a while to get used to this button placement. I really wanted the Home button to be on the bottom right when it’s held in landscape orientation, with the Back button above that and the Menu and Jump keys on the left. My thumbs got lost often.
The phone has about the same heft as an iPhone 4, but is slightly longer and about 50 percent thicker. It fits in a front pocket, but it is a bit chunky. That thickness comes from the physical keyboard under the screen. The Sidekick’s screen slides out using a unique “pop-tilt” mechanism, revealing the display’s sassy pink underside, after it’s snapped into a comfortable viewing angle.
Sliding the screen out takes a bit of practice: You need to use both thumbs, applying pressure to the crack between the screen and keyboard. But all you have to do is nudge it free of the body, and the screen springs out the rest of the way on its own. You can’t apply the force horizontally, which is a departure from other slide-out keyboards, and from the swivel screen on older Sidekicks.
Also, the volume rocker and power button sit just a hair below where you need to place your thumbs to push the display out. This leads to a lot of unintended volume adjustments, screen shut-offs and other accidental button-presses when flipping the screen up. Sliding the screen back in without pressing any of the buttons also takes some getting used to.
For my dainty lady thumbs, the QWERTY keyboard was a little uncomfortably spaced out, dropping my texting speed a few notches. Male friends with longer — normal-sized? — thumbs thought the keyboard size was just right.
The Sidekick 4G comes with Samsung’s Kick UX skin for Froyo onboard. It’s less than intuitive — there are three ways to access just about every app or feature of the phone, which can be a little confusing. But it’s fine once you find one method you prefer over the others.
The Jump key (a Sidekick legacy) was particularly handy in this respect: It lets you switch from one recently used application to another while bypassing the home screen. It’s not exactly multitasking, but it is a timesaver.
Once inside an app or widget though, you lose those options. With some apps, like the Facebook widget, you have no choice but to use the Back button (heavily) to navigate. That’s a bit of a shame on a touchscreen device. And although the handset is clearly meant to be used primarily in landscape mode, several apps and functions require it to be in portrait orientation.
The Sidekick 4G stays true to its chat roots with a slew of messaging options, including Google Talk and the phone’s signature Group Text and Cloud Text Features. Group Text provides functionality similar to that of other app- or web-based group texting services like GroupMe, allowing you to create and manage a group of contacts and send mass SMS messages. This is great for getting a message out to a specific group of people (your family, your co-workers, a circle of friends) speedily and easily.
But those subscribed to limited texting plans may not appreciate the barrage of texts that result from the reply-all nature of the service. Cloud Text is similar, but works across platforms, so you can text from your PC or the Sidekick.
There’s a VGA front-facing camera you can use to video-chat through Qik’s service. Around the back, there’s a heftier 3.2-megapixel camera. That’s subpar by today’s standards, but the software offers multiple settings that photo geeks can use to tweak images. You can shoot photos in black and white, sepia and panoramic modes, and adjust the exposure, white balance, contrast, saturation and sharpness. Video quality is nothing special.
If you actually use your phone to make calls, you’ll be happy to hear that the call quality is superb. The phone’s noise cancellation is so well-implemented that during a lull in conversation with my dad on my bus ride home, the line became so silent that he thought the call had been dropped.
During my testing, I found T-Mobile’s network speeds — HSPA+ 4G or otherwise — to be generally good. The latest episode of 30 Rock downloaded in minutes, and web pages loaded at least as quickly as on comparable smartphones. T-Mobile says you’ll get 5-to-10-Mbps download speeds wherever it can connect to 4G, and I found no reason to dispute that claim. The Sidekick will also act as a mobile hot spot for up to five devices.
Overall, the Samsung Sidekick 4G gives a modern update to the traditional look and feel of the old Sidekick handsets, but it suffers a bit from some odd hardware-design choices, and from software quirks. Viewed as just another Android phone, it’s tough to recommend it over other Android handsets out there. However, longtime Sidekick users or Blackberry owners transitioning to Android will like the Sidekick’s big keyboard, and they should be pleased enough with the user experience.
WIRED Physical keyboard will keep thumb warriors happy. Tons of media options and chat features keep you entertained and connected. Speedy 1-GHz Hummingbird processor gets things moving: Games like Angry Birds Rio don’t stutter in the slightest. Battery life easily lasts all day for normal mixed usage. Background noise? What background noise?
TIRED Screen-popping mechanism is a bit tricky. Button placement is downright poor. The mix of onscreen-touch and physical-button navigation is perplexing and redundant. It takes a lot of work to get a good photo –- if I wanted to mess with that many settings, I would have gotten an actual digital camera.
Photo by Jon Snyder/Wired.com
Photos: Jim Merithew and Jon Snyder/Wired.com
Like Samsung’s Galaxy range, new examples of LG’s Optimus phones keep popping up around the world! The latest pair are the Optimus T and Optimus S, this time destined for T-Mobile and Sprint in the USA respectively, although we wouldn’t be surprised if either one appears elsewhere at a later date too.
The Optimus T’s spec sheet reads as follows:
The Optimus S shares the same feature list, and the pair are likely to be low-cost contract phones. These two, plus a variety of other Android phones sharing basically the same spec have appeared at the CTIA show this week, from manufacturers such as Sharp with the Zio and Huawei with the Ascend.
Cheap Android phones are great, but when you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all, plus they never beat the HTC Wildfire in terms of features and especially, looks. Plus, if LG want to become a player in the Android world, it’s going to take something a lot more interesting than these two to do it.
Both these LG Optimus phones are scheduled for release before Christmas and will be available in several different colours. LG haven’t mentioned anything about a European launch, but in all honesty, would we really want either of them?
Huawei wants to bring Android to the masses, and it sounds like one cellular carrier may already be on board — the Wall Street Journal reports that T-Mobile is presently in talks to offfer the 2.8-inch, Android 2.2 smartphone and could begin selling it by Yuletide. Of course, considering China-based Huawei expects the reasonably-attractive device could cost as little as $100 off-contract, it’s not terribly surprising that any carrier you’d care to name would be champing at the bit to grab one. “It’s safe to assuming we’re talking to all of the major carriers,” a Huawei spokeswoman said.
The last bastion of Applephone exclusivity in Europe is about to be toppled, according to the Wall Street Journal, as Deutsche Telekom is said to be preparing for the loss of its iPhone 4 monopoly ahead of this year’s holiday shopping season. Citing separate sources familiar with the matter, this report suggests that Vodafone and O2′s German arms are earnestly reaching out for Apple’s latest and greatest, and while distribution deals haven’t yet been finalized, negotiations have reached an “advanced stage.” Much as with O2′s UK exclusivity deal, Apple looks to have opted against extending its arrangement with Deutsche Telekom’s T-Mobile in an effort to reach the widest possible consumer base. Makes a lot of sense to us, now how about doing the same back home?
Been wondering how much T-Mobile’s first HSPA+ phone will set you back? Why, it’s that most generic of all smartphone prices: $199 with a two-year commitment or $499 without. To be fair to T-Mo, the G2 was one phone that it could plausibly have upmarked to, say $249, as Sprint has done with the Epic 4G, but nope, it’s landing squarely in the middle of the well beaten path to smartphone sales. There is the dreaded specter of a $50 mail-in rebate to deal with, but we doubt it’ll be enough to dampen anticipation for what’s looking like the next great Android slider phone.
Remember T-Mobile’s money-saving, finger-friendly Pulse? You know, the Huawei Android handset that received a 2.1 update in Hungary back in May? Earlier this month (on the 6th, to be precise), said phone’s British counterpart also received its share of cream-filled pastry, but perhaps one with cream gone sour. How so? T-Mobile UK didn’t explain when it quietly pulled the plug shortly afterwards, but some users were reporting problems with SMS and 802.11x enterprise WiFi authentication. Pretty serious stuff, especially for the former.
A few developers from MoDaCo got in touch with us as they struggled to get a reply from T-Mobile about the retraction, which got us curious. After all, a working 2.1 update would make the Pulse — now priced at £99 ($153) on pay and go — a pretty good buy, so we tweeted the carrier on Tuesday for an update. Coincidentally, the next day T-Mobile finally caved in and let loose on what happened:
“After receiving feedback on the recent T-Mobile Pulse Android 2.1 software update we’ve decided to suspend it temporarily. We’re working with the phone’s makers on an updated version which is expected in October.”
Yikes. But just you wait — read on for the juicy part.
What’s inside the T-Mobile G2, aside from fancy hinges and an HSPA+ capable modem? We can’t say for sure, but this week saw a zip file from China set the Android community astir with visions of vanilla frozen yogurt heaped high atop a stack of powerful silicon. Android Guys discovered an allegedly leaked G2 Android 2.2 build (sans Sense) at the website of one 911sniper, last seen outing supposed HTC specs left and right, and our old friend Cyanogen took it upon himself to have a peek inside. What should he find but references to Qualcomm’s MSM7x30 chipset, with all the silky-smooth 720p multimedia playback that brings, as well as the remote possibility of dual-mode HSPA+ / LTE support if the “x” in “MSM7x30″ turns out to be a “6.” There’s no telling whether any of this is legit at this point, but we dare to dream.