Trium Eclipse: fab colour, power guzzler
Simon Rockman puts it through the mill
Review At 110g and 118x49x25mm, the Trium Eclipse mobile phone is a little chunky by today's standards. This is explained by the fact that it has a fantastic colour screen which guzzles power. On top of that, it's got GPRS and a loudspeaker function.
The model I reviewed was a late prototype, lacking GPRS. It may well ship without it at first. Trium will then have to offer customers a software upgrade, probably to Class 8 GPRS initially and later to Class 10. Class 8 is one slot to send and four to receive, while Class 10 is two slots to send and four to receive. Either option puts it way ahead of the game, making it a great choice for anyone who wants to communicate with a PDA via infra red.
The Trium engineers have obviously enjoyed themselves with the Trium screen, which has a 120x143 resolution and 256 bright colours. The main screen shows the logo of the network to which you are connected, rather than just the name. The only other phone I've seen that does this was the Vtech, which we reviewed in August 2001, but it didn't have colour.
The logo shows up against a bright colour background picture, any one of five choice supplied on the phone as standard. One or two of the colour pics use cute tricks to show the battery and signal meters. One is a daisy with up to five petals to show the signal strength-the more petals the stronger the signal. A ladybird occupies an adjacent stalk, the higher the insect the stronger the battery. Another picture has a couple of small forests with number of trees representing signal and battery meters.
Once called, Trium has the hallmark butterfly; another is Urban where the scene changes at 7am and 7pm, then there's Lindbergh which shows the world clock. Trium promises that the wallpapers will be downloadable via GPRS, although there was no sign of anything on the Trium web site last time I looked.
When you've missed a call or have a text message waiting, the network logo is replaced with the name of the network and icons to show what information is waiting for you. The controls are excellent, with two function keys that are clearly labelled and a four-way direction key. The menu shows five of the eight available options at any time, and as you scroll through the highlighted option is supplemented with an excellent cartoon.
One of the things which really makes the most of the screen is text messaging. You can fit a whole 160-character text message on the screen with room to spare. It's also bright and clear. There is a particularly good implementation of the AOL Mobile T9 software. You can't add words to the dictionary but it is very easy to toggle in and out of T9 using the down arrow on the cursor key. Handling messages is good with options to reply with the original message attached, forward the messages to up to five friends or store or call numbers from within the message. You can define a set of ten messages with standard texts.
Phonebook features are similarly comprehensive. The Eclipse uses Microsoft vCard format so you can infra red contacts from most pocket devices, not just Microsoft ones. There are 100 memories and you can define first and last names, company name, job title, up to four numbers, email address, real address, text, an icon and a ring tone. Numbers can also be filed in groups. The last ten missed, called and received numbers are all stored in the phone. There is voice dialling, which will work with contacts in both phone and SIM memory, and a voice recorder. This stores up to 120 seconds.
The ringer is great - very loud and supplemented with a vibrate. Sound quality is also excellent, with a three-voice polyphonic speaker, so the supplied ringtones sound great. You can download more, it's Nokia-compatible, and the big speaker on the Eclipse means they sound better than they do on Nokia phones. There is no ringtone composer in the phone.
In common with many newer phones the Eclipse has a diary calendar and alarm clock. With a great screen it works very well. You can set an alarm for diary events and use any supplied ring tone. The weekly display can show conflicts and when you enter a new appointment you are told if there is a conflict.
There is no easy PC sync, so you can't get your whole address book or diary into the phone easily, but you can send individual appointments and a to-do list by infra red. There is a currency converter and a calculator but no email client or text message chat.
Trium claims a talk time of three hours and a standby of 150 hours from the 900mAh lithium ion battery. In use we got a couple of days which included some quite heavy WAP browsing on some occasions, and a couple of sessions of failing to master bowling. It's unlikely to be that good when GPRS is available, particularly since Class 10 will be very battery hungry. Still, the recharge time of 90 minutes is good.
One of the things you can do very well with a colour screen is play games. Trium has gone about this in exactly the right way. Its phones are designed in France and in recent years French computer game companies have grown to dominate the world market. Trium went to Ubisoft and commissioned two games using the Rayman character. Unfortunately that's as good as it gets. The actual execution is disappointing. The two games, Bowling and Garden, don't play that well. They sound even worse if you try to describe them, something which is shown by the badly-translated instructions. Bowling is graphically great but ultimately boring. Garden is a little like an 80s Spectrum game called Hover Bover, except you run around the garden killing monsters, not cutting grass. Help is at hand because in time you should be able to download new games - if Trium pulls its finger out to do something about its web site.
A great screen and fast GPRS are an ideal platform for WAP. With these two things WAP starts to deliver. The Eclipse rises to the challenge with a WAP 1.2.1 browser. This has all the things you expect-it tells the server what the specs of the device are and will accept incoming 'push' WAP messages. So if you have a WAP mail service you can be alerted of new incoming messages.
One area of the WAP 1.2 specification which is vague is the support for colour. Officially 1.2.1 does not have colour, but there are some tags which can be used. Looking at a page that uses those tags does not give colour on the Eclipse. Links, however, do use colour, but really it's the screen's clarity which makes WAP so good.
There is the standard collection of options, bookmarks, and up to ten profiles. Navigation is excellent with the left soft key following a link, right key says 'action' and the four way cursor takes you up and down the page or forward and back. The action tends only to be 'back'. To get to the menu which lets you add a new URL you have to press the green handset. You can customise the display for screen size, font and to turn automatic downloads off. Trium's programmers have really got the hang of WAP, so it's a shame I couldn't test the GPRS side.
The Trium Eclipse isn't the first colour phone I've seen; that was the Siemens S10. But the colour on that screen wasn't good and didn't add anything. The next colour phone we expect to see is the Ericsson T68, a much sexier phone-smaller, lighter and triple band with Bluetooth to link to a PDA. You can see a preview in the December 2001 Christmas issue.
Simon Rockman is the publisher of What Mobile, the UK's best mobile phone magazine. © Blah Publishing. All rights reserved.