O2 XDA Guide satnav phone
All roads lead to roam
Review Taiwan's HTC is currently doing very well with its Touch series handsets and it's been no secret that O2's very similar XDA range of Windows Mobile phones are actually made by the same company. Indeed, the O2 XDA Guide is very similar to the Touch Cruise, with the focus firmly on satnav and A-GPS, but also incorporating a 2.8in touch screen, 3.2Mp camera, HSDPA 3G and Wi-Fi.
Locale knowledge: O2's Xda Guide
The Guide is definitely at the sleek and stylish end of the XDA range, albeit still in an understated, businessy sort of a way. It's surrounded by gun metal grey plastic with a dark chrome-look band around the sides. It's small and light at 101x53x14mm and 103g, which also makes it more pocket-friendly than some XDAs. Beneath the touch screen is a metal plate with four buttons: call start and stop, satnav and HTC Footprints – more on that later.
Smack in the centre of this is a large, round D-pad with a spinning circle around its circumference. This can be used to scroll through menus, zoom in and out of web pages or pictures or fast-forward/rewind videos. The display is a 65,000-colour, 2.8in, 320x240 pixel touch screen. The sides feature an elongated volume rocker, USB 2.0 power/headphone slot, a power button on top and a stylus dock.
The XDAs all have a lot in common – touch screens, Windows Mobile OS, camera etc, but each has distinct strengths and personalities. With the Guide, the clue's in the name, since its focus is on location and its built-in A-GPS. It wears its heart on its sleeve too, with those keys flanking the D-pad for satnav and HTC Footprints, which attempt to de-geekify the business of geo-tagging.
Pressing the footprint logo allows you to take a snap, automatically note where it was taken and then make some notes, record an audio note or add a phone number. You can sort your pics by location, and keep a photo album with the addition of written or recorded thoughts from the time, or just attach a phone number. Nothing new for seasoned geo-taggers then, but it does make the whole process easy and obvious – no bad thing at all.
Make your mark with the Footprint function
The satnav button gets you into the preloaded CoPilot Live 7, which we were a little surprised to see, if only because TomTom Navigator was the software that appeared on the first incarnation of this phone in Germany earlier this year. The CoPilot Live 7 data is stored on a supplied 1GB microSD card and offers nice, big, finger-friendly buttons, maps, points of interest and traffic alerts. You can view maps in 2D or 3D and there are voice directions to help you on your way.
It's pretty good, as far as it goes, but unfortunately, the limited screen size – especially since you're stuck with portrait resolution – means that the keyboard is a little too cramped to use with ease when it's stuck to your windscreen. We'd have liked a little more volume to be available from the loudspeaker too, to hear it better over rush hour traffic.
The 3.2Mp camera works fine for snapshots, but video is disappointing
Speaking of travelling, the O2 XDA Guide comes with a quick-fit cradle and charger for your car. The charger plugs into your car's cigarette lighter, while the cradle attaches to your windscreen with a suction cup featuring a lever to activate the sucker. Certainly, a couple of quality steps up from lick it and stick it. While it doesn't beat a professionally fitted cradle, it gave us no cause for complaint during several days of use.
Cruising around the menus is made fun thanks to HTC's thumb-friendly TouchFLO interface, which means you'll rarely have to resort to the Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional operating system that lies behind it.
The 3.2Mp camera is quickly accessed from one of the programmable soft keys on the touch screen home page and takes about two seconds to launch. The image quality isn't bad, although colours could be a little more vibrant and edges could be slightly sharper and more defined. As a basic snapper though, it easily passes muster. Video quality slips a bit, with fast motion recordings prone to blurring and, consequently, not much use.
By contrast, viewing pictures is a joy thanks to HTC's viewing gallery, which seems to have mysteriously disappeared from some of recent Touch models. You can switch between pics by brushing your finger across the screen, and zoom in on a part of a pic by drawing a circle with your finger on the screen.
On the cards: up to 32GB on microSDHC storage is supported
The music player includes album cover art and a ten-band graphic equaliser. While the supplied headphones are on the tinny side, they at least come with (hooray!) an adaptor for the USB port, so you can upgrade them via 3.5mm headphone jack – not an option usually available on its Touch cousins.
As far as media formats go, it can handle a broad range of audio files including MP3, WMA, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, AMR, AWB, QCP, WAV and MIDI files. The video line-up isn't bad either, with WMV, ASF, MP4, 3GP, 3G2, M4V and AVI all supported.
Built for the road: a car cradle and charger are also included
The default browser is Opera, though Internet Explorer is also available should you care for it. Opera is fairly quick, even with a 3G network connection, and easy to use. A double tap on the part of a page you want to view zooms you in smartly and you can move pages around by brushing your finger across the screen. It also comes with Office Mobile so you can view and create Word and Excel, as well as view PowerPoint documents.
The Guide has 256MB Ram built-in but takes up to 32GB on a microSDHC card. The battery life stands up quite well for a Windows Mobile device – it's quoted as delivering six hours of talk time and up to 400 hours standby but, in practise, that translated into a good day and half of moderate use, with Wi-Fi on for most of that time.
O2 seems to be doing its damnedest to make an XDA for everybody, and only time will tell if this specialisation route will prove to be profitable for the company. Thanks to its bundled CoPilot software and car kit, the Xda Guide makes a decent fist of positioning itself as the Xda-with-satnav. As is usually the case with satnav on phones, screen size is the main issue. At 2.8in it's just a bit too small and fiddly to deliver at its best. Nevertheless, it's robust and easy to use, featuring the best that Windows Mobile can offer, with the worst largely concealed by HTC's TouchFLO interface. ®
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