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GLOSSARY (LEARNING TO SUCK EGGS) Bluetooth - Wireless 2 way data transfer medium (Quite secure and very fast) RAM - Random Access Memory: How much information it will hold MHz - MegaHertz - 1 million clock cycles per second, very fast for a handheld! PDA - Personal Digital Assistant: Essentially an electronic filofax TFT _ Thin Film Transistor: display method which allows the screen to be seen well in most light conditions OUTLOOK 2003 - The Microsoft Corporation's e-mail and personal organiser platform for the home computer
About 6 months ago I was coming to the end of my contract with O2 and my old iPAQ Pocket PC was looking quite sorry for itself so I had a brainwave... why not by a Phone and Pocket PC in one?!? After reading reviews and information I decided on the XDA2. Unfortunately, I didn't know that much to make an informed decision so you could say I walked into the purchase with my eyes closed... so please read on for the type of review that I required 7 months ago ------ P.S Sorry about the length but I have tried to cover almost everything!
Alright then, lets get the blurb out of the way first... The XDA2 from O2 is one of the newest generation of mobile/organiser devices on the market. It incorporates a fast 404MHz processor and 128MB RAM /to store your programs. Powered by Microsoft Windows Pocket PC 2003 operating system it handles the tasking of being a mobile phone and a PDA reasonably well.
The two are kept integrated but seperate with the use of an on screen selecting which toggles between "O2" mode and "Windows Pocket PC" very quickly.
THE CHASIS Lightweight with an anodised aluminium body gives the feeling that the unit will stand up to quite a few drops and scrapes. It has a 65,000 colour touch sensitive TFT screen which is a major improvement (so I am told) over the original XDA - even with the backlight off, the screen is easily seen. With the backlight on it provides crisp and clear images that displays photos perfectly. Oh, and there is no aerial anymore, it has been removed on the XDA2 (as opposed to the original XDA) and placed inside the top portion
of the body.. pretty cool!
On the side you have a button to activate the camera, a notepad audio button to record your voice notes and a volume slider which, unfortunately, feels very flimsy. All of these buttons do their job adequately but still feel like they were an afterthought post development.
There are four buttons on the face of the device, two of which are customisable the Contacts and Calendar, a green button to answer a call (or switch straight to the dialling mode) and a red button to end a call or disconnect from the internet.
Finally, the stylus feels quite metallic, very well built and slides nicely and fits flush with the body on the right hand side of the unit making it easy to take out when needed quickly.
THE MANUAL AND SOFTWARE INCLUDED The manuals and quick start guides are very comprehensive and tell you everything you would want to know about the operation of the XDA2. Unfortunately, who wants to read a manual the size of a small telephone directory to play? If you can stomach it you will find, if you have owned a pocket PC before, everyting is self explanatory and nothing has changed... if you haven't then it's worth sitting down without the manual and having a play yourself - how else will you find out how it works!!!!
The disk also supplied includes your own personal copy of Microsoft Outlook 2003 for the synchronisation with your home computer. Unfortunately I have owned a Compaq iPAQ in the past and was quite disappointed with the lack of free programs on this install disk... none, not a sausage! The iPAQ comes with a wealth of games, programs and utilities but this only includes Outlook... I felt quite cheated having just forked out £300!
EXPANDABILITY On top of the unit is the memory expansion slot, the XDA takes 2, very much alike, media formats known as SD (Secure Digital) and MM (Multimedia) Cards. The cards are about the size of a UK postage stamp and allow anything from 8MB upto 1GB extra to be stored on them and freely accessed by the XDA2 as a seperate storage medium.
Due to the massive 128MB of RAM onboard you will find that you may never need an expansion card if only using it for storing contacts, word and excel documents; however should you wish to install loads of programs one of these little cards is a must because as you fill up the internal memory the XDA2 gets slower... strange! My advice? Visit www.amazon.co.uk and enter the keyword "SD Media Card" for the cheapest prices around.
You may also add programs by downloading them off the internet from such sites as www.pocketpc.com or www.handango.com using your home computer then Synchronising your XDA2 to transfer... much easier than it sounds!
My only criticisms in this heading are that this is it for expandability options - the true PDAs generally have extra GPS jackets, WiFi jackets, camera cards, etc... unfortunately this has none so you've gotta be happy with what you get from the start. One was around the lack of GPS (Global Positioning Systems) is to buy a Bluetooth compatible GPS platform then link it that way. Keeping a media card constantly in the slot also drains battery power...
AS A PHONE Like a 1980 throwback to be caught with this thing to your ear whilst talking may be very embarassing, you also may need those few extra sessions in the gym in order to hold a prolonged conversation. The manufacturers have, fortunately, thought about this and included a fully functional stereo hands free kit (With Connect and Disconnect Buttons) and the facility for a speakerphone option during a call by simply holding down the green call button for a few seconds. There is one final option: Bluetooth Headsets, by purchasing and "pairing" your device with the XDA you have a wireless solution (But with greatly reduced battery life... think about the trade off!)
The phone features all the usual mobile phone gimmicks: Speed Dial, Last Number Redial, Caller Log, call holding but no voice dial! This would have made things so much simpler in the long run for alot of users... oh well, maybe on the XDA 3! It also features Mobile GPRS internet (Proper internet), WAP Internet, MMS, Movie Messaging, News and Sports services. For all of these the connecting and download speed are very fast indeed.
Finally, when making or accepting a call you may turn off the unit or even use the PDA functions of the XDA2 all without affecting your call, to end the call just press the red button. To turn the phone off you just simply tap on the network signal icon and select 'flight mode'.
Unfortunately being a phone and PDA combined there are bad points. First of all the battery life is not as good as a regular mobile phone - I have managed about 3 days constantly on, on a single charge with the phone activated (Luckily the battery is removable so you can buy another for around £40 from O2 and the cradle has an extra slot to charge a spare battery).
Another problem is that the phone function has no voice dialling, which considering it should be on your belt or in your pocket when out travelling, would have been very handy. The 'flight mode' method of keeping the phone turned off can make you forget that the phone is actually off... I have missed many calls in this way!
AS A PDA As a PDA, the XDA2 is amazing with everything you could want and more. Powered by PocketPC 2003 it has all of the high end Pocket PC features Pocket Word, Pocket Excel, Contacts, Calendar, Notepad (Voice and Hand Written), Calculator, File Browser, mail browser, task manager, Windows Media Player (MP3s, MP4s, etc...), Microsoft Powerpoint Viewer, Adobe Acrobat Viewer (Read PDF Files) and Microsoft Reader (e-book reader)... all which work blindingly fast.
Also incorporated is a 640x480 resolution digital camera/video camera with sound recording and playback and an album facility for storage and viewing of pictures. The camera has several features including sunlight, low light, fluorescent - so even in a variety of environments you can get picture perfect, the viewfinder is the whole screen!!!
There are, unfortunately, again several niggles which make this not all perfect, this seems to be the major downfall of the design - read on.
Occasionally when closing down programs that are running you will occasionally get a screen flash up "Unhandled Shell Error" at which the XDA2 will soft reset and any programs running will be terminated whilst the device reboots... very annoying! In order to overcome I have been informed by O2 that you should download a firmware update from their approved website (Over 19.6MB!). I have done this, waited 4 hours for the firmware to upgrade but there is still no difference - in my opinion it is just one of those glitches that will remain.
OVERALL An amazing piece of technology with all so many features crammed into it it should be tearing at the seams but has minor flaws in the software and, as a phone, suffers from being a brick, so in practical reasoning not very practical. My advice? Buy one for the PDA aspects (If you can afford it at about £400 off contract, £300 contract) and use a mobile...
Thankyou very much for taking the time to read and I look forward to your comments.