O2 Xda Orbit 2 Review

Last month I was contacted by Steve Cater who works at vccp as part of O2’s Marketing Team. He asked me whether I would be interested in trialling one of O2’s new phones in a seeding program, similar to that of the O2 cocoon seeding program which gave developers and technology lovers a chance to trial the phone. The idea sounded interesting and it looked like the cocoon program did well so I said yes to testing this new O2 Phone (didn’t know the name of it then).

Last week a package arrived, I opened it up and lo and behold it was an O2 Xda Orbit 2 Phone along with all the necessary accessories and a sim card. I got straight into taking some photos of this shiny new device along with testing it.

Technical Specifications:

General

  • Name: O2 Xda Orbit 2
  • HTC Code name: HTC Polaris (HTC Touch Cruise)
  • Operating System: Windows Mobile 6 Professional
  • Size: 110 (L) x 58 (W) x 15.5 mm (T)
  • Weight: 130g (including battery)

Display

  • Type: Graphical TFT LCD Touch screen, 65000 Colours
  • Size: 240 x 320 pixels

Memory

  • ROM: 256MB
  • RAM: 128MB
  • Storage: Micro-SD (Up to 32GB when available)

Networking

  • Internal antenna
  • UMTS (850/1900MHz for NA, 2100MHz for Europe) and GSM/GPRS/EDGE (quad-band, 850/900/1800/1900 MHz).
  • HSDPA
  • 3GPP Release 5 compliant
  • DL up to 3.6 mbps and UL up to 384 kbps
  • EGPRS Functionality
  • EGPRS class B
  • Multi-slot class 10
  • PBCCH
  • Built in Bluetooth 2.0
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g
  • GPS in-built (Global Positioning System)
  • FM Radio: 76-108MHz

Digital Camera

  • Main camera: 3 mega-pixel CMOS imagine sensor with AF
  • Secondary camera: VGA CMOS imagine sensor

Power

  • Battery
  • Removable and Rechargeable Lithium ion battery, 1350mAh
  • AC adaptor
  • AC input: 100~240V, 50/60 Hz
  • Standby time: up to 400hrs for GSM and up to 450hrs for UMTS
  • Talk time: up to 7hrs on GSM and up to 4hrs on UMTS

What’s in the Box!

Inside the O2 Xda Orbit 2 Box you will find the following:

  • Xda Orbit 2
  • Xda Orbit 2 pouch + Screen Protector
  • Xda Orbit 2 battery to power your Xda
  • AC charger for recharging your Xda battery
  • Car Charger and Car Holder
  • USB sync cable which is used connect your device to a PC and synchronizes data.
  • Extra stylus to tap items onscreen.
  • Hands-free stereo headset
  • Quick Start Guide
  • Full User Manual (available on the CD)
  • Warranty card for Europe
  • In-box CD: Applications Getting Started, Full User Manual – CD contents include: GPRS Monitor & Sprite Backup. Windows MobileTM software, including Microsoft® ActiveSync®4.5 Connectivity Software and Microsoft® Outlook® 2007 (trial)
  • CoPilot 7 Live CD containing: Installer for CPL7 Live (as backup to the version in ROM), CPL7 maps for the UK are Northern Ireland, O2 Specific version of the PC CoPilot Central Application

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Applications and Settings

The Today Screen and O2 Custom Today Plug-in

The Today Screen is pretty much the same as most Windows Mobile Phones, however there are some nice additions that can be added to the today screen, that of which include:

  • Last Call
  • Profiles
  • Meters
  • O2 Calendar
  • Shortcuts
  • Running Apps (My personal favourite as it let’s me close my Apps without having to go to memory control and end the running application)

Programs 

A nice list of programs and applications are found on the device:

  • Office Mobile Use the complete suite of Microsoft® Office applications for your mobile device.
    • Excel Mobile Create new workbooks or view and edit Excel workbooks.
    • PowerPoint Mobile View PowerPoint slides and presentations.
    • Word Mobile Create, view, and edit Word documents.
  • Calendar Keep track of your appointments and create meeting requests.
  • Contacts Keep track of your friends and colleagues.
  • Internet Explorer Mobile Browse Web and WAP sites as well as download new programs and files from the Internet.
  • Messaging Send and receive e-mail, MMS, and text messages.
  • Phone Make and receive calls, switch between calls, and set up conference calling.
  • Help See Help topics for the current screen or program.
  • Games Play two pre-installed games: Bubble Breaker and Solitaire.
  • ActiveSync Synchronise information between your device and a PC or the Exchange Server.
  • Adobe Reader LE View PDF (Portable Document Format) files on your device.
  • Audio Booster Enhances your music experience by providing you with controls for adjusting equalizer, 3D sound, treble, and bass settings.
  • Audio Manager Browse for music files by organising music files into categories.
  • Bluetooth Explorer Search for other Bluetooth devices that have file sharing enabled and access their Bluetooth shared folder.
  • Calculator Perform basic arithmetic and calculations, such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.
  • Camera Take photos or shoots video clips with accompanying audio.
  • Camera Album View photos that you captured using the device camera.
  • Comm Manager Manage your device’s connections (including Wi-Fi, GPRS, Bluetooth, and ActiveSync), turn the phone on or off, switch to ringer/vibration mode, and enable or disable the Direct Push function.
  • File Explorer Organise and manage files on your device.
  • FM Radio Lets you listen to your favourite FM radio stations.
  • Internet Sharing Connect your notebook computer to the Internet using your device’s data connection.
  • Java Download and install Java applications, such as games and tools, on your device.
  • Messenger This is the mobile version of Windows Live Messenger.
  • Notes Create handwritten or typed notes, drawings, and voice recordings.
  • O2 Operator Settings Choose a wireless network operator according to your geographical location and configure device connection settings.
  • Pictures & Videos View, organise, and sort pictures, animated GIFs, and video files on your device or a storage card.
  • QuickGPS Downloads satellite data over the Internet via ActiveSync, Wi-Fi or GPRS to speed up the time for determining your current GPS position.
  • SAPSettings Enables Bluetooth Remote SIM access on your phone.
  • Search Search contacts, data, and other information on your device.
  • IM Manager Manage the contacts that are stored on your USIM/SIM card. You can also use this program to copy USIM/SIM contents to Contacts on your device.
  • Spb GPRS Monitor You will find this program in the provided disc. You can install and use this program to measure the amount of data transfers that you have made via the GPRS or GSM network connection, and calculate network usage costs.
  • Sprite Backup Provides you with a quick and easy way to create backups of your data.
  • STK (SIM Tool Kit) Service Access information and other services offered by your wireless service provider.
  • Streaming Media Stream live or on-demand video.
  • Tasks Keep track of your tasks.
  • Voice Recorder Record your voice, play it back, then send it via e-mail, MMS or beaming. You can also set the recorded voice as your ring tone.
  • Voice Speed Dial Allows you to record voice tags so that you can dial a phone number or launch programs simply by speaking a word.
  • Windows Live Use this mobile version of Windows Live to find information on the Web. It also lets you sign into your Windows Live account so that you can access your Live Mail messages and send/receive instant messages in Live Messenger.
  • Windows Media Player Mobile Play back audio and video files.
  • ZIP Save memory and free up storage space on your device by compressing files in the conventional ZIP format.

Audio Manager and Audio Booster 

As well as Windows Media Player, the Xda Orbit 2 comes with the HTC Audio Manager and Audio Booster, which lets you create, edit and delete playlist and listen to your songs which in turn you can fine tune as you have the ability to vary the Bass, Treble, and 3D effect of the sound output as well as choosing from various pre-defined profiles.

Camera and Camera Album with Slideshow

Overall I love the Camera and The Camera interface, though I would love to see the camera have a flash or even just a light, comes in handy for them close night shots!

 

Here’s some example photos, all photos were taken with the Xda Orbit 2 on it’s highest resolution and quality settings.

IMAG0018 IMAG0019 IMAG0020 IMAG0021 IMAG0022 IMAG0023 IMAG0025Communications 

Communicating to someone is simple and effective just like it should be with it’s smart dialling feature and big keys. The Video calling feature looks great though I must admit I haven’t had a chance to test it out yet. The sounds great on voice calling though.

CoPilot Live 7

The Xda Orbit 2 having both built in GPS and CoPilot Live 7 is great, I’ve taken it to the test on both short and long routes, the longest so far being from Sittingbourne in Kent to Gatwick Airport. (49 Miles). Shall be using it when I travel to Heathrow Airport soon on a press tour of the new BAA Terminal 5 Building and again when I travel up to the Alton Towers Theme Park in 3 weeks time.

Having GPS and CoPilot 7 makes me want to switch from my MDA Vario 2 which has no GPS, though it does have something else which I value, that being a sliding keyboard.

 

FM Radio 

Haven’t used it a lot yet due to the fact that every time you want to use it you have to plug in the headsets but I’m sure if I do switch fully to this phone then I’ll soon be using it, always great to have some live music on your phone!

RSS Hub 

I love this RSS Hub, it helps you keep up to date with the latest news from your favourite news sites, blogs and podcasts.

Settings 

There’s a ton of settings options to help you customise the Xda Orbit 2 just the way you want it. 

Touch Keyboards and Keypads 

The Xda Orbit 2 has 6 different ways you can enter text onto the screen, the newest ones being the Touch Keyboard and Keypad, now while these are great, I do somewhat miss having a physical keyboard like my MDA Vario 2 Sliding keyboard. On the other hand however not having a sliding keyboard makes the Xda feel much more lighter and less bulkier. So I guess it’s just a case of getting away from the good old keyboard and getting to grips with touch keyboards.

 

TouchFLO 

TouchFLO has been added to gives you better touch panel experience. Using TouchFLO, you can easily scroll and pan the screen by sliding your fnger on the touch panel. TouchFLO also has the Touch Cube where you can add your favourite contacts, access media, launch programs, and more. Also while on a web page, document, or list (such as contacts list etc.), you can slide your finger upward to scroll down or slide your finger downward to scroll up. To scroll to the right, slide your fnger to the left. To scroll to the left, slide your fnger to the right. 

Overall Conclusion!

I love the O2 Xda Orbit 2, it looks great, it’s weighs less and is is less bulkier than my T-Mobile MDA Vario 2. It also has GPS which is a great addition to a mobile phone for someone like me who loves travelling. I can’t wait to start using it more and more every day.

However there are some problems, unlike my T-Mobile MDA Vario 2 the O2 Xda Orbit 2 doesn’t feature a physical sliding keyboard, just it’s virtual touch keyboards and keypads, so that is somewhat disappointing as I have got quite attached to my sliding keyboard as I use it regularly to write texts, emails and posts while at tech events. Maybe I just need to have some more time away from the sliding keyboard and more time getting used to the virtual keyboards and keypads.

Also there’s no Flash or Flash Light for the camera so night photos is a no.

Here’s a quick list of some Pros (The Good) and Cons (The bad) of the O2 Xda Orbit 2:

Pros (The Good)

  • Fast processor
  • Large memory
  • Inbuilt GPS
  • Light weight not bulky
  • FM Radio
  • O2 Added Extras
  • Good batery life
  • TouchFlo system and Cube
  • Good quality screen
  • CoPilot Live included in ROM
  • Micro-SD Compatibility
  • O2 HSDPA network coverage in my area (T-Mobile doesn’t) so the internet is much faster.
  • Lots of Extras!

Cons (The Bad)

  • No HTC Home application
  • No sliding keyboard
  • No Flash on Camera
  • Camera could possible be more than 3 Mega Pixels though not totally necessary

Now the question is should I switch fully from my T-Mobile MDA Vario 2 to the O2 Xda Orbit 2? As doing so would mean I would have to change my mobile number from T-Mobile to O2. Also I’m thinking about paying for unlimited web/internet each month depending on what I do, however there’s pros and cons to both T-Mobile and O2.

T-Mobile as a larger fair use policy of 1GB (The Max plan is 10GB) per month on it’s so called unlimited web access plan, however there’s no HSDPA Network coverage in my area with T-Mobile so it’s quite slow – get annoyed at how slow it is at times when the pages don’t even load.

To ensure a high quality of service for all our customers a 1GB (of data both sent and received in the UK) per month fair use policy applies. If you exceed 1GB per month, we may tell you to reduce your future use. If you again exceed 1GB per month, we may tell you that we are going to apply network protection controls, resulting in a reduced network speed for 14 days. If you exceed 1GB per month for a third time , we may tell you that we are going to apply further network protection controls, resulting in a reduced network speed until you upgrade your price plan to include a larger data allowance. We do not permit use of this service to provide modem access for a computer or for peer to peer file sharing, internet phone calls or instant messaging. 

O2 however has a much lower fair use policy of 200MB per month on it’s so called unlimited web access plan, however O2 does have HSDPA Network coverage in my area and I love it! Just a slight problem if you normally expected to only use 200MB per month with HSDPA that would soon be overrun.

The O2 Web Bolt On can only be used for internet browsing on your phone. A fair use policy applies and if your usage substantially exceeds that of other users, which is normally expected to be below 200MB/month, you will be charged standard rates for additional browsing. We will send you a warning text message advising you to limit your usage before this occurs and a text message to confirm when you are being charged

It seems there is a O2 Web Max Plan which is 3GB per month for £30, I’ll have to look into that!

Special thanks and Links 

Just want to say special thanks to Steve Cater who works at vccp as part of O2’s Marketing Team for giving me the opportunity to test the O2 Xda Orbit 2, it’s certainly been a great experience so far and I’m looking forward too seeing what else I can do with it, there’s always great tweaks and stuff over at the HTC Polaris section on the XDA Developer Forums.

Here’s some useful links:

Microsoft Startup Accelerator Program Growing

Microsoft has announced that the Microsoft Startup Accelerator Program is experiencing strong growth and is now supporting over 50 emerging businesses. Launched in October 2007, the Microsoft Startup Accelerator Program is designed to help startups accelerate both software development and market visibility through customized engagement plans consisting of access to premier support staff, software licenses and subscriptions, new technologies, and/or access to Microsoft Technology Centers for software testing and architecture guidance. 

In only four months since the program’s launch, over 30 companies have joined the initial 20 participants, including new entrants StoreXperience, Earth Class Mail and Me.dium.  The growth of this program underscores Microsoft’s investment in the startup and entrepreneurial community worldwide and commitment to accelerating the business success of its partners by providing technical and market resources.

When we launched the Microsoft Startup Accelerator Program last fall, our goal was to identify innovative early-stage startups that were a strategic fit for Microsoft and to create an exceptional opportunity for them to work with us and our global customer base for mutual success, said Dan’l Lewin, corporate vice president of Strategic and Emerging Business Development at Microsoft. We are very pleased with the excitement and momentum behind the program from the entrepreneurial community, and we will continue to focus on expanding the program to support the success of an even broader set of startups worldwide.

For more information:

Windows Live Messenger Mobile 30 Day Trial?

Just signed into Windows Live Messenger for Mobile this morning and recieved the following prompt:

Hello! Starting today, your 30 day trial period begins. By selecting OK you acknowledge that your use of Windows Live services continues to be subject to the Terms of Use and Privacy Statement. Data charges from your mobile operator, including roaming fees may apply for using the Windows Live services. At the conclusion of this trial, you will be given the option to purchase a 30 day pass.


Image courtesy of Paul (MVP) from MoDaCo.

Is this message being sent out in error, or is this for real and Microsoft is really going to start charging us to use Windows Live Messenger for Mobile? After all when you use Windows Live Messseger for Mobile for the first time (e.g. after a hard reset of your device) you’ll get the following message:

Your use of Windows Live is subject to the Windows Live Terms of Use located at http://mid.live.com/terms.aspx?client=true and the Microsoft Privacy Statement located at http://mid.live.com/privacy.aspx?client=true. By pressing the ‘Accept’ key below, you hereby accept the Windows Live Terms of Use and Privacy Statement and acknowledge that you are aware of and have had an opportunity to fully review them at the URLs referenced above. In addition, your use of Windows Live may include a free trial period which is limited in duration. In such a case, at the end of this free trial period you will be given the option to either pay a fee to continue use of Windows Live through this application, or to discontinue use and not pay.

Interesting enough the Windows Live ID terms and conditions does contain a clause to cover this:

7.4 Trial Period Offers. You may have received a limited time of free service or some other trial period offer. Unless we notify you otherwise, if you are participating in any trial period offer, you must cancel the service by the end of the trial period to avoid incurring charges. If you do not cancel your service, and we have informed you that the service will automatically be converted into a paid subscription at the end of the trial period, then you authorize us to charge your payment method for the service.

Though before jumping to any conclusions, I think its best that we wait for an official confirmation from Microsoft as to whether this is true or not, or if it was just an error.

Update: Great news – it was an error:

Here’s what Jeff McKean a Senior Product Manager at Microsoft had to say:

Hi folks, Jeff from Microsoft here (any Mobians on the thread will know me from Amsterdam and a few other events) first of all, sorry for taking so long to get back to you; we needed to do some investigation as Windows Mobile users were not supposed to get that message.

Here’s what happened: This week we rolled out a direct-to-consumer billing service for the Windows Live client on Nokia S60 in the UK and Sweden. Although we are considering doing the same at a future time for Windows Mobile, this has not been implemented however, something happened and many of you saw a trial message on Windows Mobile devices. Windows Mobile customers shouldn’t have received any notifications of a 30-day trial and we are working as quickly as possible to correct this.

As you may know, we offer Messenger services through mobile operators on lots of handsets, not just Windows Mobile. Traditionally, customers have been billed by their mobile operators for many of these services, either directly or through their data package.

Microsofts DesignIT competition 2008

For those unfamiliar with this exciting competition, the concept is simple! Microsoft are offering IT Professionals the opportunity to demonstrate their expertise and creativity by transforming the technical infrastructure of a charity of their choice or tackle one of the problems put forward by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), Leonard Cheshire Disability, Global Action Plan or Fauna and Flora International (FFI).

Working to a budget of £15,000, entrants are invited to submit a system design and 400 word summary that outlines how the innovative use of technology can transform the way a charity meets its causes. Entries should only include details of the software and hardware requirements as installation and technical guidance will be provided by Microsoft.  All submissions will be reviewed by a panel of expert judges and those that show the most creative use of technology will be put forward to a shortlist of 10. These will then be put to a public vote to find the overall winner. 

The winning entry will be passed to a team of Microsoft technical specialists who will work with the winner to implement the system. The four runners-up will each receive £1,000 worth of Microsoft software for the charity named on their winning entry. Plus, all five finalists will win a free ticket to TechEd:IT Forum 2008 in Barcelona. Plus those shortlisted will have their system designs turned into a piece of art and exhibited in a top London art gallery.

The competition opened on the 17th of December 2007 and will close on the 21st March 2008. To enter, please click here, or to send your feedback about the competition, please email DesignIT@microsoft.com.

Microsoft Acquires MultiMap

Microsoft has acquired Multimap, one of the United Kingdom’s top 100 technology companies and one of the leading online mapping services in the world. The acquisition will hopefuly give Microsoft a powerful new location and mapping technology to complement existing offerings such as Virtual Earth, Live Search, Windows Live services, MSN and the aQuantive advertising platform, with future integration potential for a range of other Microsoft products and platforms, leading the way to new hights.

The addition of Multimap enhances Microsoft’s position as a leading provider of mapping and location platform services, said Sharon Baylay, general manager of the Online Services Group at Microsoft. This acquisition will play a significant role in the future growth of our search business and presents a huge opportunity to expand our platform business beyond the U.K. and globally. We are thrilled to welcome Multimap onboard.

One of the best-known online mapping companies worldwide, Multimap provides a publicly available personal mapping service at http://www.multimap.com, as well as a range of integrated business services.

Partnering with Microsoft gives us a world of new opportunities to build our mapping services into new technologies and applications, said Jeff Kelisky, CEO of Multimap. As one of the world’s foremost technology brands, Microsoft is in a position to bring even more value to the Multimap service and give people everywhere new, exciting and fun ways to get from point A to point B.

Facebook opens platform to other social networks

Online social network site Facebook has now opened up its developer platform to other social networking sites. The move comes in response to criticism that developers wouldn’t create applications for Facebook because the website is too “closed” to be an effective market, and sets up a potential clash between Facebook’s now open platform and OpenSocial, the open development platform initiative Google Inc. launched in November. Facebook senior platform manager Ami Vora first posted the news in a blog entry on Wednesday.

Now we also want to share the benefits of our work by enabling other social sites to use our platform architecture as a model. In fact, we’ll even license the Facebook Platform methods and tags for use by other platforms, which means that the 100,000 developers currently building Facebook applications can make their applications available on other social sites with no extra work. Of course, Facebook Platform will continue to evolve, but by enabling other social sites to use what we’ve learned, everyone wins — users get a better experience around the web, developers get access to new audiences, and social sites get more applications.

This is just another step toward the vision of easy, open sharing of information. We look forward to supporting other social sites as they release their own platforms, and look forward most of all to the added benefit for developers and users.

Threadless T-Shirts still only accepts Visa, Mastercard or American Express

Damn it, I’ve seen 3 Threadless T-Shirts I want to buy, but can’t due to Threadless still only accepting Visa, Mastercard or American Express Cards for payment.

I really can’t wait until the day that changes, I would love it if I could pay via some other form of payment like Switch/Maestro/Solo or even PayPal. But until then I’ll guess I’ll just have to wait, shame the ones I wanted are nearly gone out of stock too! 🙁

Maybe someone who has a credit card will buy me one for Christmas! 😀 Well I can wish can’t I 🙂 😉

The Voice of the London Underground is silenced!

Emma Clark, known to many as the voice of the London Underground due to having voiced most of the in-train and station announcements for the tube, has recently been fired after telling the Mail on Sunday that she thought the transit network was dreadful.

“The thought of being stuck in the Tube with strangers for minutes on end and having to listen to endless repeated messages of my own voice fills me with horror,” she told the paper.

She said using the service every day had been “dreadful.”

The Mail on Sunday also featured Clarke’s Web site, which hosts a series of spoof Tube announcements, including one warning a passenger not to stare at a woman’s chest, however though Transport for London noted that some of the spoof announcements were quite funny, spokesman Dan Hodges said Clarke’s attack on the subway itself had crossed the line.

“We wouldn’t employ somebody to promote our services who simultaneously criticizes those services,” Hodges said. Clarke’s voice will continue to fill London’s subway cars until a replacement is needed, he said.

So though she is unfortunately no longer employed by Transport of London, we can still hear her spoof and of course real London underground announcements on her site, she has also recently made a deal to be the voice of CoPilot Live satellite navigation. what’ll be next she says?  Space rockets?  Dinghies?? Haha..

Good luck emma with your future, thanks for the announcements! 😀

Real London Underground Announcements

Spoof London Underground Announcements

Free Microsoft Exam SCCM 2007

Microsoft is apparently looking for beta test takers for the SCCM 2007 exam. (This is the product that replaces SMS 2003.)

The following code below will allow you to take the exam once free of charge. If you pass you will receive credit toward the new Microsoft certifications MCTS and MCITP. If you fail, you can re-take the exam once the exam goes live but you will have to pay the testing fee. (In the US it’s $125.) Since this is a beta exam, it will take a month or more for you to receive the results of the exam. (To see if you passed or not.)

To take the Exam register at https://www.register.prometric.com and enter the following test number and promotion code:

Test #: 071-401
Code #: B401

If you are interested register NOW. Once Microsoft feels they have had enough beta test takers the offer will be discontented. There is no “Second Chance” on beta exams.