Reviewer: David Flynn
The latest in a seemingly never-ending line of smartphones from O2, the Stealth is pitched as a hybrid device perched halfway between a conventional (but far from typical) mobile phone and a PDA.
In its cross-hairs are tech-savvy consumers and mobile professionals who want both types of device but can settle for somewhat less than is offered by a full-blown PDA.
And judging by the Stealth’s matte black chassis, chunky size and heft and a very 007-ish slide-out keypad, you can bet that 99% of those buyers will be blokes.
That sliding numeric keypad is the most obvious trick when the Stealth goes on show. When concealed, the phone is merely a black brickette with a generous display and a chrome iPod-like control wheel flanked by four buttons, only two of which ? emblazoned with the Send and End symbols – are splashed with colour. The overall effect is eye-catchingly minimalist when alongside phones which look as loud as their MP3 ringtones.
The keyboard and bottom two-thirds of the phone slides out (or is it the thinner display section which slides up) with a smooth motion and a solid click as it locks into place. In this mode you can enter numbers, rather than just select them from the phone book; carry out all the usual mobile phone chores such as text messaging; and make better use of the Stealth’s inbuilt PDA features than just tapping away at the touchscreen using the supplied stylus.
Those features are fairly standard for any modern mid-range PDA. The Windows Mobile 5.0 operating system will be immediately familiar to anyone who’s used a Windows desktop or laptop PC, which removes one hurdle for first-time smartphone users. You even get pared-down versions of Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint and Internet Explorer.
As with almost any modern phone, there are the near-mandatory inclusions of Bluetooth and a 2 megapixel camera, while on the PDA side you also get Wi-Fi (in both the 802.11b and g flavours) for hooking up to hotspots or home and office wireless networks.
What you don’t get is 3G. For all its modern stylish and pretensions to being a phone for the fast-moving mobile professional, the Stealth uses the older GSM network.
The Stealth’s screen enjoys good visibility in average light conditions, although like most such devices it can be washed out if used outdoors on a bright day. It’s also hampered by the product’s own ‘hybrid’ design – while the display is generously proportioned by the standards of a mobile phone, it’s on the small side when compared to a PDA and some competing smartphones.
The slide-out keyboard is accurate and easy to use, as long as you take a little care when aiming your fingers. This isn’t just because there are no obvious buttons (the keys are parked just beneath a smooth touchpad surface), but because the top row of keys can prove a little cramped if your paws are larger than the norm.
Dealing with emails and attachments held no stumbling block, but web browsing takes more than dash of patience. This is partly because the Stealth runs on the older GSM network rather than 3G, so it’s pretty much like using dial-up instead of ADSL ? in fact, with real-world speeds of 50Kbps and 250Kbps respectively, they’re quite comparable to their landline counterparts. It’s also the unavoidable result of using the tiny Stealth and its cut-down software to view Web pages designed for larger screens and fully-featured browsers.
The Stealth makes a strong start with its compelling look-at-me design and the melding of phone and PDA. There’s bound to be a crossover market which finds this is an ideal combo, but you’ll need to temper expectations of the Stealth being the perfect product per se – we doubt any ‘compromise’ device could ever be.