The Good Fast application response. O2 MediaPlus Package works nicely. Loud stereo speakers.
The Bad Small touchscreen icons demand stylus. Loud stereo speakers. Low battery life.
The Bottom Line The Atom Life tries very hard to bridge the gap between serious business tools and lifestyle gadgets. It’s surprising, then, that it’s a better business tool than fun phone.
Are PDA-style smartphones just tools for the business set? O2 doesn’t appear to think so. It’s latest smartphone, the Xda Atom Life attempts to bridge that gap between people who need a business tool, and those who want something with just a smidgen more “fun” appeal — O2’s marketing spiel refers to them as “life warriors”, a term you won’t see in this review again.
A more cynical reviewer might comment that O2’s presumably trying to get in on the market before the lifestyle crowd shifts over to the Apple iPhone — but then, you can buy an Atom Life right now, whereas the iPhone is conspicuous by its absence from 2007-era Australian store shelves. Or any stores shelves right now, come to think of it.
The Atom Life has a carrying weight of 145 grams and dimensions of 106 by 58 by 18mm; that’s a touch smaller than the Xda Atom or Atom Exec, although only in one dimension. Aside from minimal dialling buttons and a five-way selector, the Atom is entirely touchscreen-driven, either via the stylus that sits at the top right hand side of the phone, or a grubby digit in an emergency. More on digit-related issues later.
The Atom Life is an HSDPA-enabled phone running Windows Mobile 5.0, which gives you access to the usual Windows-centric office applications — Word and its ilk — but then that’s hardly a “fun” set of utilities, and moreover, the same things can be had on considerably cheaper PDA/smartphones than the Atom Life. Where the Atom Life differentiates itself is in a few key hardware and software features with less of an enterprise bent. On the hardware side, it packs a 2-megapixel external camera (along with a front-mounted VGA model for video calls) and SRS WOW HD Stereo speakers, with the claim of offering a surround sound “experience” for your multimedia files. It’s also equipped with an FM radio, if “wacky” morning DJs are your kind of thing.
On the software side, O2 provides a bevy of its own applications. Many of these are still business-centric, but on the “fun” side is O2 MediaPlus. MediaPlus is a catch-all wrapper for the Atom Life’s multimedia prowess, covering your photo, video and musical collections, as well as activating the radio.
For those who drool over technical specifications, the Atom Life is running an Intel XScale PXA 270 — that’ll give you 624MHz of computing power — with 64MB of RAM and 1GB of flash ROM. Networking connectivity is provided via integrated Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 1.2 and infrared for talking to phones from the Jurassic age.
If you’re pondering a smartphone purchase, it’s well worth the time to play around with a couple in a store, especially if you’re looking at models with a touchscreen interface such as the Atom Life. Some users love the minimalist approach of touchscreens. Others find them incessantly fiddly, and the need to pop out the stylus to make calls and perform onscreen selections can become tiresome. It’s such an individual preference thing, however, that we normally wouldn’t mention it — except that it’s a particularly relevant point with the Atom Life, as the main splash screen is packed with information, and above all tiny icons. That’s great for getting across plenty of onscreen information, but virtually mandates the use of the stylus. We lost track of the number of times that an errant finger jab led to the wrong selection being made. Thankfully, a spare stylus is included in the box.