The O2 Atom life may be one of the better smartphones we’ve tested, however we think it’s aimed at the wrong market. O2 has managed to take its suite of Windows Mobile 5 extras and cram them into a very fast and good looking lifestyle phone. But its form factor and sheer speed are of most benefit to business users.
The lifestyle elements of the phone translate to a better shape that feels grippier and less fragile than other smartphones. Beyond this, two small speakers (the same ones used by inconsiderate people to demonstrate ringtones to their friends on public transport at full volume), some good media management software and a fast processor round out the lifestyle components of the Atom Life.
The interface is standard Windows mobile 5 fare; however a number of welcome O2 extras have been layered on top of it. A proprietary media management system tracks down media files, which is good news for those who take an ad-hoc approach to their media management. A 2.5mm wired headset socket is built-in, which means that music can’t be played back through wired headphones, however stereo Bluetooth is available.
Despite running on Windows Mobile 5, the device is surprisingly snappy thanks to its 624MHz Intel Xscale processor. The only times we found ourselves waiting for the device to react to our commands was when using the camera, which took slightly longer to load than other two-megapixel camera phones we’ve used. The camera is thankfully complemented by an LED-based flash.
We averaged roughly four hours of talk time between charges, which is respectable for a Windows Mobile 5 device. The phone can be charged with a standard Mini-USB cable, and as a stopgap solution between proper charges this method works quite well. Using the standard wall charger is much faster. Battery life is eroded quickly by using features such as media playback, Bluetooth and 3G features. We were expecting a little better, but this is not a huge problem in light of the processor’s speed.
Although you can use your finger to prod your way around the interface, using the stylus is the only accurate way to access all of the phone’s features. You’ll need to use it when typing on the QWERTY keyboard, which is not only faster than predictive text but also suggests words as you type them.
All the standard smartphone features you’d expect are here, such as push email and the portable office suite. They just benefit from the speed of the Atom Life. Depending on how you use the extra features and treat your battery, it’s a good choice.