The Ice phone is the O2 branded phone, which comes with all their 3G bells and whistles. With it’s smooth white casing, they’re after the fashion buyers, who would otherwise be after a slim Motorola or chic LG Chocolate.
It’s available free on contract and on pay as you go, where it’ll set you back £99.99. It comes with a free bluetooth headset in both cases.
3G is often only added on to some serious handsets, which are noteable for their chunky design and complicated spec (although this is changing with the Samsung Ultra range). O2 are aiming theirs at an entirely different market, which is reflected in their partnerships with the likes of Ebay and Streetmap. It’s not designed to be compatable with their WAP i-mode service, though.
The 3G capabilities are immediately evident on the design of the phone. There’s a camera on the front and the back, the first for video calling and the second for taking photos. Whether said video calling will ever really be used, we’ve yet to find out, but it’s there for those that want it.
It also features Bluetooth, as well as a MicroSD slot. This is essential to take advantage of the media player capabilities, which can play video and music. It’s not a key feature of the phone, as you need to enter the main menu in order to get into it, but again, it’s there for those who want it.
The simplicity of the design is echoed in the menu. There are only 9 options, with a simple grid icon display, although this can be changed. For those who want 3G without a million other option this will work well.
The design is a key seller for this phone, but when you actually get it out of the box, it’s a huge disappointment. The white plastic looks tacky, whilst the candybar styling makes it look like a remote control – a phone masquerading as a tacky remote is not going to be a massive seller. However, this is a complete Marmite phone – some people love it, whilst others hate it, so I’m willing to admit when I’m wrong should this go ahead and be the most popular phone ever sold.
O2 seem to have sacrificed a lot of other functions in the quest to make this a simple 3G phone. There’s no shortcuts, except to the contact list, so you find yourself spending a lot of time going through the menu in order to get to what you want. The camera is also only 1.3 megapixels, and you experience a shutter lag of about 2 seconds, so be prepared for some blurry shots.
The other thing that ensured I’d never use this phone out of choice was the selection of ringtones. I was left mortified every time it rang, having decided that a circus tone was the least offensive of those offered.
The big services they’re pushing with this phone is Ebay and Streetmap. I have to say that despite only having a small screen, the Streetmaps did appear easier to read than on many other devices, with the maps being adjusted so you could get a proper idea of where you were. However, for the amount of effort they’ve put into plugging the Ebay service I was expecting more. Yes, you can enter th ‘My Ebay’ section and check on your auctions, but that’s as far as it goes. There’s no way of bidding on anything, which makes it pretty useless in my eyes. I can’t imagine much worse than being able to check to see you’ve been outbid and then being able to do absolutely sod all about it.
In our opinion
The combination of the design with the lack of features and the awful ringtones means this isn’t a phone that I’ll be pocketing any time soon. However, what I see as a lack of features others will see as a simple user interface, and the design will appeal to others as being clean and curvy. However, even with these differences, O2’s 3G service isn’t enough of a draw for this to be chosen in that most competitive of markets, the mobile one.