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O2 Xda Zest Smartphone review

Niall Magennis



Our Score


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It's been around seven years since O2 launched its Xda range of own branded smartphones, but the freshly squeezed Zest is the first one aimed specifically at Pay and Go users, although it is available on pay monthly too. The Zest also breaks with tradition in that it is actually built by Asus, whereas most other Xda devices are rebadged HTC models. Priced at £249.99 on O2's Pay and Go tariff, the handset is relatively cheap as smartphones go, especially as it packs in a decent range of features including HSDPA support and an onboard GPS chip.

Design-wise, the phone isn't what you'd call a looker. It's more functional than flash, with its wide and thick dimensions making it look rather squat. And while the glossy black finish on the front and back initially looks quite appealing to the eye, it collects more finger prints than the cast of CSI making it quickly look pretty grubby and in need of a wipe down. It's not all bad though, as the handset's small size makes it quite comfortable to hold and O2 has added a simple, but very useful, sliding button on the side that instantly takes the phone in and out of standby mode.

As with most of the current batch of Xdas, the Zest is built around Windows Mobile 6.1. There's plenty of debate about the benefits and draw backs of Windows Mobile: some like its broad range of features, while others hate its unwieldy user interface.

We're certainly not keen on the standard look and feel of Window Mobile, so it was a relief to see that O2 has kitted the Zest out with its own user interface (which is actually a tweaked version of SpB's Mobile Shell). This is essentially an overlay that sits on top of Windows Mobile and presents you with a simplified home screen and a 3D-style menu system with chunky buttons that are easy to poke with your finger. These menus are surprisingly responsive (more so than those found in HTC's similar TouchFlo interface) and actually do a decent job of making Widows Mobile a bit more user friendly.

In fact, the handset is one of the most responsive Windows Mobile handsets we've used recently thanks, no doubt, to it's speedy Marvell TavorP 624MHz processor. Screen updates are pretty much instantaneous and there's very little slow down evident even when you're running programs in the background.

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Oliver Levett

November 27, 2008, 3:49 am

This is by no means the first no HTC XDA device.

Also, I'm intrigued to find special attention payed towards Cybero Voice Speed Dialer, given that it is implemented in virtually every WM6/6.1 ROM dump I've got my hands on.

Would have been nice to see some screen shots of the interface though... Also, I would be interested in a comparison with the HTC Touch 3G (essentially the closest competition for this), and the Touch 3Gs UI.

Alan 6

February 7, 2009, 3:35 am

I have a HTC Touch Dual, and my partner has the XDA Serra, which has 6.1 with the same interface I believe. I do like the interface, but I found it difficult to scroll. The Touch Dual has 6.0 and that also has Cybero Voice Speed Dialer, and I don't believe it is a simple to use as is made out here. Unless it is a different version to what is on the Serra(WM6.1) and the Touch Dual (WM6.0) You have (train it) to record voice tags against each contact and number, and each application you wish to use. The only voice software I have ever found as simple to use as is mentioned here was the Microsoft Voice Commander, where you pressed a dedicated button on the phone, and then just spoke, and the software interpreted your request - for example "What are my next appointments" ... "what is my battery level" and ... "Call x mobile" or "call y home" without any voice tag training at all. Why microsoft discontinued working on the software, I will never know - I believe it is not compatible with WM6. I think it was the best piece of software for mobile phones I ever encountered.

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