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Setting the phone up to work with your email account is pretty straightforward, but despite the similarity in looks to BlackBerry’s devices, the Rio doesn’t support push email. Instead, you have to manually check for new emails or set the phone up to automatically do a check every five minutes. The email application is also a bit basic, as it doesn’t support HTML email, for example
It’s a similar story with the phone’s web browser. It does the job, but it’s quite slow. Pages can take an age to load and it’s very sluggish when you’re trying to scroll around a site. In fact, the phone’s software generally feels a little bit rough around the edges. The menu structure can be a tad confusing as there are frequently multiple ways of accessing the same feature and the developers seem to have forgotten to add touch input to some random areas of the user interface.
The phone is no media star either. It doesn’t have a YouTube player, for example, and neither can it play YouTube video’s in its native web browser. Nevertheless, there is a standard 3.5mm headphone jack on the right hand edge so you can use your own cans without needing to employ any fiddly adaptors as you do with many budget handsets. And while the music player app is a bit basic, the phone does at least have an onboard FM tuner.
Sadly, the camera isn’t anything to write home about. Its only uses a 2-megapixel sensor and lacks more advanced features like autofocus and a flash. However, there is a small micro-mirror on the rear to help you frame self-portraits and the camera app gives you control of settings like white balance. As you would expect, though, the shots from the camera don’t look all that hot. Despite the presence of a night mode, shots taken under low light are so dark they’re practically unusable and even in good lighting conditions pictures lack detail and the lens tends to slightly smudge parts of the picture.
Cheaper handsets usually suffer when it comes to battery life too, but the Rio isn’t too bad in this area. We got just under two days from it for a mixture of calls, web browsing and emailing. However, if you make really heavy usage of the web browser you can expect battery life to drop off considerably.
Call quality was impressive though. The handset’s earpiece is louder than most yet still manages to deliver crisp, distortion-free audio. The Rio also has a hands-free mode that worked pretty well too, although as the speaker isn’t all that loud it’s probably best used in quieter environments rather than a noisy car.
The Rio is a good-looking budget messaging phone, with a decent line-up of features and a neat widget-based home screen. However, the phone’s software feels a tad rough around the edges and can make the handset frustrating to use. As a result, we think those after a budget messaging device would be better off checking out the likes of Samsung’s Genio Qwerty instead.