Around the edges of the main body, surrounding the screen, and on the sides, are the kinds of buttons we usually associate with Pocket PCs. There are, for example, OK and Start Menu buttons to the left of the screen. On the left edge is a volume rocker, a 3.5mm headset jack, mini USB power connector and the VGA out port. (Incidentally, the printed manual suggests the provided headset needs the mini USB connector, but our Ameo shipped with a headset that employed a 3.5mm jack).
On the right edge is the main power button and one which on a short press starts the Comm Manager (for controlling Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GSM connections), and on a long press lets you make a voice recording. There is also a camera control button here. Speakers sit on the left and right edges too.
Your SIM goes in a slot on the bottom edge - this is the same slot that houses the battery and SD card.
There are couple of more unusual controls on the front of the Ameo. To the left of the screen is a mini joystick which works very well for navigation control. To the right of the screen is a button which launches the built in VueFLO software. This works with the included Opera Web browser and lets you control up and down scrolling by tilting the Ameo. It is a weird system, and I can’t say I prefer it to simply dragging the page around, but it works well enough. And yes, I did say the Opera Web browser. Opera’s great plus over the also included Internet Explorer is that it allows for multiple Web page to be opened at the same time, accessible via tabs – something that’s extremely useful when desktop real estate is at a premium.
Battery life is hugely important with a device like this. Its 3G, Wi-Fi and GPS pretensions mean it may need to work hard away from mains power. The usual test, playing music non stop with the screen forced on, got me seven and a half hours of music from a full battery charge. I’d say this is respectable, but I would (as always) have liked more.
As I said at the outset, the Ameo is not an ideal everyday smartphone, it’s simply too large for that. Nor can it replace a notebook computer, it’s not sophisticated enough for that. Indeed, while I think it is clever and I do like it a lot, I am not sure it will find a place on many desks, or in many pockets.