O2 is first to market with a device running Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC Phone Edition, the version of Microsoftâ€™s PDA software which supports mobile connectivity. This essentially means there is system level support for GSM and GPRS communications, built in controls for the radio, some SIM management features, a phone dialler and some tweaks to appropriate Pocket PC applications, such as the ability to initiate calls and SMS messages from within Contacts.
The antenna that protruded from the top of the casing of the original XDA is now hidden inside, making the shell of this PDA larger than the average, though not overly so. It is also weighty at 190g, and, as it is intended to be your phone as well as your PDA is not best suited to those who like to carry a small and light phone on some occasions.
There is 128MB of RAM, the most youâ€™ll find on any PDA at present, and an additional 14MB of ROM into which to save key data in a spot which will protect it from complete drainage of the battery. If you need even more storage, and SD card slot is on hand. The processor, Intelâ€™s PXA 263 running at 400MHz was up to everything we threw at it.
Novelty-wise the digital camera takes top spot. It is built into the back of the hardware and capable of taking still images at resolutions up to 640 x 480 and video at two resolutions - 176 by 144 and 128 by 96. When activated with a button on the side of the casing, the screen of the XDA II turns into a viewfinder. Images can be transferred to MMS messages.
Bluetooth is here in case you feel the need to pair with a headset, desktop computer or other device, and O2 adds a few applications of its own to the suite which comes as part of Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC Phone Edition. These include a rather odd little tool for using images with contact information â€“ the very latest in caller ID, we suppose, and viewers for PDF and PowerPoint documents. The key add-on, though, is the O2 Active screen and the tools this points to. This is a replacement for the usual Today Screen and provides one-tap access to a range of online Web and WAP services, including information (news, sports, travel), email tools and media messaging. It is through these that O2 expects to generate some of its revenue from XDA II users and because of them that it can justify the relatively low hardware price. The screen also provides a traditional Today style summary of upcoming tasks and appointments, and any unread messages languishing on the device.
When it comes to performance the XDA II was competent though not outstanding. Quoted battery life of up to 15 hours (3.5 hours talktime, 180 hours standby) was tested by looping MP3s with the screen set always on and telephony and Bluetooth turned off. We got four hours 31 minutes of life, some way short of expectations. You will undoubtedly get less life if you make a lot of data calls or need to use Bluetooth for extended periods. The good news for anyone needing their PDA to function for extended periods is that the battery is removable. There is even space in the docking cradle for charging a spare.
The XDA II has an attractive feature set. The O2 Active range of services has appeal for both business and leisure use, the camera may also fare well in both worlds, and O2 has come up with a very competitive price. Do note though, that once you have a connected device like this, you will almost certainly spend plenty of cash using the connected features.