The Rio is Orange’s latest own branded handset targeted at those who are addicted to messaging, but can’t quite stretch to higher asking prices of today’s smartphones. The Rio’s full QWERTY keyboard means it’s competing head on with the likes of the INQ Chat 3G and Samsung Genio Qwerty, but with its sub-£60 price point (on PAYG) it also undercuts both of those models.
There’s no prize for guessing the design inspiration for the handset as it looks strikingly similar to BlackBerry’s Curve 8520. The arrangement of the buttons under the landscape screen is almost identical and even the keyboard layout is quite similar. However, the Rio doesn’t have the optical trackpad that’s found on BlackBerry’s handset, but instead makes do with a traditional clickable D-pad.
You can pick up the Rio in either girly pink or more manly black. Naturally we opted for the black version, which has a glossy finish with some chrome highlights running around the edge. The phone is pleasant enough to look at and despite the fact that it’s constructed entirely from plastic it actually feels relatively sturdy.
The Rio may lack the optical trackpad featured on BlackBerry’s latest range, but it does trump BlackBerry’s models by adding a touchscreen. This uses resistive rather than capacitive technology so it isn’t as responsive to finger presses as we would have liked. Moreover, the phone’s interface doesn’t always make the best use of touch control, as we'll see later. The keyboard, however, is much more impressive. In fact, it’s one of this phone’s best features. The keys are well spaced and give a small click when pressed, providing good feedback when you’re typing on them with your fingers and thumbs. The layout is well thought out, too, with a decent-sized space bar and dedicated keys for the full stop and comma.
Unfortunately, when it comes to connectivity the Rio is found somewhat lacking, as there’s no Wi-Fi or 3G support. As a result, you’re stuck with slower GPRS and EDGE data speeds for web browsing and picking up email, which is hardly ideal.
The phone’s user interface is similar to Samsung’s Touchwiz systems. There are three different home screens to switch between by swiping your finger left or right across the display. There’s also a pull-out tab on the left-hand side of the screen that opens to reveal a column of widgets. These can be dragged and dropped onto any of the three home screens and re-arranged as you wish. There’s a decent selection of widgets on offer including a memo taker, music player and mini contacts book. However, it lacks the social networking applets you’ll find on Samsung’s phones.
As well as the pull-out tab for widgets, there’s also another tab that you can pull up from the bottom of the screen to reveal a scrollable list of shortcuts for stuff like the Windows Messenger client, Opera Mini web browser (which is offered alongside the phones’ native browser) and email client.