There’s a lot of different features bundled into this phone so I’ll do my best to have a look at all of them, test them out and see how they compare to a standard smart phone. My day to day handset is a Sony Ericsson Satio, a phone that at this point is a few years old so should make for a good match against this cut back Smart Watch, phone, thing.
Navigation and UI
For such a small touch screen (1.46”) with a low resolution (176 x 132 Pixels) I diidn’t have too much trouble navigating around; when using the stylus and taking my time that is. It’s pretty accurate, though there was the odd hiccup as even with the stylus occasionally commands would be missed or it would mistake a touch as being slightly above or below where I tapped. The real problem comes if you try and use it at speed or without the stylus, completely removing the quick and easy way its portrayed as a wrist mounted phone. Navigation becomes nigh on impossible. This seems silly as the stylus is an accessory that most phone users did away with years ago. Trying to move through menus without great deliberation is an exercise in patience as you will constantly select the wrong item.
This is also certainly not a product for the older techies out there. If you don’t have 20/20 vision you’ll be holding this thing up to your face to be able to read it. Everything is very small and the white on black design doesn’t really do much to break up the blocks of dark colour. This is a colour display, you’d have hoped SWAP might have made this a bit more vibrant.
I also found it quite annoying how laggy the UI was. Even the basic menu system would stutter as you navigated it. It’s not particularly intuitive either. I would say I’m quite a well versed tech user but I got confused by the layout sometimes. Little things like not having a “Done” function on text input. You needed to press “options” and then “done”. Little oversights like this really impact the usage experience, especially for new users.
I found the input of numbers to be the most frustrating part of the UI. When you typed a number in the largest options were to save to your contact details, the call button being tiny. There are so many weird oversights in the way that this phone’s interface is laid out I wonder who put it together. Could SWAP not have used some sort of system already put together by companies that have been doing this for years?
With the small screen size and lack of colour it very much feels like using my Nokia phones from early 2000s like the 3310. My first phone, I’d take that over the SWAP as it stands. At least that was quick to navigate.
I’d love to give a really in depth view of calls and texts, but I actually found it incredibly hard to get any signal with the Rebel. I do live in a relatively remote area, but in places where my own phone would have no issue making calls and receiving texts, there was often only emergency services available on the Rebel. I did travel around with it too but most places I went had very little in the way of usable signal. I did make one call that eventually went through and the sound quality wasn’t bad, but I found that I had to speak quite loudly to be heard on the small mic hidden within the silicon frame. The hands free volume of the Rebel was good enough for me to hear my correspondant well enough, but I’ll be honest speaking into your wrist is no way near as cool as it looks when the secret service does it in a movie. Perhaps a bluetooth headset would work better with this?
Texting was easier though SWAP decided that instead of utilising the screen space well and using a traditional phone keypad, that they would cram a full QWERTY setup as the default option. I would love to change this but you can’t. It’s far too small for most people to see and mistakes are rife if you don’t use the stylus.
Internet access was unfortunately untestable. I don’t live in a 3G area so was forced to use traditional GPRS, but unfortunately O2 don’t support this handset so no settings were available. Why is there no WiFi support?
The built in camera isn’t bad but its hardly amazing considering the beautiful pictures we’re able to capture on modern smartphones. As you can see I really enjoyed testing this product:
Considering the resolution of the image is only 320×240, the quality as I said isn’t bad. But my Satio that I’ve had for two years takes them at something around 3500×2500. I know this is a watch phone and I know it’s smaller, but so were most phones 10 years ago and they sucked by today’s standards. Now the Rebel does go up to 640×480 in size, but that doesn’t improve things much.
Video is similarly poor in quality and with so few frames per second its massively laggy and blurry:
I’d liked to have tested several other features of the Rebel but very few of them seemed to work. Every time I made an audio recording and attempted to play it back it told me it was an invalid format. When I tried to listen to music I was told the headphones wern’t plugged in when they clearly were, the same with the radio.
You’ll laugh but there’s actually an eBook reader on this thing. Who would want to read a book on a screen this small?
Forget about sending large media files to or from this phone, its transfer time is horrendous. I don’t know how USB 2 could operate so slowly. I tried to send a 700MB file over (since the memory card is 2GB, you’d think it could handle such things) but I gave up after over an hour. Smaller files around a few hundred kilobytes in size are fine, but even sending an 8MB file takes upwards of 30 seconds. I have never encountered a USB 2.0 device with such poor performance. Presumably it’s the onboard processor that’s bottlenecking it, and this is the reason for no USB 3.0 inclusion.
How much do you think this thing goes for eh? £30? £50? Nope, £180. Holy %&*&*%$.