After scoring a few units of our own to play with, we talked about the Helio Ocean a ton last week—eventually posting an extensive features review that shouldn't be missed by anyone seriously considering a smartphone.
So for this week's Frankenreview, we're giving you a eight other opinions (that obviously don't matter as much as ours) on the Helio Ocean. The NY Times, Forbes, Crunchgear, CNET, Slashgear, Mobileburn, PCMag and the Wall Street Journal all have something to say about the phone. So hit the jump and wonder how it's possible that only one out of nine takes gave the Ocean a numerical score...(SPOILER: CNET, and it was 83)
While smart-phone makers cower in the looming shadow of the June release of the iPhone from Apple, a small cellphone service provider called Helio is introducing a device that is getting plenty of buzz.
The phone's dual sliding keypad design is nifty: Slide out a standard number pad from its heel for dialing, or a large, QWERTY keypad from its left side for text messaging or speedy Web browsing. Ocean's software effortlessly switches the display from portrait to landscape mode, depending on which keypad is in use.
The main comparison here is going to be with the Sidekick.... The Sidekick is also about the size of my cat—and about as practical in a pocket. The Ocean is considerably smaller yet it still maintains all of the core features of the Sidekick and it manages to contribute a few of its own to the fray (like GPS).
The bubbled keys have a nice soft-touch texture that make it a joy to type on. Yet, we still had some complaints. When compared to other keyboards like that on the T-Mobile Sidekick 3, the Ocean's buttons may feel a bit too crowded.
...some of the features are limited, for instance, the much-vaunted GPS feature is very useful (and the Buddy Beacon lets you keep track of your Helio owning friends), but it's missing some features that you would get on even a cheap dedicated GPS receiver; It can't track where you've been and doesn't provide turn by turn directions.
I discovered two features that I really don't like: not being able to turn off the audio notification for all incoming and outgoing messages without having to put the entire device in silent mode...[and] not being able to hide offline contacts in AIM.
One of the best aspects of the Ocean has to be its large 2.4", 262k color TFT display; it is a real stunner.... The backlight, when configured at its brightest level, is certainly strong enough to overcome the sun in my outdoors tests.
There's an MP3 player in here, too. The Ocean quickly detected my cardful of music and let me play songs by album, artist, or track name. I could drop songs onto the phone using mass storage mode with a PC or a Mac, or sync with Windows Media Player on a PC.
...the Ocean is an innovative, thoughtfully designed smart phone that advances the state of the art.... The software is smart, too.
Our final recommendation would be: buy it, but only after you consider our caveats...you can't sync your calendar to your Mac or PC...[using the keyboard] is like walking in an attic crawlspace—cramped and uncomfortable.
I'll admit it, before the Ocean came out I'd basically written Helio off (They did tell me to "not call us a phone company," after all. But if they can convince enough customers to pay $65/month for 500 minutes or $85 a month for 1000 minutes of Sprint service, it's going to be with heralded exclusives like the Ocean. Because trust me: The same strategy will work just fine for Cingular/AT&T.