Avenir Telecom says: “More memory please.”

Reviewing this handset for Mobile Business this month was Avenir Telecom account manager (and webmaster) Anthony Leaton

First Impressions:
Stylistically, the PEBL can be compared to the V3, it’s a phone that really stands out from the crowd. While the RAZR was angular, small and futuristic, the PEBL is the total opposite – its got a much more organic, smooth shape. The phone’s casing feels like a mix of metal and rubber. I felt a subconscious urge to touch this very tactile phone.

It has a solid yet subtle look. The steel flip hinge gives a strong durable feel to the handset. It is a pleasure to hold, easily fitting into the palm of the hand.
The clamshell lid is held down by two very small magnets connecting to metal contacts. Breaking contact with the metal connectors opens the phone. It is quite an interesting concept that is bound to inspire further clamshell designs, though the lid moves slightly off centre after a little use – which suggests there could be issues with extended or rougher use.

The handset has a highly polished interior screen and keyboard. You can literally see your face in the screen. The downside is the smudging of the screen when taking calls.
In use:
The PEBL has a very sensitive keypad. Keying in memos and texts was very easy, though game-playing  was extremely challenging …

The phone’s menu is activated from the central D menu button and is organised into sensible sections. It is possible to setup shortcuts for almost every menu item or function as well as using two soft-keys to bind actions like opening an application.
The internal screen is a very healthy 252K, now becoming the standard of mid and high handsets, but I encountered problems with direct light overhead obscuring the screen. And because of the screen’s shiny appearance, images fade severely in direct sunlight.

The phone’s battery life is impressive. I managed about six hours of talk time in my testing and there was still juice in the stone!
FEATURES:
Being the world’s biggest fan of fast number navigation, I was surprised this was not supported on the handset. The PEBL makes up for this shortfall with voice commands, both for activating applications and for dialing. I successfully experimented in getting the phone to play a selection of MP3s through voice recognition. In store, dealers who can demonstrate this will impress customers with a pretty unique feature.

The PEBL can hold up to an impressive 1000 addressbook entries. The downside: you cannot hold multiple numbers in one record.

Texting is very enjoyable with the PEBL. It has a smart feature that recognizes the way you write words. This technology uses iTap predictive text functionality. This form of texting differs from other handsets that only recognise correct or updated words from the dictionary.

On the top of the phone there’s a mini USB connector. This connects the handset to the PC for synchronization as well as acting as a phone charger. PEBL owners who share media will need to synch the phone and store media on their PC quite regularly, because there is only 5MB of memory.
COMPETITIVE POSITIONING:
Albeit longer in the tooth, the Nokia 7280 has stereo radio, 50MB of internal memory and it is lighter to the touch. The forthcoming Nokia 7380 will be an interesting match as Nokia steps up the style challenge. The PEBL is aimed at style enthusiasts with its ergonomic and tactile casing.

With quad band functionality the PEBL is a fashion phone that can be sold to traveling business executives. Although shoot ‘em up Java games are packaged with this handset, the phone is better suited to delicate and emotionally engaging use. The PEBL will appeal to those attracted by high fashion phones, especially someone who is not a heavy phone or data user.

SALES APPEAL:
With its strong exterior look and subtle, sensitive interior the phone can be sold direct from the in-store dummy handset. A dealer can rattle off its range functionality including instant messaging. Heavy brand support from Motorola in the form of some really creative advertisements means that your customers will recognise this phone; but the PEBL will win over people with its looks and touch alone.

Dealers who can demonstrate voice-command and dialing to their customers with the PEBL in their hand makes this phone appear to be ‘smart’ as well as ‘stylish’.

IN SUMMARY:
I was originally seduced into thinking this was a smart-phone clamshell as well as a good-looker. In fact it is not that well specified. However its unique design will make this a sure-fire winner, particularly for a female audience.

REPORT CARD
Appearance    9/10
Functionality     6/10
Saleability    8/10
Overall    7.5/10

Strengths: Sensitive keypad, ergonomic, extremely sensual to touch, long battery life

Weaknesses: Very low internal memory (and no extendable memory), only standard applications, weak camera/video

Overall: There is not much this handset cannot do. Ok, its memory is not upgradeable: but it’s compact and lightweight, with quad band and Bluetooth/infrared connectivity making this a hard phone to match.

Would I buy one? Probably not (no memory = no go)
Who’s using the phone? Betty Rubble
Calling? Fred Flintstone – asking for some bedrock at 303 Cobblestone Way

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