Our Verdict reviews include an opinion from the end-user, the person who will have to live with the phone day in and day out. There was a queue to get hold of the PEBL, but the editor himself won out. (Ah, the sensation of power …)
So it’s finally here – and if the RAZR was the iconic phone of 2005, all straight edges and crisp lines, the PEBL looks a good bet to be one of the must-have mobiles for 2006. It’s just so tactile – smooth oval looks, stealth-bomber black, a kind of soft-touch finish, understated and elegant.
(Incidentally, the velvety black – apparently called ‘licorice softfeel’ – isn’t the only colour option. Reportedly there’s also a burnished-steel gunmetal, which looks good and blokey in our pic here; and for the ladies there’s a dramatic deep red-pink one called carmine.)
Build quality looks good, too. The clamshell has a solid dual hinge that means it opens and closes smoothly with one hand (slide the top cover down slightly with your thumb and the hinge takes over to flip up the top). The RAZR-style flat keypad won’t suit everyone, but it reeks of quality.
There’s a nifty vertical external display which makes a virtue of its simplicity: black-and-white, just 32 x 64 pixels and displaying time, battery strength, and reception status with big characters. Some people in the office thought this was a bit naff; others really liked it.
In the top edge there’s a mini-USB port for synchronizing with a PC; this doubles as the charging port. The soft keys along the left and right edges are inconspicuous but work well – for volume adjustment for earpiece and ringer volumes during calls, message recording and voice dialling.
So it’s a great fashion accessory. How about the PEBL as a mobile phone?
Reception was ok, nothing special. Voice quality was good in both directions, though. The screen is a lovely 262-colour 176×220 TFT that is exceptionally quick to change the display. The keypad takes a little getting used to, especially if you aren’t immediately wowed by the flat design, but the keys are big enough for precise texting and dialling.
It uses iTap predictive text input rather than T9, and we like iTap. The current best-guess is shown at the bottom of the screen while you’re typing, along with possible variants for you to select; and iTap is clever enough to remember which of those variants you choose, subsequently offering them automatically – no need to enter words into the dictionary as with T9.
Most of the extras are ok rather than exceptional. This is a 2.5G phone with Bluetooth and a VGA camera for video capture. There’s WAP 2.0 and email, voice dialling, picture caller-ID, polyphonic and MP3 ringtones, and more.
But it is only a VGA camera, a mere 0.3 megapixels. There’s no music-playing – just as well, since the internal memory is a mere 5MB and you don’t get any memory card slot. The external display is ok, but frankly it’s stylish rather than perfectly functional: splitting the time display across two lines, for instance, is a bit clumsy. Battery life could be better: max four hours talk time, up to 180 on standby.
So it has most of the same technology as the RAZR – only in a much bigger and more bulbous shape. And does that make it a dog? Not a bit of it: the PEBL is a wow phone that majors on aesthetics and high-quality materials, a phone that begs to be held and stroked. I’m stroking mine even now.
Strengths: Looks, feel, build quality, screen, predictive texting, general wow factor
Weaknesses: Battery life, very average camera
Overall: The first must-have phone of 2006
Would I buy one? Damnit, I’ll have two. And a spare for the car.
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