Reg review While the likes of Motorola and HTC have become well-known for their Windows Mobile-based smart phones, Mio has kept a lower profile. The reason lies in its decision to focus on building a channel of specialist retailers and distributors rather than try to sell through the mobile networks, from whom the vast majority of Western handset buyers currently acquire their phones.
For Mio, there's the benefit of not having to jump through hoops for the networks - companies that all expect a lot from their suppliers. With it comes the risk that buyers - if they ever hear about the company - will assume its products somehow don't make the grade. But on the basis of a couple of weeks spent with Mio's latest offering, the tri-band 8390, it's clear that's not the case.
The 8390 is the successor to Mio's first smart phone, the Windows Mobile 2002 for Smartphones-based 8330. The newer model retains the older handset's clamshell form-factor, but runs Windows Mobile 2003.
New it may be, but the 8390 has a slightly retro feel. For a clamshell, it's a large handset, coming at 9.9 x 5.1 x 2.4cm. Closed, it's as thick as my Nokia 6600, and only slightly shorter and narrower. Compared to the Sendo M550 clamshell I used earlier this year, it's positively giant. To be fair, the Sendo isn't a smart phone and can get away with a smaller screen, but it's nonetheless an exemplar of how small clamshells can get. At 125g, the 8390 weighs the same as the 6600 and 25 per cent more than the Orange SPV c500.
But it's certainly well made. In your hand, the 8390 is solid - its weight makes it feel robust rather than heavy. The lid sports the usual compact status display, along with the obligatory digicam, in this case a VGA job with self-portrait mirror. Opening the phone reveals the 2.2in, 176 x 220, Smartphone-standard screen and large, widely-spaced keypad. The display is a good one - nicer, I'd say, than the c500's - and capable of showing 260,000-odd colours. The keypad isn't bad, either, with keys and five-way navigator control barely raised above the surface of the phone's body but still easy to reach and press, with a firm feedback.
The keys are capped with transparent plastic, with each decal printed below, giving the keyboard a quality feel and the user the knowledge that there's no paint to rub off. Indeed, the whole handset has a superior feel to it. Painting the plastic casing silver isn't exactly new or innovative from a design perspective, but Mio has done a good job to prevent it from feeling and looking cheap.
The clamshell opens smoothly and is not only lightly spring-loaded to keep it closed, but the lid nicely locks into place when fully open. Behind the screen sits the short antenna stub, infrared port and a bung-covered earphone socket, though it takes a 2.5mm jack rather than the standard 3.5mm and is intended more for the bundled headset than quality stereo earphones - despite Mio's assertion that this is a multimedia device.