Cordless phones are widespread, though often they’re not hugely laden with technology. Archos is not the only company to try marrying DECT with Android, but that’s what the Archos 35 Smart Home Phone does. It’s not inexpensive either, coming it at £140. You can get competent DECT handsets for less than £50, where the same cost for the Archos home phone can buy good quality twin DECT systems, with an answering machine. So does it do enough to warrant the price?
Beefed up home phone?
For a home phone, the base specifications are good. Not many home DECT handsets have 8GB of built-in storage and a microSD card slot, or a 1GHz processor for that matter. Nor will you find a 3.5 inch colour screen floating around on too many home phones.
And the DECT credentials are good too. The Archos 35 Smart Home Phone comes with a dock that’ll charge the device, with a separate DECT base station is wired to the phone jack. This means you can have the phone where ever it needs to be, rather than where the phone jack is.
Android’s presence gives you the ability to do things such as listen to music, browse the web, use email, play games, and add third party applications. But, just hold that thought.
It’s important to note that the Android 2.2 version deployed on the Archos phone isn’t complete. There’s no Android Market, but there is thing called AppsLib that offers a subset – albeit a big on, at a thousand apps, but it’s still a subset, just the same. You can install the Android Market, as well as the missing Google Maps, if you are prepared to do a bit of tweaking (OK, go into AppsLib and look for ArcTools).
If you do download third party apps, you might not enjoy using them. For a reason we can’t possibly fathom – OK we can, to keep costs down – Archos has used a resistive screen, rather than a capacitive version. You are made to calibrate the screen when you first switch the handset on, which does feel extremely out of date.
There’s no pinch to zoom, where the responsiveness under the finger is generally woeful, with hard presses needed, instead of the feather-light taps we are used to. Tapping out any kind of text on screen is a nightmare, too. You will, we promise you, need to resort to using a pen tip as a stylus. Because the Home, Back, Menu and Search buttons as well as volume controls, are also touch sensitive, getting around is a real pain.
Under designed, with a saving grace
The screen measures 3.5 inches and yet delivers only 272 x 480 pixels, leaving text and images looking grainy and fuzzy, rather than sharp and clear. The effect is not helped by the very obvious, yet spongy layer that sits on top of the screen.
There’s something else not to like here. The build quality is frankly ropey. The chassis is made of a cheap grey plastic. Rather bizarrely, the DECT base station and charge dock are, by contrast, made from much better quality black plastic with good design lines.
One more thing. While there’s Wi-Fi, there is obviously no 3G support, so don’t think that the Archos 35 Smart Home Phone can double up as a low-cost Android handset, for when you go a-wandering.
We’ve probably saved the best till last here. The Archos 35 Smart Home Phone runs Skype and it has a VGA camera, just above the screen. This means you can make voice and video calls over the internet, which probably saves its grace.
- Runs Skype for voice and video calling.
- Resistive touch-screen; not the full version of Android; expensive.
As an Android handset, the Archos 35 Smart Home Phone has some severe shortcomings, where the resistive touch screen does it no favours at all. If you want to make use of free internet calling via Skype and don’t mind the Android-lite look and feel, the Archos 35 could be worth a look.