Hands on: Sagem Puma Phone review
9th Apr 2010 | 15:55
Budget phone powered by the sun - and a big cat
Hands on with the Puma Phone
We recently managed to snag some quality time with the soon-to-be-released Puma Phone to see if sports branding could actually co-exist with a decent handset.
The first thing we noticed about this phone is that it actually seems pretty well put together - a compact handset that sits nicely in the palm.
The polished black plastic doesn't feel too cheap (although we're not sure it matches the mooted £300 price tag) and we like the styling of the three simple buttons on the front with red finish.
There's a 2.8-inch resistive QVGA screen on the front, which again is a little low budget for our tastes, and does suffer from accuracy issues at times.
On the back we see some pretty cool extras - a 3.2MP camera with LED flash and a solar panel to help keep the battery topped up.
Sadly, it's not able to keep the phone fully charged (especially not in the UK with our seven seconds of sunshine per year), and is to be used more as a back up, but it's still a nice and eco-friendly addition.
There's a microUSB slot as well as a microSD card port on the phone, and a forward-facing VGA camera for video conferencing.
But it's not the hardware that's the major selling point on the Puma Phone, it's more about the quirky firmware and UI underneath.
The main premise is pretty simple - one screen at the centre offers links to user-defined shortcuts, to the left is the 'sportier' style things like run tracking and to the right holds the more obvious phone functions like multimedia and the browser.
The UI runs pretty smoothly under the finger - it suffers from the slight 'resistive screen' lag that pervades all phones but generally swiping left and right is an acceptable experience.
Pressing icons is nice and accurate as well - you once again have to be pretty forceful, but at least the pressure you need to exert is consistent throughout.
We like the little triangle in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen, which when 'pulled up/scrolled back' will open a contextual menu of options to play with.
You can also pull down the top of the screen to reveal a whole bunch of new information - from memory card space to music to Bluetooth connectivity.
The making of Puma World
Puma World is a big part of the experience - we spoke with Jérôme Nadel, executive vice president of marketing and user experience at Sagem, and he told us that while the phone was an important device, it was only one 'layer'.
Accessing Puma World gives information from Twitter, Facebook and also throws in the option to enter the Puma Store and buy specific items from the brand, with things like sportswear as well as accessories for the phone.
We're not totally sold on the concept at this moment in time, as it takes a while to 'move into the cloud' when firing it up - but we'll wait for our full review unit to see whether this is a genuinely useful extra layer.
Other things are a little patchier on the Puma Phone - messaging for example is a bit poor.
Both in portrait and landscape mode the phone seemed to struggle with accuracy - it took a number of attempts to even tap in a word at full speed.
We also struggled to use the web browser compared to other phones - despite being built on the WebKit framework (used on the Android phones and Apple's iPhone) it was slow to operate and a little fiddly.
But the Puma-specific functions seemed pretty cool: the ability to track your runs or bike rides and then upload the data to a server is just the sort of thing we'd be looking for from a phone like this.
And there are things like the large and rolling compass, which makes use of the accelerometer and the internal magnetic device to show off a pretty cool application.
We sadly didn't get to try out the fitness stuff in our early hands on (we would have looked odd running round the room in a swanky club - especially with no GPS to track us) but we're looking forward to such when we get our full review unit.
Another nice touch is the ability to see how much power the solar panel has managed to shove into the phone, and what this has been converted too, be it messages, music played or just general use.
This phone is built on Java, making it an easy device to create and make as a first effort - the good news is that the next iteration is apparently going to be based on Android, according to Nadel, as is most of the future range from Sagem.
We're not sure whether this phone will actually be that useful or just a general gimmick with the solar panel and large sporting focus as a portal to show off Puma - we've had our fingers burned slightly by the likes of the Adidas/Samsung SGH-F110 miCoach sports phone in the past.