Recognising that Windows Mobile isn't the easiest operating system to master, mobile newcomer Velocity Mobile developed the Velocity Odyssey interface (somewhat similar to HTC's TouchFlo), where you can access your frequently used applications through a shortcuts toolbar and perform actions with various finger swipes. The whole idea behind it was to create an easy-to-use experience and offer an extra level of personalisation to match your smart phone to your lifestyle.
Well, Velocity Mobile has started shipping its first smart phone, the Velocity 103, and we were lucky to get our hands on a review unit. It is available through online retailers as an unlocked GSM phone for around £320.
Like the latest touchscreen smart phones, the Velocity 103's design largely centres around the display and features minimal tactile buttons. The 103 is a fairly attractive smart phone with a sleek, all-black chassis and compact frame (112mm tall by 56mm wide by 13mm deep and weighing 128g). It is slightly larger and heavier than the HTC Touch Diamond, but has a solid construction and nice soft-touch finish on the back.
The star of the show is the Velocity 103's 71mm (2.8-inch) VGA touchscreen. With a 262,000 colour output and 640x480-pixel resolution, the display is a feast for your eyes, as images and text look amazingly sharp and vibrant. You can, of course, customise the Today screen with various background images, themes, adjust the backlight, and more.
Unfortunately, the Velocity 103 suffers from the same fate of the original HTC Touch, in that it has poor text entry methods. You get a full Qwerty keyboard, but it's the teeny, tiny version that requires you to use the stylus, so this phone definitely isn't the best for messaging fanatics.
As is done in the HTC Touch series with the HTC TouchFlo 3D user interface, Velocity Mobile takes advantage of the touchscreen and offers a proprietary UI to provide a more personal and simpler way to use your device -- in theory, anyway. This so-called Velocity Odyssey interface is somewhat similar to TouchFlo in that you can perform certain actions with finger swipes and access numerous applications with a single touch.
To start, flick upwards from above the Velocity logo to bring up a single line of applications, where you can scroll left to right and then select with a tap. Alternatively, you can press the toolbar shortcut on the left side of the phone -- we found the response time of the touchscreen to be a bit slow.
The differentiating factor between Velocity Odyssey and TouchFlo is that you can add and remove applications to the toolbar on the Velocity 103. With a longer swipe of your finger (from bottom to top), you can access a full menu of programs. To add a shortcut to the tray, just tap and hold an icon and then you can drag it up to the tray; and it's the same idea for removing an item. We really like that you get so much customisation and aren't limited to certain applications, as with the Samsung Omnia.
All that said, we had some major complaints about the Odyssey UI. Though it's designed to make the Windows Mobile smart phone easier to use for all types of people, it doesn't quite succeed. Right out of the box, it's not clear that the shortcuts menu is available to you. It's hidden and we only knew about it because we were given a demo beforehand. For a new user, we'd imagine you'd have to read through the user's manual on the software CD to even be aware of its existence. We would much prefer the toolbar to be present on the screen.
Below the display, you get Talk and End keys and a trackball navigator (a la RIM BlackBerry Pearl). You can press the trackball to select an item, but we had some trouble since it was set fairly deep beneath the phone's surface, so do note.
The left spine holds a camera activation key, a volume rocker and the aforementioned toolbar key, while there's a microSD expansion slot on the right -- but to access it, you have to take off the back cover, open the protective flap and insert the card. On the bottom of the unit, you have a mini USB port, a back cover release switch, a 2.5mm headset jack and the stylus. There's a power button and lock on top and the camera lens is located on the back along with a self-portrait mirror and speaker.