I've been using the O2 Cocoon as my main phone for a few weeks now, and I'm fairly happy with it. After covering the design of the phone and the music features previously, I'll wrap up by covering the rest of the features.
As I said before, it's a good phone. In particular, the One Big Distinguishing Feature -- the external display -- does work quite well. I do, however, with they'd put a "clock" button on the outside. I haven't worn a watch in about ten years, since I got a mobile with a built-in clock (yes, those used to exist). As a result, I use my mobile like a pocket watch. In fact, I probably use my phone more as a watch than as a phone.
On the plus side, the nice big external display works well... except in sunlight as mentioned in Part 1. However, it's not always on: it only stays lit for a few seconds, unless it's externally powered. So, to check the time you have to open the phone, which defeats the purpose of the external display. The alternative is to fiddle with the music controls, which almost works: the clock appears after scrolling messages like, "HELLO, I LOVE YOU - THE DOORS - PAUSED". A simple "check time" button would be more useful.
I was discussing the LG Shine with my sister the other day. One thing she mentioned was the number of button presses to send a text message. With her old Sony Ericsson, it was just a few presses (plus the message itself), whereas the LG Shine had a minimum of eight or so. This was a sign of poor UI design, I guess. I remember that one of the reasons Boo.com failed in the old days was the ridiculously long and confusing path to a successful purchase. Same with the Shine.
I'm not sure what procedural criteria she used for testing this, but the Cocoon seems to be slightly better than the Shine in this regard. There were a few bloopers, such as the slightly silly configuration of the shortcut bar. Like many other new phones, the Cocoon allows you to set up a few shortcuts on the main screen to commonly used functions. In my opinion, a well laid-out UI shouldn't need this capability, but hey. Well, in their wisdom, O2 have chosen an odd choice of shortcuts to start with, such as another link to the music player, as if the four buttons down the side weren't enough.
There's also no easy link to the camera. Some phones, such as my old Nokia 6680, have an external lens cover, which activates the camera function when opened. Others, such as the Shine and the Nokia 6280 I was using before the Cocoon, have an external shutter button which activates when held down.
The Cocoon has no such button. Instead, it's five or six clicks through the main menu.
Suffice to say, one of the first things I did was to change the shortcuts.
On the subject of the camera, I must say I think the Cocoon's 2MP camera is not too shabby at all. It's still just a tiny little chip like other normal phone cameras, but it doesn't seem to suffer from the "stripey graininess" that seemed to affect most mobile phone cameras I've used. There's some chromatic aberration, the camera controls are a bit clunky, the shutter is a bit slow, and it's all a little bit soft and blurry, but other than that it does the job.
That sums up the Cocoon quite well. It does the job. It could do the job better, but it doesn't make me want to violently turn it into little white and black pieces, and believe me, some phones will do that to you.
So, what's the big thing I really don't like about it?
The Getting Started guide that comes with the Cocoon is quite upbeat: "O2 Cocoon is also Mac friendly", it says. Bollocks.
What they mean is that you can mount the phone as a USB drive, and then use the Finder to drag music files to/from it. Later on in the book, they reveal that you need third-party software to use iTunes to manage it, and "Unfortunately it is not possible to synchronise calendar or contacts."
This is a big problem for me. I damned the LG Shine for lack of Mac support, and I must do the same for Cocoon. Both of these phones are oriented towards posers, especially the white and curvy Cocoon. So why alienate the biggest gadget posers of all, us Mac users?
You see, one very nice feature of Mac OS X is that it comes with iSync: a framework for data syncronisation between the Mac and devices such as mobile phones. Out of the box it supports a fairly wide range of phones, and although Apple can be quite slow at updating that list, when it works, it really does work.
With a few clicks, I can have my address book and iCal calendar synched with my phone, and vice versa. No software installation is necessary, and all it requires is pairing the phone over Bluetooth.
This capability alone has brought sales to Apple, as more than one person has seen me sync my phone and iPod and wanted that ease-of-use enough to go down to Apple Regent Street and buy an iBook.
For PC users, an third-party utility is necessary. In my experience, the quality of this software ranges from terrible to bearable, but never quite as good as iSync. I've had the embarrassing misfortune of wrecking a client's Windows installation trying to get such software running on their PC.
The Cocoon allegedly comes with its own software suite which includes this functionality. I'm not really in a position to test or evaluate Windows software, so I can't tell you how good it is.
What I can tell you is that a manufacturer can add support for their phone to iSync merely by creating a configuration file or two. They just need to specify the particular oddities and specifics of their firmware to iSync, and then it takes care of the rest.
This means that when a new Nokia, Motorola or Sony Ericsson phone is released, there's a good chance that an enterprising hacker can whip together a usable config file in a few minutes, just by finding a similar supported phone and tweaking the file.
Since iSync doesn't support any LG or Pantech phones, this quick hack route isn't possible for the phones I've reviewed. However, with enough technical information on the Cocoon, I reckon a fully functional driver could be put together in a week or so. Certainly far less time than was spent on the PC Suite.
I contacted O2 about this issue, and got the following response:
Although O2 are committed to Mac support we are unable to support iSync at this moment in time. However it is possible for Mac users to still update and change their music by dragging and dropping files to and from the phone.
We are actively investigating iSync support for both Cocoon and all future O2 branded devices.
This is admittedly better than the lack of reply to a similar query I sent to LG, but until I see working iSync support, I'm not completely convinced.
In the meantime, I'm stuck with transferring my contacts via the USIM from my old phone, so they're all truncated, divided and generally munged.
I've made purchase decisions based solely on iSync compatibility (or lack thereof) before. I didn't buy my Nokia 6680 until there was iSync support for it. Looking at the web stats for my LG Shine review I can tell you that I'm not alone in thinking this is important. There are enough hits coming from Google searches such as "LG Shine isync", "LG Shine Mac" and "shine phone isync doesn't work" for me to assume that someone would be fairly popular if they hacked such a file together for the Shine, and I reckon the same would be true for the Cocoon.
So, hurry up, O2. Demand iSync compatibility from your OEM, or at least demand the technical information necessary for third-parties to add it. Talk to Apple and see how they can help.
Anyway, on that note, I'll wrap up.
I'm going to carry on using the Cocoon. All things considered, it's an above average phone with some very useful features. I still don't think it's as good as they think it is, but it's a darn sight better than some of the other phones I've used in recent years. When I get around to it, I'll try shoehorning my contacts into it, using one-by-one Bluetooth if necessary.
I'm also eager to see what they come out with next.