Helio Fin review: Helio Fin

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Helio Fin

3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good The Helio Fin is an extremely thin phone with an impressive feature set that includes a 3.0-megapixel camera, a music player, built-in GPS, EV-DO support, direct media uploads to Flickr and YouTube, and more. It also has great call quality.

The Bad The Helio Fin has a tiny external display. It lacks a self-portrait mirror, a dedicated camera key on the side, and a dedicated speakerphone key. It also has a flat keypad that's unpleasant to use.

The Bottom Line The Helio Fin is perhaps too thin for its own good, with several design compromises that place slimness over usability. If you can look past these flaws, however, the Fin is a feature-packed phone with excellent performance.

7.3 Overall
  • Design 6.0
  • Features 8.0
  • Performance 8.0

Helio is one of those rare MVNOs that has captured some of the spotlight away from the major carriers with its hipper-than-thou ad campaigns, slick design philosophy, and tricked-out handsets. From the curvy Helio Kickflip to the dual-slider Helio Ocean, Helio is set to make waves in the MVNO pool with phones that stand out from the rest. Its most recent handset, the Helio Fin, is no different. Helio's first flip phone, the Samsung-made Fin, is also supposedly the thinnest flip phone in the country. It has a tiny OLED external screen, a startlingly slim profile, a truly flat keypad, and a style that is, sadly, rather underwhelming. That said, its treasure trove of Helio-approved features, like the ability to upload media directly to Flickr and YouTube, plus a brand-new GPS application courtesy of Garmin, saves it from being too ordinary. We would probably advise the finger-friendly Helio Drift or Helio Ocean over the Fin, but if you must have thin above all else, then the Fin is a good choice. Its MSRP is $365, but you can get it for $175 with service and a discount offer.

No question about it, the Helio Fin is one thin phone. Measuring only 0.45-inch thick, the Fin is the Kate Moss of skinny handsets, making it the thinnest flip phone in North America at the time of its release. But, we hate to say, the phone looks rather ordinary despite its slim figure. Its chassis is a businesslike blue, there's nothing too exciting about its wide rectangular shape (about 4.06 inches long and 2.04 inches wide), and the small OLED display on the front is disappointing to say the least. Though the display does show the typical date, time, signal, and battery strength information, as well as caller ID, it is just way too small. It can't support photo caller ID, and can't be used as a camera viewfinder.

The Fin has a tiny external OLED screen.
Above the display sits a camera lens, with no sign of a flash or self-portrait mirror anywhere. The left spine is home to a volume rocker and charger jack, while the microSD card slot is inconveniently located behind the battery. We were also disappointed with the lack of a dedicated camera key on the side, making self-portraits highly uncomfortable to take. As for the overall feel of the phone, we do like the cool metallic surface and its lightweight 3.35 ounce heft. It fits fine in the hand and when held up to the ear. That said, its skinny profile does make it a tad tedious to hold for long periods of time.

The Fin's microSD card slot is located behind the battery.
Flip open the phone and you'll find the Fin's saving grace as far as design goes; its large 2.3-inch 262,000-color QVGA display. Images look sharp and colorful, and Helio's graphical menu interface really shows it off. As on all Helio phones, the menu icons are arranged in a circle, making for easy navigation. You can adjust the backlight time, the brightness, and the dialing font style, as well as font sizes. You can also choose to overlay the home screen with a clock or calendar.

The Fin has a very flat keypad.

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