It's very rare to see a network produce its own phone from scratch, so we were surprised when we heard about the O2 Cocoon. Conceived by O2 and manufactured by Pantech, this unusual handset offers more than meets the eye.
The O2 Cocoon is currently available for free on a monthly contract of £35, or £160 on a £25 per month contract. Alternatively you can pay £300 to get it on pay as you go.
Joining the cool-in-white bandwagon, the Cocoon comes in a trendy white casing with black sides and interior. It's a little chunky compared to Samsung's Ultra Edition handsets, but not so large it won't fit in your pocket. Unlike many clamshell phones, the Cocoon is curved at the top and bottom creating an oval-shaped profile.
The advantage of having rounded ends is that it slips into a pocket very easily, in a similar way to a smooth pebble. The oval-shaped casing is extremely reminiscent of a 60's egg chair and gives the phone a retro look and feel.
Even more retro is the inside of the Cocoon, which looks dated and a little clunky -- a shame considering how stylish the outside is. That said it is very functional, if not attractive. The screen is relatively large, as is the easy-to-use keypad.
It's worth mentioning that the screen doesn't seem to like direct sunlight too much and is difficult to see in very bright conditions.
On the rather bulky hinge is a useful volume dial that can be controlled from the inside and out, and is much easier to use than traditional up and down volume keys. Equally useful are the dedicated music keys on the side of the Cocoon that let you play your tunes when the clamshell is shut.
The Cocoon comes with a set of hidden LEDs behind the front of the phone. These display the time, incoming caller details and previews of text messages in a cool blue light.
This innovative feature might sound very gimmicky but it's actually useful, particularly when put together with the Cocoon's dock, turning it into a fully fledged alarm clock. A minor niggle that we had with the alarm clock is that the snooze button isn't large enough, but that's probably because we don't like waking up.
If you like lots of features then you won't be disappointed by the Cocoon's offerings. Most impressively, the Cocoon comes with 2GB of on-board memory, which is enough to store up to 500 songs or data in mass storage mode. There's an expandable microSD slot, too, which lets you add up to 2GB of additional memory.
We also like the music player that supports MP3 and AAC files, among others, and displays album art. You can set it to play tracks in shuffle mode and there are options to adjust the equaliser and bass. Controlling your music can be done within the music player's interface or via the dedicated music keys on the side.
Cleverly, the external LED screen that we mentioned earlier also displays track details, so you can see all the track names without needing to open the phone. To listen to your music or the built-in FM radio, O2 has generously included a proprietary in-ear headset that isn't half bad. If you want to use your own pair, you can use the included 2.5mm adaptor.
Alternatively, you can use a set of stereo Bluetooth headphones to listen to music but you'll need to buy these yourself. If you feel like sharing your music, you can either use the included two-way headphone splitter or the speakerphone mode, but we found the latter wasn't loud enough.