The Orange Rio II offers the BlackBerry experience for a fraction of the cost, with a touchscreen interface, full Qwerty keyboard and 3G connectivity for (theoretically) speedy Web browsing on the move. Although it has some faults, the low price goes a long way to making up for them.
The Rio II is available exclusively from Orange and costs £70 (plus £10 top up) on a pay as you go deal. Monthly contracts start as low as £10.
Her name is (still) Rio
The Rio II is, naturally enough, a sequel to last year's enormously popular. That phone cleverly mimicked the BlackBerry range -- a huge hit with teenagers -- but cost a pocket-money price. The Rio II has similar qualities, but brings with it a raft of improvements.
The appearance of the phone still owes a large debt to RIM's designers, but it's a little more refined this time around. The faux-chrome surround has been brought forward a little so it encloses the front of the device, and the Rio II has been given a pleasing rubberised back, similar to that seen on the BlackBerry 8520 Curve.
The Qwerty keyboard boasts larger buttons than the original Rio, but there's no longer any space between each key. This can make fast typing problematic, as the buttons are harder to differentiate, but the fact they're bigger balances out this issue.
Resistive touchscreen is futile
The Rio II's 2.4-inch resistive touchscreen is one of the phone's major disappointments. While the brightness is acceptable and the resolution decent for a phone in this price bracket, the amount of pressure required to register input makes it awkward to use. Most phones now have a capacitive touchscreen, so this is a blatant and unhelpful bit of costcutting. As a result, you'll find yourself relying more on the D-pad to navigate your home screens and menus.
The Rio II uses a custom-made operating system that borrows elements from both RIM's BlackBerry OS and Google's. You can make use of various widgets to add interactivity to your home screens, and it's possible to connect to various email providers and get banging away on that Qwerty keyboard.
The OS is packed with a surprising amount of functionality, and comes with dedicated Facebook and Twitter applications. This is no smart phone though -- there's no app store to find more widgets or games.