A joggler is a welding tool, known in the US as a 'panel
flanger'. We looked it up. We love a good flange. It's also the name of O2's new attempt to drag
people-carrier-driving, welly-boot-wearing parents into the digital age.
O2 is hoping to replace the tried-and-tested family kitchen
calendar with a device that looks like a souped-up digital photo frame with a
179mm (7-inch) touchscreen and a suite of family-oriented applications.
We let our fingers do the walking with the panel
flanger -- sorry, Joggler -- and found it easy to use. O2 wants to recapture its romance with the mums-and-dads market from when it was BT Cellnet, so it's
keeping things so simple even a sleep-deprived parent with a full-time job
can use it. There's no battery, stylus or keyboard, just a touchscreen with an
iPhone-like home screen and a limited number of applications.
There's free news and weather from Sky, games -- currently just
Sudoku, with more on the way -- and a handy traffic map that shows delays on A
roads and motorways. It also fulfils its photo frame promise with a photo slideshow
screensaver, and can play music (MP3, WAV, WMA) and videos (including MPEG-4, Divx,
FLV and H.264). O2 also says that at launch, it will stream some pre-set
Internet radio stations. But shockingly, there's no Web browser, which O2 says
it excluded in the name of kiddy safety.
The Joggler's main event is O2's new shared calendar
application. It's built into the Joggler and can also be accessed online. Parents who manage to escape their kitchen for a few hours can add
appointments or check it by text.
It's very much targeted at busy families who need to keep
track of little Jimmy's football matches. But like the humble kitchen calendar
it's intended to replace, there's no way to import or export events, or sync
with other calendars.
The Joggler connects to your home network by Wi-Fi or
Ethernet cable, for the millions of us with Ethernet in the kitchen. There's also
a USB2 port for a flash drive, along with 1GB of onboard memory. It doesn't
take a SIM card, but O2 says it will have a messaging app that can send up
to 50 text messages to any mobile in the UK for free. You can also send texts
to your Joggler to let the kids know you're late for dinner, as if they don't have
their mobiles glued to their ears anyway.
The screen is sharp and glossy, which makes it a great-looking digital picture frame. But at £150, it's a pricey one. The real question
is whether a digital device can ever match the scribbled-on glory of the
kitchen calendar, even if it adds handy features such as text messaging and
weather reports. We're not sure if we're willing to spend the time typing
events on to the Joggler, rather than just sticking them to the fridge --
especially when we'll have to do it all again in our work calendar because
there's no syncing.
The Joggler is being released in April and it'll be
free in lieu of an upgrade for O2 customers. For gadget-mad families due for an
O2 upgrade, we can just about imagine the Joggler replacing that cheesy digital
weather station on the kitchen windowsill. But with its laser-like focus on the
family market, locked-down suite of applications, and lack of Web browser, it
won't be much use to anyone else.
The O2 Joggler's calendar application only allows you to add events for pre-configured people, and you have to set them up online. On the plus side, you can add your pets -- hey there, Scruff, got those doggy-daycare appointments covered.