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Despite not having as much market share as the four big carriers, Helio has tried to keep afloat by introducing revved-up phones and services that set the company apart from the crowd. With knockout handsets like the Helio Ocean and great Web-friendly features like direct uploads to Flickr and YouTube, Helio is definitely trying to reach out to a wide audience. This is exemplified with its latest handset, the Helio Mysto, which is essentially a CDMA version of the Samsung U600. Unlike its GSM counterpart, however, the Mysto is packed with tons of features such as built-in GPS, a robust instant -messaging software and e-mail interface, built-in EV-DO, a megapixel camera, and lots more. It even comes with Tellme, a GPS search application with voice recognition. We were a little put off by the Mysto's touchy controls and flat keypad, but its features more than make up for that. It is available now for $320 or $149 if you're a new subscriber.
Since the Mysto has almost the same design as the Samsung U600, we won't bore you too much with the design details. Suffice to say the Mysto is one of the slimmest slider handsets we've ever seen, measuring a svelte 4.07 inches by 1.95 inches by 0.43 inch and weighing in at around 2.86 ounces. To slide the phone open, you'll need to push on the bottom half of the front face, which can be a tad slippery--we wish there was some kind of nub for a better grip. The Mysto comes in a sapphire blue with a nice metallic sheen.
Probably the best thing about the Mysto's design is its stunning 2.2-inch display. It's bright, colorful, and vibrant, which makes it a great showcase for Helio's bold graphics and animated icons. You can adjust the screen's brightness, plus change the font size, color, and type. You can also change the dial style with different color fonts and animations. Like all Helio phones, the Mysto has that circular menu screen that's very easy to use and navigate.
The navigation controls are where the Mysto differs a little from the U600. Though it still retains the circular controls, the circle itself has more of a contoured feel and look than the U600. The circle corresponds to four shortcuts: the Helio Web browser, the Games menu, the Message in-box, and the Video and Music menu. The central Helio key is a shortcut to Helio's one-click online search feature where you can enter your search term right away. It also doubles as a H.O.T (Helio On Top) key, which activates the RSS feed reader.
The Mysto has four touch-sensitive controls around the aforementioned circle; two soft keys, a Talk key, and the Back key. (On the U600, the End/Clear key is in place of the Back key.) The two soft keys have no tactile definition whatsoever, while the two other keys have very minimal textural differences. They are very difficult to use by feel, and you can activate them simply by brushing your finger over them. However, the keys do provide a little tactile feedback when pressed. That said, you do have to unlock the phone every once in a while to use them, so we still prefer actual buttons over these touch controls.
Like on the U600, the keypad buttons are completely flat with slight raised ridges between the rows. The keypad is revealed when the slider is up, and though it's wide enough, its slippery surface makes it slightly inconvenient to dial and text rapidly.
Unlike the U600, the Mysto mysteriously placed the End/Power key on the right spine next to the camera key. We're not entirely pleased with this arrangement, since we're used to the Talk and End keys placed opposite each other. On the left spine are the volume rocker and the charger/headset jack. If you're wondering where the microSD card slot is, it's inconveniently located behind the battery cover. The camera lens, flash, and self-portrait mirror are on the back of the phone, and are only exposed when the slider is up.
The Helio Mysto is a treasure trove of high-end features despite its slender figure, which is a pretty far cry from the U600. But before we get into that, let's start with the basics. The Mysto has a generous 1,000-entry address book and each entry is able to store up to five numbers, an e-mail address, a birthdate, a home address, a MySpace ID, and a memo. Each contact can also be assigned a caller group, a photo or video for caller ID, and one of 25 polyphonic ringtones. You can even toggle a feature that lets you find your contact by voice recognition. Other basic features include a vibrate mode, a speakerphone, voice command, a calendar, an alarm clock, a calculator, a to-do list, a world time clock, a wake-up call alarm, a unit converter, a notepad, a voice recorder, and a stopwatch. There's also stereo Bluetooth support, USB storage mode, and built-in EV-DO.
As far as messaging goes, the Mysto is blessed with a one-stop shop messaging in-box similar to the other Helio phones--it houses text and multimedia messaging, instant messaging with all the major services, POP3 and IMAP e-mail, Web e-mail access with all the popular Internet e-mail providers, and push mail support for Yahoo, AOL, Windows Live, Gmail, and Helio Mail. The Mysto even supports Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync so you can synchronize your mail, contacts, and calendar with ease. On the higher-end, the Mysto comes with a full HTML browser with a zoom function, so you can zoom out or zoom in on Web pages for better detail. There's also Helio's one-click search feature that was first introduced on the Helio Ocean. All you need to do is hit the central OK key and you can immediately enter in your search term. Once you hit enter, you will get instant results from Yahoo, Google, Wikipedia, Amazon, and Yelp. And thanks to EV-DO, you get your search results pretty fast. If you entered in your contact's name instead, you'll be directed to your address book.
The Mysto also has built-in GPS, which is the basis for a slew of location-based applications that come free with the Mysto. There's Google Maps for Mobile, which has traffic information, step-by-step driving directions, and an integrated search engine for local businesses; Buddy Beacon, Helio's friend locator service; and Garmin Mobile, a full-featured GPS application with a moving map and turn-by-turn directions with voice direction. The Mysto also integrates Microsoft's Tellme, a GPS-based search with voice recognition so that you can just say something like "Find me the nearest ATM" and it'll do the legwork for you. Finally, a free WHERE application lets you have customized little widgets with information like the cheapest gas station, a local pub finder, and more, right on the phone.
Because the Mysto supports EV-DO, it also comes with an array of broadband services like Yahoo search, shortcuts to sites like Digg, CNN, and MySpace, plus video and audio streaming from content partners like MTV and Fox. There's also Helio's free newsfeed aggregator called Helio On Top (H.O.T.), which you can configure to display the latest headlines from your favorite sites or blogs right on your home screen.
As part of the broadband package, the Mysto also has access to Helio Music, Helio's music store. For $1.99, you can download a song over-the-air and transfer it to your home PC, as well. If you're a little more patient, you can purchase a song for 99 cents, download it to your PC, and then upload it to your phone later on. The Mysto supports MP3 and AAC file formats, so you can also opt to upload songs you already own to the Mysto via Helio's MediaMover software. The phone comes with 106MB of internal memory but it does come with a microSD card slot for additional storage. The music player itself is fairly standard, with the basic music player controls and the ability to create custom playlists. There's also a built-in video player with support for MPEG4 and H.264 file formats, and you have the option of purchasing and downloading music videos from Helio for $2.50 each.
The Mysto packs a 2-megapixel camera, which is quite a disappointing drop from the U600's 3.2-megapixel version. The photo quality was good, but not great--colors were good but a little washed out --and we would've liked the images to look a lot sharper. You can take photos in four different resolutions (1,600x1,200; 1,280x960; 640x480; and 320x240) and you can adjust the image quality, as well. Other camera options include brightness, white-balance settings, lighting, color effects, photo frames, a self-timer, and up to 6x zoom. The built-in camcorder has similar settings, but the video is limited to 320x240 and 176x144 resolutions and two frame rates (14fps and 7fps). As a result, video quality was very jittery and choppy, especially when there's a lot of movement, and images looked pixilated, too.
After you're done taking photos with the Mysto, you have the option of fiddling around with them with the built-in Photo Studio application that lets you edit the photos right in the camera. Options include resizing, rotating, flipping, stretching, and swirling around the images. As for video, you can add filters, effects, stickers, fades, and overlays to them. You then have the choice of uploading your photos to Helio's site, or your MySpace page, or even Flickr, via an uploading application called HelioUP. You can even upload your videos directly to YouTube. And since the Mysto has built-in GPS, all your photos and videos can be immediately geo-tagged if you wish.
As with all the Helio products, the Mysto has plenty of personalization options. You can customize the wallpaper, the screensavers, the alert tones, and you can always download more from Helio. The Mysto comes with five games--My Pet, Gameloft Mega Hits, and demo versions of 3D Homerun Derby, Slide N' Loop, and Super Boom Boom--and of course you can purchase more from Helio.
We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900; EV-DO) Mysto in San Francisco using Helio's service. Call quality was all right, but it wasn't fantastic. We heard our callers just fine and vice versa, but there was a smidgen of static, and voices sounded kind of distant and hollow at times. Speakerphone calls were of similar quality--it's decent enough if you're in a quiet conference room, but the sound quality was tinny and callers often said they couldn't hear us very well. We paired the Helio Mysto with the Cardo S-2 stereo Bluetooth headset without a hitch.
The music quality on the Mysto was pretty good for what it is. Of course we wouldn't recommend using the tiny speakers to broadcast your music--a headset is a much better way to go. There's little to no bass, but the melody sounded fine, and it'll do for a quick musical fix on your daily commute. EV-DO speeds were definitely impressive--we managed to download a game in just a couple of seconds. Streaming video wasn't all that great, though. We had no buffering issues, but the video still seemed rather pixilated and blurry.
The Helio Mysto has a rated talk time of up to 3.5 hours. According to FCC radiation tests, the Mysto has a digital SAR rating of 1.39 watts per kilogram. The Helio Mysto has a rated talk time of up to 3.5 hours. We had a pretty good tested talk time of 4 hours and 34 minutes.