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O2 Cocoon review: O2 Cocoon

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.

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7.5

O2 Cocoon

The Good

Hidden LEDs; dock; alarm clock function; 3G; easy-to-use keypad.

The Bad

Screen is hard to see in very bright conditions; the design of the inside section isn't as attractive as the outside.

The Bottom Line

We're impressed and pleased that O2 has made the Cocoon. It's different and innovative, with a very cool alarm clock function. Not everyone will like its retro design and the inside section looks a little dated, but it's easy-to-use and comes packed with features

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.

Design
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.


This retro-looking handset slots into the base and turns into a bedside alarm clock

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.


The blue LED lights really make this phone stand out

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.

Features
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.

If photos is more your thing, there's a 2-megapixel camera on the front with autofocus and LED photo light, and a secondary VGA camera on the inside for video calls. Unfortunately, activating the camera is quite fiddly -- there's no dedicated shutter button -- but you can set it as a shortcut on the homepage.


Unfortunately the inside of the phone isn't as stylish as the white exterior

The homepage is fairly straightforward, as is the rest of the phone's interface. Once in the menu, you have access to a variety of applications, including O2's Web browser. This isn't particularly ground-breaking but you can just about view a mobile Web page on it, and it works quickly over 3G.

Unfortunately, it doesn't have an overview mode, such as the one on Nokia's Nseries phones. It's also missing a desktop mode and support for flash, so it's not as good as browsing the Web on your desktop PC or certain other phones, such as the Nokia N95.

Another application we felt could be better is the alarm clock, one of the Cocoon's headline features. It's not a massive problem but it would be nice if you could set multiple alarms and the days of the week you wanted it to go off. And we wish more phones would allow you to select your preferred snooze time.

Aside from the above niggles, we enjoyed using the Cocoon and everyone flocked around it when the external hidden LEDs came on. We also really liked the PC Suite software that comes with it, which lets you back up all your data and send messages from your computer via the provided USB cable or Bluetooth.


Performance
Audio quality during calls was acceptable but not as loud as we would have liked. The speakerphone was also a little quiet for use in a car or noisy environment.


Buttons on the side of the handset control the Cocoon's music player

Picture quality from the 2-megapixel camera was adequate but don't expect high-quality prints, particularly in low light where the LED photo light simply didn't illuminate enough.

Battery life was good, lasting for over two days if we didn't make many video calls or browse the Web a lot. Otherwise it lasted for just a day. O2 quotes it at 345 hours' standby time and 5 hours' talk time.

Conclusion
It's great to see O2 has taken the bull by the horns and produced an innovative phone that's packed with features. The Cocoon is definitely worth a look if you value retro design and want some cool music features and high-speed Internet access on the go.

Our only real issues with this handset are that the camera could be better, and even though it has high-speed Internet access, O2 doesn't yet have a flat-rate data plan. This means browsing the Web could cost you a lot more than you bargained for.

If the Cocoon strikes you as a little too retro for your tastes, it's worth checking out the Nokia N95, which has a great music player and is also packed with features. We also like the Motorola Razr 2 V8, which doesn't contain as many features but is a shiny flip phone that will slip easily into a bag or pocket.

Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Kate Macefield