If there's one thing we can all be sure of, it's that children and teenagers truly venerate their dear old parents. It's little wonder, then, that kids today are going mental for BlackBerry handsets, the business devices that were once the exclusive preserve of busy mothers and fathers. The trouble is, though, that BlackBerry phones tend to be expensive.
That's where the Orange Rio comes in. Its Qwerty keyboard apes that of a BlackBerry, and it also sports a touchscreen, 2-megapixel camera and all the Web-based jollies you'd expect from a proper smart phone. At £55 on a pay-as-you-go deal, this phone might sound too good to be true. Amazingly, it isn't.
The Rio looks just like a BlackBerry. It sports the same full Qwerty keyboard and curved, blocky appearance as most of RIM's devices. Dedicated Orange World and camera shortcuts sit to the left and right of the five-way navigation key, and there are also four standard keys for accepting and declining various options, and moving back and forth through menus.
The whole phone is covered in glossy black and chrome, which means it looks classier than you'd expect at this price. Put it next to a proper BlackBerry, however, and it simply doesn't compare -- well built and well designed though the Rio is, it lacks the polish and sheen of its pricier rivals. Nevertheless, we like the Rio's style, and we're suckers for a good chrome trim.
Dances on the sand
Surprisingly for a device of this price, the Rio sports a resistive, 61mm (2.4-inch) touchscreen. Even more surprisingly, the display doesn't make us want to eat our own hands just so that we never have to touch it again.
The screen's resolution isn't very high, and we've seen rainy days that look more vibrant and colourful. But the Rio's touchscreen is surprisingly sensitive, and it gets the job done. The phone offers three separate home screens that you can move between with a swipe of your finger, and a healthy reserve of widgets that you can drag and drop onto these screens, rearranging them to your heart's content.
A press of the central navigation key will bring up the main menu, from which you can access the calendar, settings and pretty much everything else. If you're too busy to go digging through menus, however, there's also a bar along the bottom of the screen that you can view by dragging it up out of the bottom-right-hand corner. This bar holds shortcuts to the applications you're most likely to use.
Among the apps on offer is thebrowser, which we were pleasantly surprised to see. The browser loads quickly, and cruising around Web sites is simple enough using either the central navigation key or the touchscreen. Pages rendered in this browser don't look particularly pretty, but, for a quick Google session, Opera Mini will serve you well.
Push and pull
Email is one of the Rio's killer applications. Because your mail is handled through various email clients (Hotmail, Google and so on), rather than through a central server, such as BlackBerry Enterprise Server, you won't get push email on the Rio. You can set the phone to check for new emails every five minutes (known as 'pull' email), but that's hardly instantaneous if you're trying to have a quick, back-and-forth email conversation.
If instant communication is what you need, you might prefer to use the Orange Messenger app, which is built on Windows Live Messenger. Setting up the service is, however, incredibly frustrating -- Orange forces you to sign up for an account with Orange World by finding an obscure page via the phone's browser and registering an account under the 'chat and flirt' section. Ew.