Close your eyes, we want you to imagine a phone. Actually, keep them open, you need to read on. Now imagine a Next G flip phone released by Telstra a few months back called the EasyTouch.
If you're familiar with the Telstra EasyTouch then you are, in fact, also familiar with the F852. Beyond a change to the colour scheme — from silver to black — and the addition of three external music control buttons to the F852, these phones are almost identical. If you compare the physical dimensions for both phones you'll notice that each of these measurements differs by a single millimetre.
Under the F852's flip we find exactly the same components found in the EasyTouch; the same two-inch QVGA TFT colour display and the same recessed plastic keypad. Below the screen is a 0.3-megapixel camera for video-calling, with a 2-megapixel camera on the outside for standard pics.
The recessed keypad lays flat against the bottom half of the handset, with thin raised plastic strips to differentiate the location of the various buttons. The keypad is well spaced and easy to use, but the plastic components help to give the entire handset a cheap, toy-like feel.
After reading through the F852's spec sheet we were tempted to copy-and-paste the features section from our EasyTouch review, as the similarities are many. This was before we realised that Chinese manufacturers ZTE have left out our favourite feature of the EasyTouch interface: the news headlines ticker.
What remains for Telstra's F852 is a standard Next G user experience. HSDPA (3.6Mbps) data speeds give access to BigPond services including BigPond TV, Foxtel and Whereis Maps, as well as video-calling. The F852 has the latest NetFront browser installed, which is fine for sifting through mobile sites but certainly doesn't offer a Web 2.0 comparable experience.
Beyond Next G services, the F852 offers the standard range of calling and messaging functionality, including POP3 and IMAP e-mail. The F852's internal memory is expandable with T-Flash (microSD) memory cards, and can transfer data using Bluetooth (v1.2). The F852 also features a multimedia player capable of playing MP4 and 3GP video files, as well MP3 music files.
The first feature we test on a Next G phone is always mobile TV. If you thought we'd get sick of watching Jerry Springer on tiny mobile screens after a while, you'd be wrong. Like the EasyTouch, the two-inch screen is too small to make the service truly impressive. In addition to the size of the screen, the viewing angle on our F852 review unit was dismal with the picture turning negative on very subtle angles. This is terrible for watching long, hand-held sessions of mobile TV. Audio through the internal speakers, while tinny, was loud enough to hear easily.
That said, the data speeds are excellent. With good reception, mobile TV buffers once then streams flawlessly. Similarly, accessing Web sites is as fast as the HSDPA speeds suggests. Of course, this is accessing mobile Web sites, which are typically 5 or 10 percent of the page size of a standard Web site.
During our testing call reception was good, but the earpiece speaker sounded terrible. Voices sounded hollow and, even with the volume at its lowest setting, parts of our conversations were distorted. The people we spoke with told us they also had difficulty hearing us clearly. We're not suggesting the F852 is unusable for making calls, but the speaker isn't as clear as we would expect.
Telstra isn't known for it's bargain pricing so perhaps the F852's greatest asset is its AU$439 price tag. For the money you'll get a attractively designed, Next G ready clamshell phone. Don't expect the best of any particular feature, and the speaker quality isn't amazing, but for people who prefer Telstra as their mobile carrier, and who have a basic list of mobile needs, the F852 could fit the bill nicely.