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Editors' note: At the time of this writing, the FCC has not certified the Travelocity Travel Phone. Also, the design of the final product might vary slightly.
The dual-SIM-card phone is hardly a new concept, but only in the past year have these phones become widely available in the United States. You can't get them with a carrier--and we doubt that would ever happen--though unlocked models like the Duet D888, D8, and the W002 are available from Houston-based importer Beyond E-Tech.
The company' latest handset, the Travelocity Travel Phone, doesn't assume the "Duet" name, but it might as well. The ability to use two SIM card slots is the only highlight on an otherwise uninspiring handset. Call quality is fine, but like the W002, the Travel Phone is a complete rip-off of an existing handset. And we're miffed why the manufacturer misstates the camera resolution on the phone's exterior. The Travelocity Phone, aka the Beyond E-Tech K250, is fairly priced at $179 unlocked. It comes with a SIM with both U.K. and U.S. numbers and airtime for each.
As we said in our review of the Duet W002, emulating and building on another's successes is one thing, but it's quite another to offer no ideas of your own. Indeed, the Travel Phone resembles a combination of a few Sony Ericsson Walkman models, most notably the W995a. The Travel Phone's slider design, curved ends, and navigation array are all familiar touches, though it doesn't look quite as polished as the Sony Ericsson device. The handset even has a Walkman-like logo behind the battery cover. Really, what's the point?
The black-and-silver Travel Phone measures 4.37 inches long by 1.96 inches wide by 0.66 inch deep and weighs 0.35 ounce. Though it's almost the same size as the W995a, it feels somewhat wispier in the hand. On the upside, the slider mechanism is relatively sturdy, and the Travel Phone's trim profile is great for, well, traveling.
The Travel Phone's 2.8-inch display is bigger than the W995a's, but it has a lower resolution with support for just 65,000 colors (the Sony Ericsson phone offers 16.7 million hues). Colors and graphics are presentable, though hardly eye-popping. Click through to the main menu, however, and you'll see that main menu icons are pure Sony Ericsson. Even without the accompanying animations, the similarities are just as striking as they were between the Duet W002 and the iPhone. Customization options are limited to the wallpaper, display brightness, and backlighting time.
The navigation array is relatively user-friendly thanks to the spacious layout and raised keys. You'll find a four-way toggle (it doubles as a shortcut to four user-defined features), a central OK button, two soft keys, a talk button for each SIM card, and a shortcut to the useless TV feature (more on that later). The flush keypad buttons are cramped and they have a rather cheap feel. We didn't have any serious issues when dialing or texting, but it's certainly not the most comfortable keypad around. Also, the numbers and letters on the backlit keys are tiny.
We don't like that the Mini-USB port on the Travel Phone's top end accommodates both the charger/syncing cable and the wired headset. Not only does that limit you from using your own headset without an adapter, but also you can use only one peripheral at a time. The dedicated power control is nearby, and the volume control and a camera shutter rest on the right side. On the Travel Phone's back side are the camera lens, flash, and speaker; the memory card slot is located inconveniently behind the battery.
The Travel Phone's included SIM card comes with $29 in calling credit for the U.K. number with the option to add more. It also has a U.S. number on the same SIM with 2 hours of calling credit. The U.K. number is convenient when traveling in Western Europe, but you can buy a prepaid SIM with a local number for other countries. And, of course, you can keep your U.S. SIM card in the phone the whole time for receiving calls to your regular home number.
Travelocity's service provider, Cellular Abroad, charges between 90 cents and $3 per minute for outgoing calls. You get free incoming calls for up to 83 countries--the list ranges from the France to Turkmenistan--but in other nations you'll pay for both incoming and outgoing communication. See Travelocity's Web site for a rate calculator and more details.
On the whole, Travelocity's rates are fair, but we don't like that there's a surcharge for calling other cell phones (25 cents per minute) and for incoming calls to the provided U.S. number (also 25 cents per minute). Incoming text messages are free, but outgoing texts are 60 cents each. Travelocity offers a voice mail account attached to the U.K. number--you'll pay to check your messages--and will keep your account valid as long as you add calling credit every 12 months.
The Travel Phone's phones book holds just 300 contacts, with room in each entry for four phone numbers, a company name, an e-mail address, and a birthday. That's not a lot of room to save your friends' digits, but you save an additional 250 names on each SIM card. The phone book interface is also very Sony Ericsson, particularly the menu tabs at the top of the display. Caller groups are available and you can pair contacts with a photo or video and one of 15 64-chord polyphonic ringtones.
Basic features include text and multimedia messaging, unit and currency converters, a stopwatch, a world clock, an alarm clock, a file manager, a to-do list, a calendar, USB mass storage, Bluetooth, a speakerphone, and a calculator. And as befits a Beyond E-tech device, you also get a few offbeat applications like BMI and menstrual calculators and something called an E-Buddy (we have no idea). And if that wasn't enough, the Chat and E-Book Reader apps were equally baffling.
The camera is labeled as being 8-megapixel, but the available resolutions don't go above standard VGA (640x480 pixels). Why do they basically lie to us? Well, as Cellular Abroad puts it, it gave the camera a lower resolution because it wanted to make the phone cheaper. Fair enough, but the company could have at least taken the "8-megapixel" label off the phone's rear cover. Perhaps that will happen in the phone's final form. You get a broad selection of editing options and a bright flash (it doubles as a flashlight), but photo quality is just average. The Travel Phone also records video with options like a night mode and color effects. You don't get a microSD card in the box, but the handset will fit cards up to 2GB.
Like the Duet models, the Travel Phone offers a bizarre "Phone TV" app. Even if you raise the extendable antenna and set the country choice to "America" you'll get only snow. To get working channels you'll need to find analog TV broadcasts; those may be available in other countries, but good luck finding them in the United States. Other media options include an FM radio, a voice recorder, and a simple music player. Don't expect too much.
We were surprised to find a shake control feature on the Travel Phone. Among other things, you can use it to accept an incoming call and change the wallpaper and music track. It's a nice touch and it works well. The Travel Phone also has an accelerometer that works in select applications, like the photo gallery. Gamers can play four Java titles: Kungfu Chicken, The Mummy, Horror Island, and Super Beat Star. Surprisingly, the only Travelocity content on the phone is a choice of wallpapers featuring the Web site's ubiquitous gnome.
We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) Travel Phone in San Francisco using AT&T service. Call quality was quite satisfying. Conversations were clear, the signal was strong, and we had enough volume. At times the audio had a bit of vibration, but it was barely noticeable. Making calls from either SIM card is easy; just dial the number and press either Talk button to get started. To accept a call, just press your desired Talk button when the phone rings.
On their end, callers said we sounded fine. They could tell that we were using a cell phone, but they had few complaints. Only a couple people mentioned that we sounded a tad breathy. Just keep in mind that call quality will vary by carrier and network. Speakerphone calls aren't quite as sharp; the sound was distorted at all volume levels. We could have a conversation, but the conditions weren't ideal.
The Travel Phone has a rated battery life 10 hours talk time and 5.4 days standby time.