Sagem Puma Phone review

Full review: Puma's first phone is an eco-friendly affair

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The sporty phone offers some quirky features, but does that cover a lack of substance?

The Puma phone from Sagem does what so many other phones on the market are trying to do: offer a completely different experience to the rest of the saturated market.

What’s odd is while the main selling point of this handset is the operating system and the solar panel (but more ont that later) it’s not the power or functionality it offers that entices you; it’s the quirkiness.

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Puma Phone hands-on

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For instance, the main home screen allows you to designate large and cartoon-like customisable icons for easy access, and is flanked by the standard menu grid of apps and a separate screen for sports applications. And at the bottom of each display is a context-sensitive pull up menu that helps maintain usability throughout in a different colour to the main display.

Elements like pulling a cloud over the sun to set the screen brightness up and down, a sarcastic calculator (typical response: ‘Hmm, let me think’) and an interactive puma called Dylan that prowls around the handset when it sleeps show that things are being done a little differently on the Puma phone.

Sadly, that’s where any joy using this handset ends, as once you’ve gotten used to the little quirks you’re left with a pretty unusable device. For instance, there’s a solar panel on the back of the handset that is meant to charge the device, but unless you’re in bright sunlight (and let’s face it - in the UK we rarely are) you'll really strugged to get it to improve the battery life, making it far more suited to a quick top up in hot countries. It also adds weight to the phone too.

Sagem Puma phone: Screen, calling and messaging

The screen feels inaccurate and resistive, styluses don’t work on the surface. The inaccuracy means text messaging is a nightmare as you’re forced to constantly delete the word you just wrote (and predictive text might as well not even be there half the time), and scrolling from screen to screen is a laborious process.

The whole interface with the Puma phone is slow - things like the calling screen, which has dialler, phonebook and recent calls all in once place, takes a couple of seconds to refresh every time you want to use it, which gets irritating quickly.

Call quality is OK - although the shape of the phone means it’s a little hard to hold comfortably in the palm. The bean-like chassis means it can be hard to get the earpiece in the right place so the person you’re calling can sound a little quiet, although overall connection and sound quality was good.

Sagem Puma phone: Internet

If you’re used to the web browser on an Android device or iPhone, then steer well clear of the Puma Phone. It’s a WAP 2.0 browser, which means it’s on a par with the likes of the BlackBerry range pre-BlackBerry 6 OS (ie not good).

This means it’s slow, can’t render all images (and don’t even think about Flash) and unless you’re viewing a mobile-optimised site, then you might as well carry around a laptop with you. T3.com takes nearly 40 seconds to load, and even then it was zoomed in and not properly displayed - internet is not this phone’s strong point.

Sagem Puma phone: Multimedia

The sports package is better though - GPS tracking for running, a bicycle speedometer and 3D compass all complement the phone well, making it ideal for sports.

However, there’s no 3.5mm headphone jack, and when you consider the excellent Adidas miCoach available for BlackBerry and iPhone users (which is also free) then a headphone connector just to use your own cans seems very backwards.

Music sounds adequate on the Puma Phone, although the UI isn’t that fancy (a scratching turntable shows the album art, but is merely a gimmick and is hard to use).

Although MP4 compatibility is promised, the phone simply couldn’t find our files on the memory card we inserted, so we only got to see some grainy footage of a puma on the QVGA screen to test the video capabilities, and that wasn’t too impressive.

Battery life is offered in words, rather than a visual bar - this would go from Happy to Hungry, with no indication how long you have left before total battery power-down. However the phone did manage two days’ use in testing, although that’s more to do with how little we used it. Play around a bit more and you’ll need to charge every night or so.

You could forgive nearly all the above if it weren’t for the price - the Puma Phone costs nearly £300 and the quirkiness and sports mode aside, it’s a pretty poor phone overall, and definitely not worth that price.

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SPECIFICATIONS

OS: Proprietary Java OS
Processor: Unknown
Storage: 2GB microSD included
Screen: 2.8-inch QVGA capacitive
Connectivity: 3G, Bluetooth 2.1, A2DP, GPS
Camera: 3.2MP with LED flash
Video: VGA (FPS unknown)
3G Talk time: 4 hours
Dimensions: 102 x 56 x 13 mm
Weight: 115 g

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