As a sports brand, Puma isn’t the first company that springs to mind when you think of mobile phones; nevertheless, it’s teamed up with Sagem to bring us the Puma Phone, a handset intended for fun. The Puma Phone is a friendly little handset full of quirks and handy sporty applications; but it doesn’t have what it takes to satisfy today’s tech-hungry consumer.
What we like
The Puma Phone is a small, lightweight handset which won’t weigh you down when you’re out running, for example. Its styling has the activity fan in mind too, with a sleek black finish and red highlights. The back of the handset houses a solar panel which gives it a bit of extra juice from the sun – although you can’t rely on this to charge the entire handset. It has a handy little calculator as well, which tells you how many calls, messages and music-listening time has been powered by its solar charge.
At first, we were quite fond of the quirks – like instead of saying ‘low battery’, the Puma Phone tells you it is hungry, and when you’re about to go online, the handset tells you “I’m gonna go online and you may be charged extra. Go ahead?”. However, if you’re easily offended by twee-ness and don’t want to be pals with your gadgets, then you’ll hate this. Even we began to get sick of it after a few hours with the phone.
Sporty types will no doubt appreciate the fitness features. There’s an analogue stopwatch (digital version also available), a GPS run-tracker which also counts your steps and calculates how many calories you burn as you run. Worth noting that it’s pretty easy to cheat the pedometer though – just wave your arms around a bit and it’ll rack those steps up. Not that we cheated on purpose, of course.
One feature that was a little more difficult to test was the yachting compass; not because it wouldn’t work on dry land, just because we have no idea what you’re looking for in a yachting compass. It seems to work, but don’t head out into the open sea with it on our recommendation alone.
The homescreen may seem minimalistic with just three big fat shortcuts but you can choose which three to have as your main apps and stick them here. Scrolling left and right to see wider menu options isn’t much of a chore either, the screen is quite responsive although it does require a little bit of force.
What we don’t like
The Puma-specific applications and widgets all worked really well, they were fun to use and actually useful for the sport-minded person. What the handset struggled with was the “normal” functions; typing, calling and messaging.
Text messaging is confusing. The menus are so text-heavy and take up so much of the screen that it becomes a bit of a chore just to read through them. The back button is where we’re used to seeing the killswitch, which feels a bit counter-intuitive. Typing is a little tricky on the small screen – you can opt for a regular T9-number pad approach, or swivel the handset ’round for a full Qwerty. Either way, it’s a little cramped and you have to jab the screen pretty hard to register a stroke.
Setting up email wasn’t as easy as it should have been. Plenty of handsets make it a very straightforward process to set up your webmail accounts, but the Puma phone required us to go and check our settings and input the kind of details that usually only our Exchange or non-web-based addresses required.
Video calling is included, there’s a front-facing camera and everything but unfortunately you can only video interface with other Puma phone owners. While Apple’s FaceTime runs up against the same issue, we’re going to go out on a limb and say that slightly more people in your social circles will own iPhone 4s than Puma phones.
The icons are sometimes quite difficult to decipher – we’d assumed that the big heart would take us to a place where we’d set up our favourite contacts. But no, it takes you instead to Puma World, a pointless portal to all things Puma that we’d probably never use.
If you’re a fitness fanatic, then no doubt you’ll love the Puma affiliation and the sport-related apps, but bear in mind that most of what the Puma phone offers, you can get from other app-tastic OSes like iOS and Android offer many of these already. While the roaring Puma and funny little messages tickled us at first, they’ll get old quickly and won’t rescue a handset that’s fairly infuriating to use.