Archos 35 Smart Home Phone review
An interesting hybrid, but it's dear for a DECT phone and the smartphone experience is poor
It's easy to forget just how far Android has come in the past couple of years. These days, most devices are approaching Ice Cream Sandwich and a neat tablet/phone synergy, which makes it all the more jarring when a new product arrives seemingly from the past.
The Archos 35 Smart Home Phone is a kind of DECT phone hybrid, working as a standard cordless landline when you want it to, but also offering access to the world of apps and Android customisation. It has no GSM or 3G so it's of little use outside the home, but it can act as a remote for other Archos devices.
It's a rather plasticky device with a 3.5in screen, a 1GHz processor, 8GB of internal memory and a microSD slot to add more. There's a micro-USB connector at the bottom and a cable in the box, and you can drag files to and from it as with any other Android phone. It won't win any prizes for style, but it's light in the hand and takes up very little room on a side table.
As a DECT phone, there's plenty to like. It comes with its own basestation, but the phone itself sits in a separate charging dock, so you can position the handset well away from your phone socket - or simply pair it with an existing DECT base (it's GAP compliant). The ability to access your Gmail contacts also elevates it above a bog-standard phone.
Sounds great – and it is, until you try to do anything more than make or receive a landline phone call. Unfortunately, away from its basic functions things degrade quickly.
Setup will be familiar to Android owners, but with a few annoyances. First, when initialising the app store (Archos' own AppsLib rather than the official Market, not surprisingly) a message pops up asking if you'd like third-party apps. Of course, you reply. What the message should mention is that it means ten specific third-party apps, which it then proceeds to download and install. They’re not great.
Then it runs a screen calibration wizard, which gives away the fact that Archos has gone for a resistive screen in an attempt to keep down costs. In this time of ever-improving capacitive phones, tapping and dragging on the Archos 35 can be immensely frustrating. Taps fail to register, drags register as taps, and everything requires that little bit of additional pressure.
This is compounded by a thick top layer that, when added to the mere 272 x 480 resolution, renders everything soft, grainy and unnervingly old looking.
And then there's the OS. Now, there's nothing inherently wrong with using older versions of Android, but a few minutes with Android 2.2 - that's Froyo, the one before Gingerbread - is enough to really drive home how good the latest editions have become.
To be fair to the Archos, the games we tried ran pretty smoothly, albeit basic ones such as Angry Birds. And general performance is fine for day-to-day tasks. In the Android-only Quadrant benchmark it scored 1,471, which is nowhere near the power of the latest smartphones, but not a disastrous performance.
The real question is who would buy the Archos 35? The corners cut to hit a high-street price of £140 mean it isn’t going to please anyone with any experience of modern Android phones, yet that's very expensive for a DECT phone - even fancy ones rarely go above £30 for a single handset and base. As a bridge between the two it has some merit, but that £100-plus price premium doesn't produce the kind of smartphone experience we'd wish on any novice.
|Price ex VAT||£117|
|Price inc VAT||£140|
|Features & Design||2|
|Value for Money||3|
|Dimensions||61 x 11 x 126mm (WDH)|
|Camera megapixel rating||N/A|
|Resolution||272 x 480|