The S2 is even better looking than the original Skypephone. The front of the phone is strikingly different with chrome bars as keys, and it has a noticeably larger screen than the first version, but is only slightly weightier.
The S2 has a neat line of applications and a Select button that takes you striaght to the central application.
The handset has an endless line of programs including Skype, Facebook, web feeds and Google. It also has a 3.2-megapixel camera and HSDPA data speeds.
The S2 has a decent performance - the menu options were fast and responsive. However, the camera results were disappointing, lacking sharpness and vivid colours.
The Skypephone S2 boasts a talktime of 410 minutes and a standyby time of 262 hours.
As we get older, we get more sophisticated; the brash simplicity of youth is replaced with more refined tastes. So it’s no surprise that the Skypephone S2 is an altogether more urbane machine than last year’s model.
Me, I liked the first version. It was compact and light, and its rubbery casing felt good in the hand. Some of the colour options looked a little cheap (white and pink anyone?) but the matt black version had a discreet beauty.
In terms of looks, the S2 is even better – as we’ll see in a moment. The USP here, of course, is the ability to access Skype. You can get Skype as a program on a few other handsets, but it is just a one-button press away with this phone.
Previously, the Select button in the centre of the direction pad had the Skype logo on it and sent you straight to the login screen. But the new phone has a neat line of applications and pressing Select takes you straight to the central application. So the Skype logo has disappeared as the button takes you elsewhere, too. To scroll through the programs you press the direction button or the side-mounted application button, which is a neater option – maybe it’s just me but I find it confusing when I press the direction button right and the icons jump to the left.
Either way, this endless line of programs is very handy, taking you quickly to Skype, Facebook, web feeds, Google and more. Although it does more than take you to Skype, it still prioritises it, so when you wake the phone from standby, the highlighted option is Skype. In any event, this system is faster than seeking out the menu options and it is responsive in operation. There are more programs which aren’t in this line, for which you do need to go looking.
The package (whether pay-as-you-go or a monthly contract) includes 4,000 Skype-to-Skype calls per month. If you have friends on Skype, this could be a way of making a lot of free calls. Additionally, the exceptional convenience of this phone is that you don’t need to be sitting in front of your computer, which is where most people make and receive their Skype calls. If you’re logged on, friends know you’re available and there’s the extra bonus of not having to wear a receptionist’s headset. Call quality is variable and you sometimes wish you were calling on a regular line but for quick chats it’s fine. And for longer conversations sometimes the fact that it’s not costing anything can go a long way.
The S2 has a noticeably bigger screen but the handset’s dimensions have only very slightly increased. It feels a little weightier but that’s partly down to the shiny metal that takes up part of the back.
The front of the phone is also strikingly different. Owners of the first version may like the new chrome bars that have replaced the matt plastic ridges as keys. Personally, I preferred the earlier ones, but I guess it’s true they wouldn’t have been quite chic enough on this new model.
Where it says Menu and C, these aren’t buttons at all; instead you press the vertical chrome slats to the side of the words. While on some phones buttons that aren’t quite where you expect them could be tricky, here they work just fine. That enlarged screen has a thin white frame which sets it off well.
The gleaming metal back is less successful, however. The top third is black plastic, there’s a matt metal stripe where the camera and flash are recessed and the rest is shiny. Oddly, although it is perfectly flat, the metal casing looks like it has been dented. Check this before you buy to see if it troubles you.
The camera in the stripe has been upgraded, as the first phone had a two-megapixel snapper and this one has been beefed up to 3.2 megapixels. Not a leading-edge camera phone, but respectable enough. In tests, though, the results were disappointing, lacking sharpness and vivid colours. Detail was sometimes not as great as it could have been, which suggests that pixels aren’t everything.
If you want to surf the internet, but find it fiddly on a 2.2-inch screen, 3 has set up this phone to work as an HSDPA dongle, too. Like the dedicated 3 USB modems, it’s easy to install. When you connect the phone via a USB cable it installs the appropriate drivers. On a Windows PC running Vista this was a spectacularly simple and a wholly satisfying experience. You can do it on a Mac too, though this was rather more complicated, involving setting a name, password and more in the network settings. Still, it worked well once that had been done. In both cases connections were fast and reliable.
As for other features, there’s no forward-facing camera, so you won’t be making video calls on this handset, even on regular calls. This is not 3’s first phone without this capability, but it seems strange that a 3G network making its own handset wouldn’t want to include it. Maybe it’s an acceptance that video calls hasn’t really taken off, or maybe it’s not to confuse the issue so people don’t think video calling is part of the Skype allowance.
Overall, it’s a good-looking, well specced phone with a decent performance apart from that slightly dull camera. If you have the first handset there may not be enough to make you want to upgrade, but Skype users will find this a highly usable, well styled phone.