I suppose the lesson is not to let curiousity get the better of you…
Sifting through my Inbox a few weeks back, I stumbled across an unread e-mail that featured a frankly fantastic looking handset – the AIO P111 Duo – straight out of China and seemingly bringing Windows Mobile to a compact and versatile device.
Whilst nothing special in and of itself, the promise of an interchangeable keyboard from full QWERTY to a massive Doro-style alphanumeric effort on this mysterious device piqued our interest.
Ignoring the possibility of losing keypads in transit as well as the logistical nightmare of changing them in an emergency, we eagerly awaited our review handset.
Upon its arrival in decidedly nondescript cardboard packaging that made it look more contraband than bleeding edge tech (how it managed to get through Our Majesty’s Customs and Excise unscathed is a miracle), but after slicing through the reams of masking tape the P111 was revealed.
To say that this handset was unimpressive was a bit of an understatement, the flashy Photoshop job that attracted me in the first place managed to gloss over the plastic frame and flimsy build. This isn’t the sturdy and strong plastic that LG or Samsung use in their lower end devices, but rather the kind that toys in the local pound shop are made from.
Turning the device on was…interesting. Met with a litany of Chinese characters, my fumblings led to a basic FM radio and an MP3 player containing a picture of a warbling anime girl and little else. One thing was certain, this was not a Windows Mobile-powered device…
Navigation was initially challenging, with the four way directional pad working when it felt like, and the exciting key emblazoned with the Superman logo performing the un-amazing feat of bringing up the phone’s impenetrable menu.
A quick e-mail later and I got the handset up and running in English…or at least a close approximation of it. With the BlackBerry-inspired QWERTY keypad locked in, I made a beeline for the messaging to put the temporary buttons through their paces.
Texting was less a difficult affair than it was nigh on impossible, realising that the vast majority of keys simply weren’t working… The P111 is set to use the alphanumeric keys by default, with no way to change it!
Swapping out the QWERTY for an octogenarian-friendly 12-button keypad made the P111 far less difficult to use, as mashing the massive keys seemed to have largely the desired effect.
The dual-SIM functionality is actually quite a cool feature, allowing the handset to run off two separate lines and be switched between them at will. If there’s one thing that we’d be eager to see adopted by other manufacturers more quickly, it’s this one.
The convenience of a special SIM for holidays or international calls can’t be denied, and the P111 at least makes short work of jumping between lines without skipping a beat. Unfortunately they don’t run concurrently, but as soon as the second SIM is fired up, messages and missed calls ping up on the small and heavily pixellated display.
To go from the iPhone 4′s high-resolution effort to the 8-bit display of the P111 is retro-quirky at first, but that soon gives way to pure frustration when having to scroll through even the shortest of text messages and looking at the eye-searingly poor menus.
I’d love to say that I was able to put the phone through more but the battery gave out after a a couple of calls, and we have never seen a charger as weird and…pointy as this so were frankly scared to hook the P111 up to the mains and charge it.
Rest assured, our brief foray into the world of off-brand handsets make us more amazed than ever that some of the amazing prepay efforts we have cost as little as they do. If the LG GB102 can cost as little as £2.95, I would expect change from a 20 pence piece for the P111 Duo.
So if you are getting curious about a random phone off eBay that promises dual-SIMs support, portable TV output or even a George Foreman grill function, do us a favour and just don’t buy it.
The more they promise, the less they seem to deliver, and the P111 Duo underperformed even below our incredibly low expectations…lesson learnt.