O2's SkyPod - Mark III

First Look: After two false starts, O2's music mobile service is back. Could the O2 XM and its 185,000 tracks be enough to take on the Orange Nokia 6680?


First Look - O2 XM

So, our O2 XM plunked through the door today. It's being heralded as the biggest thing in music since Beethoven.

Unlike Orange, which loaded its music download software onto Nokia's 3G 6680, O2 has gone one further and designed its own 2.5G phone. The BenQ-made XM is capable of downloading 185,000 £1 tracks straight to internal memory.

First impressions are as underwhelming as watching Tim Henman on grass.

The phone's a nice enough pocket-friendly silver clam, but the nav-pad is fingernail-only - fingers need not apply - and we occasionally encountered timeout error messages while downloading tracks. When we did download a song, it took nearly twice as long as the actual song, with a three and a half minute Andy Cato (Groove Armada man) tune taking seven minutes to download.

Then there's the interface. It'd be okay if it wasn't for one annoying glitch - if you accidentally quit out of the music player software by pressing the end call key, the music player has to be completely restarted rather than carrying on where you left off (browsing the 185,000-strong catalogue, for example).

The XM's saving grace could, fittingly enough, be the music. Considering the tracks are compressed down to 32Kbps AAC++, they sound perfectly listenable. Sure, they won't match your 356Kbps LAME-encoded MP3s, but they're really not bad. We also love the choice of SD for storage - SD's so cheap and the AAC++ files are so small you could easily load the XM up with hundreds of songs.

We'll have more for you on the XM online and in the mag soon.

It's free now on an O2 contract. O2 XM.