It’s getting harder and harder to keep track of the ever increasing number or random mobile phone manufacturers sprouting up all over. Here’s another handset maker called Airfone who’s launched a few new handsets in India hoping to capture the consumer’s short attention span with ‘innovative’ designs. Here’s a closer look at AirFone’s Flip 29i dual SIM (what else) handset.

Form Factor
It’s refreshing to see a design that’s other than the same old candy-bar form either plain, with a touchscreen or with a QWERTY keypad. In fact the Flip 29i can be considered a rebirth of an old but beloved form that seems to have become extinct – the Flip phone or clamshell. The 29i is a cross between Motorola’s RAZR 2 and the MOTO MING – encased in metal with a partly glass flip to show off the 2.6-inch resistive touchscreen underneath. The flip has a nice simple movement that’s smooth and shuts with a resounding sound like the mobiles of old, bringing back memories. The display is clear enough to view but a little off in direct sunlight.

On one side is a set of volume/zoom keys with an open key that by default access the VGA camera. On the other is a proprietary universal socket for the charger, handsfree and USB. For these Java mobiles, this is never an asset. The lack of a hot swap for the microSD card is also a major design flaw in this type of handset and with the 29i, removing the rear panel is a seriously cumbersome experience. The stylus is the one that dangles from a tether so can’t be neatly tucked away into the body when not in use.

There’s no doubt that the design is definitely something to appreciate. It’s sexy and quite stylish as well. Of course that’s not a good enough reason to buy it so read on.

Features and Performance
The touchscreen Java OS and corresponding UI are colorful but not the most finger-friendly, so you’ll need to use the Stylus sometimes. Response time is quick and the flow is quite smooth. The onscreen virtual QWERTY and number keypads, although large enough to use without the stylus is definitely a plus point for the 29i. Handwriting recognition is also a feature but the response time is a bit slow. The biggest downside in my experience of using the 29i is that after just 2 days of using it, the handset simply stopped registering my SIM cards. Both SIMs showed up as ‘Invalid’ and there was nothing I could do. This happened with no explanation or warning. Another cause for concern was that audio quality on calls was very poor from clarity to low volume.

The music player is quite average and doesn’t bring anything new or exciting to the table. It’s strictly basic with no frills. The audio quality via the handsfree kit is poor. There’s virtually no bass at all and audio tends to sound like it’s being played from a tin can. The FM radio is pretty much the same and although it scanned and stored all the channels some of the presets simply had static even though it was a registered channel that normally works. A scheduled recording and ‘Live’ recording option are available not that you’d want to use them considering the quality. In the media section there’s also a voice recorder that didn’t work out too well either. For a ‘framing’ free video playback you’ll have to seriously downgrade your video files. MPEG4 and 3GP are the acceptable formats.

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