The Fin is Helio’s newest phone. The Ocean is their power device with a QWERTY keyboard, Drift is a slider while Fin is their first calmshell phone. The Fin is only 12.5mm thick so it’s one of those ‘fits well in your pocket, not in your hands’ sort of phones. Is it any good? Read on.
Make sure you check out the gallery for some pictures.
The Fin is very thin and light. Apparently the body is made from magnesium which is cool. Unfortunately the body doesn’t feel like it’s made from anything special (it feels more like it’s made from plastic than it is from a metal). Some of this is probably due to the fact that the Fin is so light. Still, the battery cover has a nice ‘clang’ to it when you drop it.
While it’s a thin phone, it’s still pretty easy to open. There is a small gap on the sides between the bottom and top parts of the phone where you can stick your finger to help open it.
The external screen has a small retro looking OLED display. It reminds me of the display on some old Motorola StarTac phones. The inner display is a very large TFT display that looks great and works outdoors.
The worst thing about the Fin is it’s keypad. It has a nice metal look finish but it’s completely flush and there is no easy way to use it without looking. I found I would still press the wrong button even when I look directly at it. The keys could also use a little more travel. Clearly, if you text message at all or enter a lot of info on your phone, save yourself some grief and pick up an Ocean instead.
The keypad itself is pretty standard fare. You get 2 volume buttons on the side, a 5 way navpad, 2 soft keys and 2 application keys.
There is support for Bluetooth headsets and headphones, stereo headphones (included) and a speakerphone.
The speakerphone’s maximum volume is about average (it’s not that useful in loud environments).
The memory card slot is located behind the battery cover. You’ll need to remove the battery if you want to swap the memory card.
I popped a Sandisk 8gb SDHC card in Fin. Previously it had my Nokia n95-3 which had a bunch of my vacation pics in there. When I popped it in the Fin, the phone proceeded to format it without asking me first – I wasn’t too happy about this.
Anyways the 8gb SDHC worked in the Fin but the Fin will format it so that you can only use 4gb of space.
You can connect the Fin to your computer using the included USB cable. I transferred some files from the Fin and clocked it at a leisurely 210kb/s.
Like all Helio phones, the Fin’s top level menus are similar to their other phones.
I found the menus slightly confusing at times. Normally you navigate using the nav pad and the center key but sometimes the left key pops up for some other options and sometimes you have to change menu choices by using left and right.
Otherwise I thought the menu was pretty standard fare.
Phone Related Features:
When you’re dialing a number, the Fin will look for matches in your recent calls list and phonebook which is kind of neat. If you’ve ever used a Microsoft Smartphone (now named Windows Mobile) you can liken it to Smartdial.
The phonebook can store up to 1000 numbers. You can sync the phonebook with your PC using PCLink Pro. There’s no Outlook sync but you can import Outlook contacts into PCLink Pro. Phonebook entries can be organized into groups.
There’s also an over the air phonebook sync that I didn’t get a chance to try.
You can access: Windows Live Email (Hotmail), Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, Helio and Earthlink Emails (Helio is partially owned by Earthlink) from the Fin.
Having access to all those different email and instant messaging providers is great but the keypad makes writing email a tedious task.
You also get access to Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo Instant messenger, AIM as well so the Fin has most of the bases covered in the email and messaging departments.
I tested mostly the Windows Live stuff with the Fin and found they worked well. When you get a new email or message you will get alerted even when you don’t have the program open. The notifications show up on the standby screen.
Aside from the keyboard making everything a little harder than it has to be, I found that the program would lag sometimes when you’re scrolling through your MSN contact list. Also, it would be nice if you could start an instant message from the phonebook.
I have mixed feelings about the browser. Aside from taking a while to launch, it works well with Helio and their partner sites. While there’s no ‘go to’ option in the browser you can sort of browse regular HTML sites by using the Google or Yahoo search. What happens is they cut down regular webpages so that the Fin’s browser can handle them. Sometimes this approach works well (like on a Blackberry) but in the case of the Fin it’s not that great. The problem is that pages get cut down to the point that they fit over multiple pages so that you’re constantly hitting ‘read more’ instead of just having to scroll through and read everything. Anyways, I suppose it’s better than nothing.
You do get this neat Nokia S60 browser-style ‘on screen nav thingy’ which shows you where you are on a page when you scroll.
The Fin can playback mp3 (this doesn’t sound very impressive but the Hero and Kickflip couldn’t directly).
There’s a music player button to the left of the navpad.
The music player has some neat features like the ability to mark a section in a track and play it repeatedly. You also get a spectrum analyzer.
There is an option to stop play after 30, 60,90 ,120 ,180 minutes which some may find useful.
What the music player lacks is any sort of background play. For example you can’t use the rest of the phone when you’re listening to music (besides getting a call). You can’t even keep the music playing when you’re selecting another track.
You get a lot of camera options including; 3 different quality settings, 5 different white balance options, center weighted exposure, colour settings, picture frames, different self timer pictures, etc.
You don’t get a flash. The zoom doesn’t work unless you choose a lower resolution besides 3mp.
Picture quality isn’t bad. You don’t get a flash so it doesn’t work well when it’s dark (most camera phones are like this).
You can quickly start the camera by pressing the camera soft key twice (pressing it once brings up the camera menu).
The camcorder can record videos of up to 320×240@14fps.
Calendar, todo, wake up call, alarm, calculator, worldtime, unit converter, notepad, stopwatch and voice memo.
You can sync your phonebook and calendar with your computer using PC Link Pro. You can import contacts from Outlook (or a CSV file) but you can’t sync with Outlook.
The alarm isn’t very useful because it doesn’t work if the Fin is off.
I would describe the incoming sound quality to be muddy sounding. When there are pauses in a conversation, the Fin will blank the audio so if you’re not used to it you might think the call just ended.
Maximum earpiece volume is great
I forgot to bring another Helio phone along with me so I couldn’t test the RF performance.
As you’d suspect from such a skinny phone, the Fin can get quite warm when you’re using it. I guess that makes it a great hand warmer if you’re somewhere cold.
Battery life is awful. If you leave H.O.T. on the Fin, it won’t even last a day on a full charged battery.
Feature wise it’s not bad but I wish the features worked a little better; there’s no background music play, the browser could use some more work, the alarm won’t turn the phone on. Here’s the thing; the Fin’s a phone that fits great in your pocket… unfortunately it’s awful keypad makes you want to just leave it there.
Ratings (out of 5)
|Phone Related Features
|Ease of Use
|Degree of Customizability
|Overall (not an average)
|*Please note these ratings are temporal and are really only valid for the date they were assigned. A phone which receives a rating of 5 a year ago will probably get a lower rating today.
- Large screen
- Camera is okay
- Keypad is hard to use
- No background music play
- Browser needs work
Discuss this review at HowardForums.com | See the gallery here
Written by Howard Chui 11.12.2007
This article may not be reproduced without the the author’s permission.
November 12th, 2007