Helio is one of the few indie phone operators around, and the Mysto is the latest in its line of stylish, youth-oriented units. It is lightweight and multimedia friendly, but some will find it too focused on next-gen features and not friendly enough for day-to-day, mundane tasks like quick calls.
Features and Design
Despite its multimedia leanings, the Helio Mysto is small and compact; it will fit in one’s palm. Designed like a traditional slider, the top level is almost all vertical screen, about one and a half inches across by two and a half inches tall. The high resolution makes visuals bright and colorful. At the bottom of the screen are a slightly raised, round navigator pad along with two menu buttons, a call button and a cancel/backtrack key. Use your thumb to slide up the top and it exposes the bottom level with a good-sized flat keypad. (It also makes a loud, cartoon-inspired “boing!” noise, just to make sure you know the top was moved.) The numbers are fine, but the keypad gets unusually hot when it is charging – to the point where you may suddenly move away your thumb. In fact, the whole phone seems to run warm when plugged into the socket. It cools almost immediately after it is unplugged though.
The deep blue Mysto has very few extra buttons. On the left side is the volume control as well as the headphone/USB jack. On the right side are the power button and the camera key. There is a pinky nail-sized lens and an equally large flash on the back. It has 106 MB of internal memory, and can expand to 4 GB with an optional microSD. It is also Bluetooth compatible.
The Mysto runs on a fast 3G network, something that shows when browsing the internet or downloading videos. A minute and a half YouTube clip downloaded in about ten seconds – faster than some computers – and the visuals and audio were very nice. Some videos can be watched widescreen by pressing the appropriate menu key and turning the phone on its side. Multimedia power is perhaps the only truly compelling reason to buy the Mysto, so automatically add a microSD card to your purchase.
microSD aside, the Helio Mysto comes with all the necessary physical accessories: a power plug, a USB cord and a solid pair of Samsung headphones. (While part of the Helio umbrella, the Mysto is actually manufactured by Samsung.) It also comes with a simple, well designed help booklet and a CD with a more detailed manual in PDF form. The only disappointment was the lack of music software, something that could have easily been included on the disc. The 20 MB music suite must be downloaded separately from www.helio.com/support.
Image Courtesy of Helio
Setup and Use
Making a phone call on the Mysto is initially complicating. The keys are sensitive, so it takes a few tries to not double or triple input a number, and calling the actual number requires hitting the small call button located by the flat dial. It just doesn’t seem intuitive. Add in its heat-prone temperature while plugged in and doing a quick phonecall can suddenly become laborious.
The Helio Mysto really shines in the multimedia department. Press the Left menu key and nine different icons pop up: Customize, Surf, Snap, Games, Apps, Message, Plan, Video + Music and Contact. Customize, Games, Contact and Plan (a.k.a. calendar) are what you would expect.
Surf takes you to the Helio Internet gateway with fast access to MySpace, Facebook, YouTube and other traditionally anti-phone websites. Helio actually worked with the companies to create special versions of their websites, and the results have little-to-no loss of power.
Snap is the camera function, and its 2 Megapixel power is fine, especially with the flash included on the back. Snap can also be accessed quickly using the camera button on the right side. The visuals are slightly above average, and the Mysto will automatically assume you want to send it to someone after its taken – by default a digital mailing screen will pop up for easy email attaching or uploading to a Flickr website account.
Apps features many of Mysto’s unique features, including Buddy Beacon, which shows you if you are in proximity to one of your Helio-subscribing friends, and Garmin Mobile, a portable version of the popular GPS system. As the case with many multimedia phones today, some of the services run a la carte – and at a high price. For instance, the Garmin Mobile runs $9.99/month or $2.99/day USD. No trial is offered. However, the equally sturdy Google Maps is included free of charge, and while it lacks the visual robustness it has on, say, the Apple iPhone, it is a fast, accurate direction giver. Furthermore, the Mysto’s built-in GPS sensors allow Google Maps to give pinpointed directions from wherever you happen to be (without having to type in your current location).
“Message” lists text messages as well as email options. The Mysto is compatible with Yahoo!, AOL, Windows, GMail, Earthlink and others. Sending a brief text message with a recently snapped picture took thirty seconds from start to finish.
Finally, Video + Music run as smoothly as expected. The regular speaker is fine, but the Samsung headphones are equal to what you’d get from a MP3 device. As mentioned earlier, some videos have the widescreen option.
The Mysto runs $320 USD, but new Helio customers – who agree to a two-year commitment – can buy it for $149. A few hundred dollars is reasonable considering its multimedia power. All Helio plans offer unlimited data, which includes text and Internet, and start at $65. It currently has an unlimited minutes deal for $99.
The internal 100 MB of memory is a good start, but you’ll eventually want to add a microSD card to the budget.
The Helio Mysto is an original, good-looking phone, packed with rare multimedia features, but the awkward design, heat-prone keypad and counterintuitive calling system make it less attractive than similar smartphones. It’s hard to justify the device on cool multimedia options alone.
• Slick design
• Nice multimedia features
• Weird key design
• Gets hot easily
• High learning curve