19 May 2016

REVIEW: BT Home SmartPhone SII

The smart home phone.

As an increasing number of us are ditching home landline phones and investing more time, effort, and cash in our smartphones, it can easy to forget how useful a home telephone can be. To pull us back onboard BT have launched a home phone that is packed with everything you'd usually expect to find on your mobile. We test the BT Home SmartPhone SII.

While sleeping, the BT Home SmartPhone SII looks like any other modern, yet decidedly not smart, home phone; curved black plastic, chunky charging base, and wired antenna hub. However, fire this baby up and you'll see something you might not have expected to; the Android logo. Yep, this phone is powered by Google's mobile OS - 4.2 Jelly Bean to be exact, - and that 3.5 inch screen is fully capacitive.

Setting it up is just like setting up a regular Android phone; entering your Google account credentials (if you have them) and setting up the WiFi connection. Connecting the handset to the base unit happens automatically, as you might expect, leaving you to fiddle with the likes of app downloads, layouts, wallpapers and – appropriately – ring tones.

Pre-installed apps include Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and a few of BT's own apps like Sport and Cloud. Obviously you can download pretty much anything else you need from the Google Play Store, including music and videos as the BT Home SmartPhone SII will let you play both. Speaking of which, we watched a few videos on the phone's YouTube, and although the picture quality didn't blow us away (think cheaper Android with a lower pixel density) the sound was fairly phenomenal – far better than any 'proper' smartphone we've played with.

In terms of use as a home phone, the handset is nice and light, yet big enough so that it won't easily get lost. Answering incoming calls is handled by the Android app, so older people who might not have used a smartphone will have to get used to touchscreen buttons. That said, the option, home, and back controls are actual physical buttons, as is the volume rocker, and sleep/wake button on the side. Oh, and it's also slim enough to be comfortably carried around the house in your pocket, yet chunky enough to be handled safely by kids. Which they'll definitely want to do once they realise they can download games on it.

But the eternal question about modern landline phones is... why bother? Your phone does everything this can do, but also do it far, far, far away from your house. Personally we think that although BT has produced a solid product here, it won't be enough to sway younger people, who might only have a mobile phone number to their name, back to using home phones. However, those that already do have and regularly use one, will certainly be interested in this.

We're not saying that this could be older peoples' first foray into the world of Android and smartphones, but for those of us who don't own a smartphone and who don't constantly have a connection to the internet in their pockets, this will be a great step up. Instead of switching on the laptop to find out what that guy on the telly has also been in, you can now just reach for the BT Home SmartPhone SII and surf the web. It's little adjustments to established tech like that that we really like, so although this isn't something that Millennials will jump at, it might be something for their parents and grandparents.


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