Peer Review: Helio's Ocean debuts

Helio, the alternative, lesser-known cell-phone service provider run by wacky Earthlink founder Sky Dayton introduced the Ocean this week. It's the world's first "dual-slider" phone, which basically means that the base slides vertically for the cell-phone keyboard, and horizontally for a QWERTY keyboard (for the world's first, and fake, "triple slider," see this video). And it's available now for $295 — with a two-year phone contract, of course.

So what are the critics saying? We thought you'd never ask. The quick answer is, they like it. For the longer answer, read excerpts from their reviews after the jump.

"8.3/10. The Helio Ocean is a great beginner smartphone with a fantastic array of multimedia features and Internet capabilities that is sure to please both consumers and mobile professionals." , CNET

"Ocean's most unique feature — which might help Helio the most — is its uniqueness. Because Helio custom-built it with device manufacturer Pantech, it won't be showing up on shelves at AT&T, Verizon Wireless or Sprint Nextel stores anytime soon, or ever…. The phone won't solve all of Helio's problems. Ocean isn't a sure thing, and the company needs to grow fast to become profitable." , Forbes.com

"It isn't as slender as some of its competitors and it has a few downsides, but the Ocean is an innovative, thoughtfully designed smartphone that advances the state of the art." , The Wall Street Journal

"Its keyboard is the best I've yet seen on a device of this nature. The keys are adequately spaced so that even with my giant fingers, I could easily hit just one button…. There is something decidedly cool about whipping it out in public and having people ogle from across the room. The experience is made even cooler by the fact that the device works immensely well — well enough that it's just become my new personal phone." , CrunchGear

"By far, the coolest and most useful thing on the Helio Ocean is its ability to search right off the idle homescreen…. One item we wish had been improved was the battery life… You can't sync your calendar to your Mac or PC…. Our final recommendation would be: buy it, but only after you consider our caveats." , Gizmodo

"Today we finally snagged the real deal, and let us just say this Ocean runs deep. (Sorry, had to.) The Helio UI feels a lot snappier, screen orientation switching is nearly instantaneous, and our niggles thus far are few (we really wish it wouldn't kick us out of all apps when we're in "default" position)." , Engadget

"The Ocean also handles e-mail, instant messaging and Global Positioning System services. What makes the Ocean stand out is the integration of almost all of these services into its contacts software. Each contact listing has small icons that show your friend's current status in AIM, Yahoo and Windows Live Messenger." , The New York Times

"The most important point I want to get across to anyone looking to purchase the Ocean is this: keep your expectations in check. It's a well-featured device (don't just call it a "phone"), however Helio never intended the Ocean to act as a smartphone in the traditional sense… future versions of the Ocean, perhaps, just not this one."

Although the Ocean faces down the iPhone and the Sidekick with dignity, it still won't kill them off. The iPhone will integrate with your library of purchased iTunes content, something the Ocean can't do. And the Sidekick is available with both prepaid and T-Mobile family plans, which are critical for the Sidekick's primary under-21 audience. Once you've outgrown the Sidekick, though, it looks like it'll be a good time to dive into the Ocean. , PC Mag

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