O2 Joggler review

We don't really know what the Joggler from O2 is: it looks like a photo frame, behaves like an internet portal, and is part of a growing trend of connected internet buddies.

The O2 Joggler, based on Open Peak's OpenFrame, sports a 7-inch touchscreen. It is perhaps thicker than most modern photo frames, but with a solid stand on the back it looks and feels like a high quality device. That 7-inch screen is good and bright too, delivering the heavily O2-ised icons that make up the menus.

A USB slot sits on the side and around the back you'll find a 3.5mm headphone jack and an Ethernet connection alongside the DC power jack. An Ethernet cable is supplied in the box, but the device is also Wi-Fi enabled, so you don't necessarily need it.

There is no battery on-board however, so it will always need to be plugged in to the mains, so this is really designed to be permanently sited - perhaps in your kitchen or hallway. Irritatingly it loses track of time if you do disconnect it from the mains, but it remembers your network details. Time can be manually set, or lifted from an NTP server, but you have to switch between daylight saving and standard time manually.

The main menu presents a grid of icons, and to tease early adopters there are several left blank with the promise from O2 of more to come. Getting the device online is as simple as scanning for your Wi-Fi network and plugging in your password. We were online in minutes.

The touch display is slick and responsive, although we found that it did crash on us whilst navigating, needing disconnecting from the mains to start responding again, although is something that might be improved with updated software (an update option is included in the settings).

So what functions are available to you? The main crux of the device is the O2 Calendar. The idea here is that you can let the rest of your family know what you are up to by setting up a calendar. This has to be done by registering with O2 on their website, but you don't have to be an existing O2 customer.

Once you have registered with O2, you punch the details into the Joggler and it synchronises with your O2 Calendar. You can set different calendars for family members and easily toggle them on and off to make the view less cluttered. It is a pretty good calendar, fairly easy to use, and includes all the niceties like reminders, repeat events and so on. It doesn't have the same level of detail as you'd find in something like Outlook, but for home use it is probably fine.

O2 customers get maximal benefit here, because you can have a reminder sent to your phone before an event (1 hour, 1 day, 1 week), as well being able to text your calendar to see what you are doing on particular dates and so on.

However, while this is a nice simple shared calendar, there is a significant flaw at the moment. You can't import or synchronise with an existing calendar. So if you have a calendar on your phone, or in Outlook, iCal or Google Calendars, then you are out of luck. Considering that synchronising between these existing calendars is pretty simple already, it seems odd that O2 would cut themselves off.

Other live aspects to the Joggler include the ability to view traffic information, provided by Trafficmaster, and you can scroll and zoom around the map. You also get a news feed, provided by Sky and a sports feed too.

Sounds great, but you can't customise any of the above. If you could get a traffic report of your route to work, or news within your own interests, then great, but as it is, these features don't offer that much.

Of course you get weather too, which you can set to your nearest city. This gives you a nice readout of the next 4 days of weather, a feature we found ourselves using surprisingly often; its really easy to walk past in the morning and check the weather, but you're unlikely to stop and scroll through pages of news.

As this is a glorified photo frame, of course, you can use it as such and the screen resolution is reasonable, but not the best out there. Not only do you get an internal memory of 1GB, but you can also access files via the USB socket on the side. The location of this socket does mean that you won't want to leave the USB stick in there, because it will always be visible. You can select to copy content - photo, video, music - from the USB onto the memory, which is all very simple, although navigation can be painfully slow at times.

There is a twist, however, and one that may appeal to a lot of customers. The networking means that the Joggler can stream images from your PC (sharing etc enabled). Mac users miss out as usual. There can be a bit of a delay changing images, but you do get a level of customisation, so you can select a particular folder to view from your collection.

File support is pretty good too on paper, with audio giving you MP3, WAV and WMA, and video MPEG2, MPEG4 (and H.264), WMV 9, DivX, VC1 and FLV, although we found that it sometimes wouldn't find these files on a USB stick. Sound comes thanks to internal speakers that are just about what you'd expect from a photo frame.

There is a games option on the Joggler that currently only contains Soduku and is crying out for more, especially given the family remit of the device.

Verdict

It's not that there is anything inherently wrong with Joggler, but as it is at the moment, it doesn’t realise its potential. Include a greater level of customisation so you could get to the things you want to see, rather than just a staid news feed and we'd have something more exciting. Change that Calendar option too so that external calendars could be integrated in some way, and suddenly its super hot.

Glancing at the forebear, the OpenFrame, reveals that that device has Flickr, YouTube, VoIP calling, TV programming, and so on - a host of goodies that the Joggler doesn't offer. O2 have been clear in placing this as a family-centric device, which means that they have to control the content it delivers, explaining some of the restrictions here. Contrast this with the Chumby which gives you plenty of options, and if you want something a little more fun, that might be more to your taste.

If the interactive O2 Calendar really appeals to you (and you can always head over to O2's website, sign-up and have a go), then the Joggler might appeal. O2 has suggested that more features are coming in the future, so as it stands, we'll hold on to our cash until the Joggler expands it's offering.