Celio today announced the second version of its REDFLY smartphone accessory, the C8N. The new model, priced at $299, looks similar to the original C8 REDFLY which it is replacing, but is available in black instead of red and has a few bonus features, such as the ability to play video from your iPhone or iPod Touch on a larger, but mobile screen. Celio is also announcing a new more wallet-friendly C7 version. Priced at $229, the C7 sports a smaller 7-inch screen and is rated for less battery life. We’ve had our hands on C8N for a few days now and are prepared to deliver our first impressions and a hands-on video. Design If you’ve never heard of Celio’s REDFLY, here’s a quick explanation: It looks like a netbook. At 1 x 6 x 9 inches in size, it’s just a bit smaller than the Eee PC 701. It has a display and a smaller QWERTY keyboard, as well as two USB ports, a VGA out, and an NTSC port. However, the biggest difference between a netbook and the REDFLY is that the REDFLY is just a shell; there isn’t a hard drive inside, and it won’t connect to the Internet on its own. Instead the RedFly takes your smart phone's operating system (well just Windows Mobile phones for now) and runs it on a laptop looking device. Note: The REDFLY unit we were testing is colored red. The final unit will be black. Easy Setup To get started, you need to first install a small .cab file to one of the supported Windows Mobile phones (we used an HTC Touch Pro), and then plug your phone into one of the available USB ports (it can also be paired via Bluetooth). Whatever is on your phone’s display appears on the REDFLY. That means you can view and edit Office Documents directly on your handset, but with the REDFLY’s full keyboard, a mouse, and a much larger 800 x 480 resolution display. Multimedia The media port (for NTSC/PAL connections) is the latest addition to the REDFLY. If you have a Windows Mobile device connected, you can also plug an iPod, iPhone, a Zune, a DVD player, etc. right into the unit.
We plugged in an iPhone 3G using a $19.99 A/V cable (not included) and began streaming a YouTube video. A small adjustable box appeared on the REDFLY display on top of our Windows Mobile OS. We liked that we could work on a Microsoft Office file and watch a movie from the iPhone at the same time. However, if you’re traveling and want to watch your iPhone video on a larger display, you can also blow the movie up to full screen. The colors looked washed out, and the picture didn’t look as sharp as it looked on the iPhone. Still, we liked that it was a more comfortable movie experience than holding the iPhone for over an hour. Also, you’ll need to plug your headphone into your multimedia device to hear audio; the REDFLY doesn’t have its own speakers and because the phone is docked it wouldn't play out of the iPhone's speakers. Web We liked surfing the Web on the REDFLY because it was easier to read the text on pages, and it let us sit back instead of squinting closely at our phone. During one instance, we pushed the phone into our pocket while sitting shotgun on a road trip and fired off a few e-mails from the REDFLY sitting in our lap. We couldn’t load the latest version of Opera—you’re limited to using version 8.6 right now—and it doesn’t support Skyfire at all. That means streaming Hulu.com movies is out of the question. Security Since the REDFLY is just a larger image of your phone, you don’t have to worry about viruses or other security problems that effect real computers. It also means you won’t lose sensitive data if your REDFLY is snatched by a would-be laptop thief. Performance The REDFLY worked well, but there were a few annoying bugs. For one, it felt like the sluggishness of our HTC Touch Pro was highlighted on the bigger display. Also, when we were inputting data into fields, the REDFLY would sometimes automatically start typing using the phone’s virtual keyboard. When we were setting up our e-mail account it kept typing various letters on its own, repetitively, until we manually clicked one of the virtual keyboards keys. The REDFLY is rated for up to 8 hours of battery life, but it won’t charge your phone while it’s connected. We used the battery for 4 hours and were able to drain the battery by half. Also, we liked that it set itself into idle mode automatically to help save juice. Final Thoughts We like the idea of the REDFLY and it does what it sets out to do well. It’s great for those that don’t need a notebook and prefer to fire off e-mails and edit documents on their phone instead of on a laptop. However, anyone who doesn’t use their smartphone for everything will find more value in a $299 netbook that has a full blown operating system on it, a full hard drive, and the ability to get online without tethering a phone. [flq:17a059f9819c40febd49bd33696ceabd]