[Update: C500 games compatability list now online here.]
It's almost traditional now... Orange provide me with the latest Smartphones nice and early ahead of release, and I review them and give you my thoughts here!
Well in this case, it's not quite so early - the C500 will be hitting a shop near you soon - but nonetheless, I hope some of you guys will find my review useful, so here we go!
If you have any questions at all that aren't covered by the review, feel free to post them in this thread, and I will do my best to answer them, and incorporate them back into the review.
I know that many readers won't want to read the whole review, so i'm doing something a bit strange, i'm posting the 'Conclusion' first, followed by the full review.
The SPV C500 is a great phone, and is streets ahead of previous SPV models... finally Smartphone users have a handset that is able to challenge it's rivals on every attribute, most importantly form factor and battery life.
The price point is hugely impressive given the feature set, and Orange definitely deserve a pat on the back for that alone.
Should you buy this phone?
That depends... If you are a heavy gamer and are interested in running GAPIdraw games such as Eclipse, Toki Tori etc. (full compatability list coming soon in the C500 forum), then I would suggest hanging on for the gaming bug fix.
On the other hand, if like me you rate the other functions of the phone as more important than gaming, if you are a business user, or you simply want a Smartphone that is light years ahead of anything in the market at the moment then YES... you should buy it!
A few people have mentioned 'MoDaCo Approved' to me... is this phone 'MoDaCo Approved'?
No. So near, but not quite, although if the gaming bug fix is delivered in a timely fashion, then I will be happy to grant the status.
For me, 'MoDaCo Approved' is an indication that I will recommend a handset, without reservation, to everybody, and the gaming issue prevents that.
So there you have it - the Orange SPV C500. Well done Orange, HTC and Microsoft! I can't WAIT to see what the follow up to this phone is going to be like
Since we first leaked the exclusive very early pictures of the HTC Typoon - later to become known as the Orange C500 - this device has been hotly anticipated.
There's no denying that HTC have been on a steady path of improvement since the first SPV (the HTC Canary) hit the shelves in late 2002 - but just lately many people have been feeling a bit let down by HTC - and in turn Orange - is this the device to redress the balance?....
There's no doubt about it - the C500 is a stunning phone. It's truly leaps and bounds ahead of the previous HTC devices, the form factor is excellent and performance is great!
The C500 features Windows Mobile 2003 for Smartphone Second Edition, yet it should be noticed this really is a minor tweak of the operating system featured on the SPV E200 - don't expect any huge changes in this release, we'll have to wait for a future Smartphone OS release to see that - but for the most part the changes that have been made address the niggles that people have raised in the previous releases.
So it sounds like good stuff... is this phone perfect? No - it's good but not perfect - and in the reviewed form here - has an issue that every buyer should know about - it may affect you, it may not - read on for more information!
The packaging is compact but standard Smartphone fare, with the exception of no cradle included
You get the phone, the charger, a USB sync cable, a headset, a 'TRY' Mini SD card and a manual.
I can't comment on the SD and the manual - they were missing from my not-quite-finished retail pack!
Contrary to my review of the E200 back in November 2003, the C500 hardware definitely is revolution, not evolution!
The device is SMALL.
Billed by Orange as 'The World's Smallest Smartphone', at 10.8 x 4.6 x 1.6 cm, the C500 addresses the biggest complaint about previous models in the SPV series - the size. This new device is pretty much spot on - compact, without compromising on usability and screen.
The screen is exactly the same size as on previous SPV models, but due to a greatly reduced distance between the screen itself and the plastic in front of it (here appears to be no gap!), the screen appears clearer, brighter and sharper than on previous models. This design decision bodes well for helping alleviate the dreaded dust ingress that most current SPV owners are likely to have suffered.
So to the keypad. Much has been made of the fact that the C500 has a 'directional scroller' instead of a joystick. I have to say - I like it. From a gaming perspective, it's a killer - it is of course only 5 way - but from my perspective, where I have been sending back E200s on what seems like a weekly basis due to broken joysticks - it's a godsend! The 'scroller' itself takes a little getting used to, and the action action (hehe) feels a little odd, but overall it's pretty good. Using a test device in a shop might not be a bad idea, as it's not necessarily to everyone's taste - when you press the action action, there's a lot of travel which feels unnatural at first.
The 2 soft keys nestle snugly between the base of the screen and the 'home / back' button. The action keys have a nice click, and have the advantage over some previous models that they are backlit - a nice touch.
As mentioned above, the 'home / back' buttons have been relocated to above the scroller - something that takes getting used to, but soon feels quite natural.
So to the keypad itself. I personally feel that there is some loss of feedback from the keypad compared with previous Smartphones, probably due to the more compact size of the phone. However, I soon adjusted to the different feel of the keys, and am a happy T9er again now
Below the 0 key on the keypad at the base of the phone sits the light sensor. A nice touch, the light sensor (which can be disabled in the Settings menu), ensures that the keypad lights (Blue) are only turned on when it is dark - reducing battery consumption in light environments where the keypad lights are not needed. Nice touch!
The base of the phone holds the headset socket (standard 2.5mm socket as found on previous SPVs - previous headsets work fine), and a Mini USB socket. Top marks to HTC for switching to Mini USB (although the soft keyboard won't work of course), the ability to charge from my laptop using a standard retractable Mini USB cable cheers me up no end
The right hand side of the phone houses the camera button. Interesting to note is that a long press of the camera button DOESN'T activate Voice Notes - this is instead launched by holding down the 'Volume Up' key, found on the left hand side of the phone. Similarly, holding down the 'Volume Down' key activates Voice Dial. YES, the C500 has Voice Dial capabilities - more on that later.
The top of the phone houses the power button, which, as on previous phones, can be tapped to bring up the profiles menu - and also the infrared eye.
Above the screen sits the speaker and the ever-present LED indicator.
The back of the phone houses the camera, which is the same hardware as found in the E200, complete with mirror for self portraits, has the Windows Mobile logo at the top, and has the battery cover. Yes - that's right - battery cover. This phone has a battery unit that is seperate from the back cover itself, unlike previous SPVs. I'm a little concerned that this will suffer the dreaded 'Nokia syndrome' of becoming loose over time due to the way it is clipped in... but only time will tell!
After removing the back cover and the battery, the SIM holder and Mini SD slot are revealed. That's right, it's Mini SD, so get ready to throw away your current SD cards, and take off the battery when you want to change card! The Mini SD card is held in place by a metal slide, but the SIM is held in place by a new 'sprung' SIM holder. What more to say - it works - and it doesn't switch itself off at random a-la-2.6-e200-update
Overall, I quite like the Black C500, and I REALLY like the Silver C500. The black model has a cool 'retro' look, the silver model is very 'modern' looking - both seems pretty well built, if a little 'plasticky'. The black unit had a less well finished feel for me, but this is likely purely because I had a preproduction black unit - I'll update the post when I've seen a retail black handset!
Below are some sample pics taken in SuperFine 640x480 in Automatic, Daylight then 'Night' ambience mode:
That's right, a Java Engine is included - the intent Java MIDlet Manager from Tao Group.
I have to confess to not having a huge interest in Java, so I haven't tried it out yet!
A PacketVideo Player is included in ROM.
The Accessories Folder includes the usual suspects - Calculator, Clear Storage, Modem Link, Sim Manager and Speed Dial, but also includes the IA products 'Space Maker', 'Task Manager' and... 'File Manager'.
That's right, there's a File Manager in ROM - it may be basic and miles behind the standard of the Binarys product, but it works, and it's there in ROM!
The usual suspects in this folder, BT ActiveSync and SerialPort setup and a few other strange utilities
So here's some other notable points from my time so far with the C500.
The headset included is the same as that provided with previous SPVs, which actually isn't too bad. As an added bonus, you can now end calls using the headset button, although you don't appear to be able to initiate voicedial.
Bluetooth headsets on the other hand seem to far better!
No longer does my Platronics M3000 switch off mid-way through a call, and what's more, I CAN initiate voicedial using the button on the headset, VERY cool.
Orange claim that a lot of work has been carried out on improving the Bluetooth Implementation, and although there are no visible software changes, tests I have carried out so far seem to indicate range and battery consumption are both improved on the C500.
It goes without saying that the C500 is not 100% bug free. It is however, pretty much free of major bugs (with exception of the game issue). I will shortly be posting my list off issues in the C500 forum, so feel free to check it out!
Many Smartphone users are quite passionate about T9, probably because it has been so bad in previous Smartphones! It no longer loses words - and is definitely improved - but it is not yet perfect... it defaults to some strange words sometimes!
Call quality, of course, is very important to a lot users... and I'm pleased to report that it is spot on! Gone are the buzzy e200 calls - the C500 sounds GREAT!
The white line found on e200 has disappeared from the base of the screen.
And FINALLY... yes, my Exchange Activesync mail DOES still arrive automatically - mysteriously for no apparent reason! Maybe we'll never know why... ;-)
See top of this post!
You may also wish to check out Lutzh's excellent review of the HTC typhoon here!