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Paul Reviews... the Orange SPV C600

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#1
PaulOBrien

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Posted ImageIntroduction

It's 3 years now since Orange proudly launched Microsoft Smartphone to the world, with their ‘SPV Classic', based on the HTC Canary reference design. The SPV E100 and E200 - HTC Tanager and Voyager respectively – followed, updates that slowly addressed the many issues raised against the first offering.

Then, without warning, Orange launched the SPV C500, based on the HTC Typhoon platform, developed closely between HTC and Microsoft. Prior to the launch of the device, a member of Orange staff (who shall remain nameless) told me that Orange wanted the C500 to become ‘the new Nokia 6310', that is the new ubiquitous business phone. A bold statement, and one I probably dismissed at the time… but then the C500 arrived, and promptly blew everyone away.

The Typhoon design moved the Smartphone on in leaps and bounds. A much improved form factor, stunning improvement in battery life, a clean and well-liked design… at last Smartphone was a serious contender in the phone market.

A while has passed now since the C500 hit the streets, and aside from the launch of the consumer-focused SPV C550, which added media buttons, a 1.3 mega-pixel camera and a QVGA screen to the C500s repertoire, all has been quiet.

Until, that is, the HTC Tornado platform broke cover.

The Tornado takes all the good things about Typhoon, and adds some more. The radio steps up from Tri to Quad Band, the processor, while retaining the same clock speed, is boosted to the new generation TI OMAP 850. Rounding off the hardware improvements, the Tornado reference design accommodates an optional WiFi component.

From a software point of view, the Tornado brings the much anticipated Windows Mobile 5 into market, the next step on Microsofts refinement and improvement of the Operating System.

So, enough of the history lesson, let's talk about the C600… :)

Hardware

As I mentioned above, the C600 is an obvious relation to the C500. The form factor remains virtually unchanged. The unit still feels light and comfortable to hold, and maintains a feeling that it is solidly built. The finish is a mixure of a grey powdered coating and silver details, there's no denying it looks great!

Undoubtedly the most controversial feature on the C500 was the ‘bar'. In lieu of the more common joystick, the novel navigation method employed on the C500 seemed to be loved and hated in equal measure (I must confess I quite liked it personally, although it was no use for games for the most part, it was quite reliable). The C600 dispenses with this, and returns to a more conventional joystick. The joystick is still 5 way and so limiting for gaming, but for those who disliked the ‘bar', the switch back will prove popular. Let's hope the reliability of the joystick proves better than some recent HTC Smartphones of late!

The front of the device is dominated by the 2.2” QVGA screen. The screen is quite simply stunning – big, bright and sharp, if you're coming to the device from a C500, you won't believe it. I'm pleased to say the screen itself is set nice and close to the cover (unlike on the C550).

The keypad itself is well designed and comfortable to use. Since this is a business focused device, the media buttons as seen on the C550 are not present, allowing Orange to space and balance the keypad more evenly, resulting in a far more pleasant experience than on devices where the media buttons are included. The home and back keys retain their traditional positions, and are a good size.

2 LEDs are incorporated into the speaker surround on the front, and the microphone is now moved to the front, alongside the light sensor first seen on the C500, which allows the phone to not illuminate the keypad in light environments (a great battery saving technique).

Flipping over to the back of the device, and minimalism is the word here. A small C600 logo, the 1.3 Mega Pixel camera (no flash) with the usual mirror for self portraits, a connector for an external antenna and an embossed ‘Designed for Windows Mobile' logo all sit towards the top of the device, while the expanse of the battery cover remains blank.

The bottom of the device holds the customary 2.5mm headphone jack, a loop for connecting a lanyard (I'm surprised actually that lanyard-mounting phones around the neck hasn't become fashionable here… yet…) and of course our friend the miniUSB port. Applause all round for miniUSB :D

On the left hand side we have the volume buttons and a key that takes you into Pocket IE, while the right hand side houses the camera button. A typically-awkard-to-press power button and the infrared eye adorn the top of the device.

Removing the snugly fitting battery cover reveals the 1150mAh battery (the same unit as found in the C500/C550, although I believe the capacity was boosted between the C500/C550 from 1050mAh to 1150mAh), and removing the battery reveals a standard issue SIM holder and the miniSD slot. Yes, the miniSD slot remains under the battery. Less of a sin on this kind of device than on a music phone for sure!

HTC devices and their codenames are mighty confusing nowadays. Tornado is the platform as a whole, but under that there are a number of derivatives that vary only slightly. For example, iMate sell the SP5 (WiFi enabled) and SP5m (WiFi + media buttons) variants, which are themselves different from the C600. So… to the first negative on the C600. Contrary to the iMate devices, the C600 – based on the HTC Faraday variant – dispenses with WiFi.

Having owned both an SP5 and a C600, there are some tradeoffs that make the C600 – sans WiFi – attractive. To begin with, the C600 feels more svelte than the SP5. Whether this is due to not needing to include the WiFi hardware is unknown (and yes, there really isn't any WiFi hardware in there), but if you hold one in each hand, you can feel the difference. Secondly, perhaps as hinted at with the ‘Faraday' name, the C600 has excellent battery life. WiFi in a phone undoubtedly impacts battery life when used, so this could have been a consideration by Orange. Finally, there is the question of cost. Once again, Orange are pitching the C600 at a bargain price, and there is no doubt that inclusion of WiFi hardware would have impacted the cost in some way, and probably wouldn't have been used by the majority of purchasers.

It's a difficult one, I know, but my personal opinion is that perhaps the time is a little too soon for WiFi on Smartphone to really be ready for the mainstream, and in the future when more applications can take advantage of it, and WiFi networks are more commonly established, Orange will bring a device to market featuring it. I'm interested to hear what YOU think though!

Software

An unconvincing press of the traditionally poor power button sparks the device into life. Despite the new OS, bootup time remains poor (although in the ‘smart phone' market including Series 60, this seems par for the course), which isn't an issue for me personally (I never turn it off!), but I know it concerns some users.
Attached File  Homescreen.GIF   85.82KB   70 downloads Attached File  GridView.GIF   85.82KB   80 downloads

When the phone has finished booting, the user is presented with the now familiar Orange homescreen, which offers all of the phones core functions from the homescreen, but at the expense of at-a-glance display of upcoming appointments etc.

After pressing ‘Start', the first significant UI change of Windows Mobile 5 is evident… the list format of the start menu is replaced with a grid view – prettier to look at, and I assume more accessible for first time Smartphone users. The left hand soft key now serves to move to the next page.

Before we talk about the software that IS on the device, let's talk about what's not there. The first omission is the never-used Orange Update application. To be honest, although a nice idea in principle, the potential of the application was never exploited, and I find it hard to imagine anyone mourning it's passing. However, it's not the only thing missing. Further inspection reveals that all of the components previously licenced from Action Engine are not installed. That means that Orange Update, Orange Backup and the Action Lock features are missing.

Orange Backup will be the most missed application, as users migrating from a C500 / C550 will not be able to easily and instantly migrate their data, however Orange do tell me that a bigger-and-better solution is under development (which is nice), it's just a shame that it wasn't ready for launch.

Action Lock was an application that you probably never saw. Do you remember Action Register? That formed part of it. The purpose of Action Lock and it's associated components was to allow you to application unlock your phone over the air. Now you're with me right! Yes, that is missing, which means, at time of writing, there is no official way to application unlock your C600 via Orange. In the finest tradition of ‘nature finds a way', more shady solutions have emerged in the community to accomplish the same end.

I'm not going to attempt to cover every change in Windows Mobile 5 in detail, rather talk about the differences on the C600 that you might find significant. Indeed, a great deal of what is changed in Windows Mobile 5 is ‘under the skin' – migration to the newer version of the Windows CE core, vastly improved developer libraries, standard camera API etc.

If you are a corporate user, or indeed a consumer using a hosted Exchange solution such as 1and1http://www.lduhtrp.net/image-1896943-10375282, you can experience immediate benefits. Provided your Exchange server is up to date with Service Pack 2, Windows Mobile 5 adds the ability to server sync Tasks – a function of huge benefit if you use them! Over the Air Outlook Notes sync is still missing, but the inclusion of Tasks is definitely a step in the right direction. Syncing of Contact Pictures is also included thanks to Exchange SP2. The messaging application in general, as with many of the built in applications, has had some general tweaking and polishing to make it more efficient.
Attached File  Rubbish.GIF   85.82KB   73 downloads Attached File  PIE.GIF   85.82KB   95 downloads

Sadly, the task editing on Smartphone is still sorely lacking, thank goodness Papyrus is updated and compatible (and indeed still free for MoDaCo Plus members!)

Pocket IE is one of the few applications that has had a revamp under Windows Mobile 5. While still poor at displaying sites that aren't optimised for Mobile Devices, it does perform better, has a progress bar (see above), and is more pleasant to use (except for the fact the cache fills up the phone's internal memory... see here for details!)

Working our way through the Start Menu, it's clear that the majority of applications haven't undergone a significant revamp in Windows Mobile 5. Minor tweaks appear in the 'Settings Menu', including the function to enable a clock that is displayed while unlocking the phone (bizarre, and the unlock combination has now changed too - annoying).

The Camera application is standard HTC fare, basic but adequate. This is no longer supplemented by the HTC acquired 'IA Album', rather the phone uses the Windows Mobile 5 core 'Pictures and Videos'. Basic Crop / Rotate functionality is provided, and you probably don't want to be doing serious picture editing on your phone! Pictures can of course be sent by Email, MMS, IR or Bluetooth.

For MMS, the C600 retains the adequate rather than outstanding ArcSoft MMS composer. The T9 engine for text input across the phone remains largely unchanged, with the much-requested ability to go back and edit already entered words in T9 mode still absent.

Java is included on the SPV C600, virtually identical as on previous SPVs. Not being a Java user, I can't confess to know enough to review this application :)

Windows Media Player on the phone is version 10, and performs quite well.

It's a phone

One of the criticisms that has been raised with previous iterations of Smartphone, and one that has been quite valid, is that it has some times felt that the core phone functionality of the phone has been compromised with the inclusion of the 'Smartness'.

By this, I don't mean that the experience of dialling a number and placing a call isn't a good experience, in fact I think that on Smartphone (not Pocket PC however!) it is second to none. What I mean is that on previous versions, when you have hit the green button, or the red button, there has been a delay that you would not expect to experience.

I'm glad to say that this is much, much improved on the C600. I think there have been some improvements on Windows Mobile 5 in this area, and the new CPU probably helps too, but thumbs up to Orange, HTC, MS et al!

Conclusion

So you've read all that (or you've more likely skipped straight to here, hehe), and you want to know my conclusion.

The C600 is a fantastic phone. There, I said it. It's as close to perfect as any device has got for me to date.

It looks great, it performs well in general use, and Windows Mobile 5 for Smartphone – more so than Pocket PC – is a well sorted OS. One handed use is a dream, and the keypad feels great.

It doesn't have WiFi, it doesn't have 3G, the camera has no flash and is distinctly average, but to me, these things don't matter. What matters to me is that the things the phone DOES, it does well. Of course, if those things DO matter to you, you may think differently :D

The Messaging and Security Feature Pack (also known as AKU2) is on the way, and although there is no word from Orange as to whether it will be released for the C600, should it arrive, it will add push email, A2DP Bluetooth Headset support and a number of other fixes.

In conclusion, I heartily recommend this phone, and am excited to call it the first, truly MoDaCo Approved! device :D

Do you agree? Disasgree? Share your opinions with me and the rest of the community!

Do you have a question about the C600 that hasn't been answered here? Ask away!

Comments on the review? Feedback appreciated :D

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#2
magic_peanuts

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Have to say the lack of wifi and 3G sent me firmly in the direction of the HTC Universal. It's been 18 months since the release of the C500 (possibly more?) and having played with a C600 for a few days, it just isn't doing enough for me.

I rarely use my phone, as a phone, so to me, the wifi and the 3G are far more useful than easy phone call making.

That, plus easy running of Skype and Tomtom 5 mean the SPV range has been ruled out for a while.

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#3
PaulOBrien

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HTC Universal review coming shortly...

I guess you're a good example of 'horses for courses' as the saying goes... If you want a great phone, that's small with great battery life, and 3G and WiFi aren't important, you buy a C600.

If you want a , you buy the Universal :)

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#4
magic_peanuts

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If you want a , you buy the Universal :D

P

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Brick?

Phone that thinks it's a laptop but fails?

:)

It's a great bit of kit, especially with a Jabra BT800 bluetooth headset.

Don't get me wrong, the C600 is a great phone. I still have my original SPV and comparing the two really is like comparing a Lada to a Ferrari.

I'll be back for the C1000 with a 5MP camera, a hot swappable mini SD card, wifi, 3G + HSDPA, and DVB-H TV!

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#5
Maxrom

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Action Lock was an application that you probably never saw. Do you remember Action Register? That formed part of it. The purpose of Action Lock and it’s associated components was to allow you to application unlock your phone over the air. Now you’re with me right! Yes, that is missing, which means, at time of writing, there is no official way to application unlock your C600 via Orange. In the finest tradition of ‘nature finds a way’, more shady solutions have emerged in the community to accomplish the same end.


Just a quick one about this - I got a C600 just before Christmas, and until recently hadnt needed to develop on this phone. However, once I attempted this using Visual Sudio 2005, it became apparent that the phone was locked down very tight, and disallowed debugging on it.

I emailed Orange support at this address : [email protected] and explained the situation. After a day or so, I got an email requesting my details, and the IMEI of the phone. Once I sent these back, it was about another day and I got a tailor made .exe to install to the phone that gave me an Orange application under Accessories which easily allows me to switch between high, low and no security.

Having set it to no security, I installed the SDK certificates .cab file for VS2005, and I'm now able to develop directly on the device. Whilst not as straightforward as before, this an official way to derestrict your phone, and once you have the tool installed, it allows you to change security levels very easily :)

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#6
Jamma14

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So Paul, battery life aside, what would it be the c600 or the i300???

Ps. Good review, looking forward to the universal one! :)

Edited by Jamma14, 30 January 2006 - 10:05 PM.

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siksik6

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the crap camera's still holding me off. Yes, I know the prophet's lovely, but I want the C600 form factor. Are you listening HTC!?

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#8
PaulOBrien

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Battery life aside, very tough call indeed... for reasons that will become clear when I post the i300 review.

In short, the i300 is a fabulous device with a great attention to detail in the software build... but, well, the battery life as it is makes it a no-go (for me at least).

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#9
creamhackered

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Good review :)

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#10
phdutton

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I've just got the C600, wanted the M5000, but £150 is just way too much for me right now, free is much better!
I've been away from Smartphones, had the original SPV, and the E200, but then made a bad move to Voda for 18 months. Now back on Orange, and I must say I agree with Paul, they have come on leaps and bounds! It's how I wanted the original one to be when I had it.
I do miss the Orange Backup feature actually, thought it was a really clever idea, and worked very well. But if something new is coming, then great!

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#11
Disco Stu

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I agree the C600 is a gorgeous-looking phone. The silver bits reflect other colours nicely. 8)
Sometimes the menu fails to load after pressing the left soft key but a reboot sorts that out. I've had programs failing to load for the same reason.
I find the stubby joystick a little tricky and am often catching the Back/Red buttons by mistake. When texting I have a habit of pressing the Red button instead of back.
The T9 editor is in the Windows folder but you'll need to build your own shortcut.

Battery life is so good I find myself wondering if the meter is actually working !
A Facade-based homescreen was a necessity for me to accept the phone but I'm now a fan :)

EDIT : nearly forgot - d'oh !
Three years of SPVs and I now have my first sticky headphone socket switch :D

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#12
shadamehr

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The lack of wi-fi REALLY does spoil it Paul - sorry to have to disagree with you.

But let me quantify that remark, because it's even more straight-forward than it seems.

You see, I am not really a business user per se, and don't heavily use my phone in that way.

Indeed, I rarely if ever, use it for my Email though I DO go the alternative route for a record, by having Active Sync sync the last seven days of my mails to the phone, now that I have the patch to store this on Storage Card.

So, the arguments about wi-fi only being for business or upper class users, let me dispell them by not even BEING that class of user.

To me, a SmartPhone, now that it has matured, is a real option for the normal personal user now. And that is what I am.

But since I got my SP5, I am amazed at how much I have my wi-fi used. Let me just give you one single example... Illium Newsbreak. Forgive the vulgarity or information overload of my next revelation, but, first thing I do of a morning, is get up, head to the loo, and turn my wi-fi on, and update ALL my RSS feeds. If I wanted to I could download my email too. Now I KNOW I could do this at the PC via active sync, but this means having to boot it up, or leave it on, connect, wait til active sync does a full and slow sync (did we mention AS now syncs on connection - gone is the "when I say so" option), and then doing a slower update of the feeds, all this TAKING UP time.

Instead, I do all this seemlessly, simply, quickly and easly, while using up DEAD time (I did warn you it would be too muuch information *lol*).

Then when I get to work, or on a train, bus or wherever, I am up to date with all the news I want. I could buy a newspaper, but Newsbreak is customised fro SPECIFIC items of interest to me.

And a newspaper can't tell me whats in my emails (though as I mentioned earlier, email sync is not a biggy for me).

I am surprised Paul, that someone like you isn't tempted by features such as this.

As a PERSONAL user, not a business class customer, it's worth being crass again, and pointing out that I can kill the same 'dead time' I referred to earlier, that I won't describe in detail again, while I am sitting stuck there during the day, by chatting on Messenger. (So any of you lot that see me sign in on a Mobile Device in future, might hazard an undesirable guess as to where it is I might happen to be *lol*)

Wi-fi makes this all possible, and using it makes things second nature.

Now I KNOW you have had the chance to try it all Paul, as you have both an SP5 and a C600, but it's things like this, that no one seems to be talking about, and that make me a little miffed when people say "there's still no practical use for wi-fi yet"

I have LOADS of practical uses for it, that I never thought about before having it, and I am not even a business type user.

Finally, the biggest bug-bear of all... all those people, yourself included, that say "Not needed YET"

Fair do, except that almost implies your only gonna keep your phone four months.

Because if you ARE correct, and its a case of "not just yet" then I strongly suspect that four months from now, certainly no more than six or seven, then there will be EVERY reason for wi-fi on a handset.

And on that basis, then unless you DO change phones every four to five months (and I understand how you can Paul, but not the rest of the world), then what will people do then - you will have a phone that is no good for the things you want it to be able to do then.

Surely THAT has to factor into the equation when thinking about what you want a phone to do.

For most people, they need to think what they want to be doing in TEN MONTHS time, not just now, as they will still be stuck with the same handset then.

And if you can really tell me that if we give it a whole ten months, that we won't by then have a real use for wi-fi, then I'll be surprised.

Conversely, if we do have a whole raft of uses for wi-fi on a SmartPhone by then, then all I can offer you lot, is, "well, shouldn't you have took everyone's advice, and bore that in mind when you chose your last handset?"

If so, I urge you, if the option is open to you (I I fully appreciate that for a lot of you it's not, but I number ported from Orange onto a great tariff, and got a free SP5), to forget all about the C600, and get a Qtek or i-mate tornado with wi-fi in - its the best thing I ever did.

I have so little use for a C600, now that I have the wi-fi capable version in the form of a sp5, that I am PAC coding my other Orange account and going elsewhere, as there is simply nothing good Orange can offer me handset wise, when they think the C600 is prime handset to be offering me. I have no use for one - owning a SP5, a C600 would then be fools gold to me, obviously.

And shouldn't that last remark soum it all open perfectly, as to how much 'lesser' a C600 therefore, is, to an SP5?

If battery life is your argument Paul, fair do. But I don't HAVE to have wi-fi on all day yu know - if I leave it off, my battery life must surely be as per a C600, as I get ages out of it...

Anyhow, thats my two pennies worth - hope it was useful.

Admit it Paul - you just LOVE the design and form factor of the C500 / C600 - that's what it is innit - to be fair, I loved the size and weight of the C500 too. But my sp5 is anything but a big phone you know *lol*

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#13
nickcornaglia

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Short Post from me for a change....
I have an SP5m and still never use WiFi. EDGE speeds are fast enough for me. I download and send email all day on two accounts syncing every 15 minutes. Newsbreak dowloads news every hour....all while in my pocket.

In my day to day, work and home...if I'm in a position to use WiFi...I'm in a position to use a PC. Which I'd rather do over my phone anytime. For me...a mobile phone is for when you're, um, mobile.

If someone could tell me a better use for WiFi, I'd be glad to listen. (And please don't tell me that I could control my MediaPlayer on my PC). :roll:

But Nice review. HTC phones get better and better REFINED and their latest batch is always worth the upgrade. Looking for some new innovatiove ideas from them though! Smartphone or PPC. They need to take a BIG step forward...or better yet, SIDEWAYS! 8)

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#14
Ingvarr

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I have a cheap landline internet connection on my home wireless router, and so I use it for my smartphone when Iam home to surf via WiFi. Its a lot faster and more economic then GPRS/EDGE.

Also I watch films via WiFi.

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#15
PaulOBrien

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I do like the C500/600 form factor Shadamehr, but I also love the SP5 form factor, it gets a lot of admiring looks.

I still stand by my WiFi comments for the majority of users. I do the same things as you, sync up NewsBreak (if you're a Plus member check it out, it's free!) first thing in the morning (but lying in bed rather than on the throne!), and use occasional messenger. I do them however by GPRS, and NewsBreak uses a tiny amount of GPRS data.

Maybe if a decent Skype client for Smartphone comes out, or a game you can play over WiFi or something then I might be more inclined to agree... but I don't honestly see WiFi in Smartphones becoming a mainstream requirement inside of the next year.

Maybe i'll be proved wrong and you'll quote me on this post, lol!

P

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#16
PaulOBrien

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Spill the beans too Shadamehr... who did you get your great deal with?

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#17
Swampie

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Short Post from me for a change....
I have an SP5m and still never use WiFi. EDGE speeds are fast enough for me.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Must be nice to have EDGE in your country. I don't believe EDGE is rolled out in the UK yet (and I belive some network operators have said they don't intend to).

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#18
PaulOBrien

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Orange in the UK only plan to roll out EDGE as fill in for 3G...

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#19
Dark Horse

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I'm truly amazed that this is the first handset that gets the official Modaco seal of approval. Exactly what does the software and hardware do that is significantly better than the C500? I got a C600 and after spending weeks playing around with it, I felt it was more of a minor incremental upgrade rather than anything revolutionary.

Yes, WS2005 may offer more extensions than an Essex hair salon, yes, it may offer marginally improved battery life, yes, the QVGA screen is something to make our ignorant Nokia brethren green with envy but are any of these features truly revolutionary and provide a substantial improvement in the end-user experience?

I'd say I'm a heavy user of the smartphone platform and Wifi is a must. It's not the concept of speed that's the issue rather more of compatability. I travel often and many countires don't have 3G let alone EDGE yet plenty are beginning to embrace the Wifi revolution. It's handy to be able to check email away from the office as well as not incur horrendous roaming GPRS charges. If Orange really are interested in making money from selling OTA applications, they must work towards making the distribution of those services considerably cheaper or better yet, free! Why should consumers have to pay both software and bandwidth costs on a smartphone when those bandwidth costs are largely redundant if one already has an Internet connection?

I firmly believe that the smartform wifi model is a stable one, certainly one that is mature enough to be used in the enterprise. Having used Wifi on a number of handhelds, the smartphone implementation, at least in the SP5 handset, gets it just right. Its small and fast enough to be useful for dipping in and out of, yet doesn't impact battery life to the extent that it renders the moby useless. More importantly, it works and it works very well.

I think WM2005 is very much a missed opportunity for MS to put right plenty of the small issues that overall would have made a big impression on the majority of users. As such, I'd argue that the C500 is still the most impressive handset on the Windows Smartphone platform given that Orange/HTC/MS addressed a lot of the shortcomings of the previous OS and devices.

Regards,

Dark Horse

Edited by Dark Horse, 31 January 2006 - 11:19 AM.

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#20
PaulOBrien

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I'm truly amazed that this is the first handset that gets the official Modaco seal of approval. Exactly what does the software and hardware do that is significantly better than the C500? I got a C600 and after spending weeks playing around with it, I felt it was more of a minor incremental upgrade rather than anything revolutionary.

But the seal of approval isn't for being revolutionary... it's for the fact that - at last - it's a Windows Mobile handset that works exactly as it should, in the function that it provides.

i.e. you buy the handset knowing it doesn't have 3G etc., but the things it DOES do, it does well.

Of course, it's all IMHO :)

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