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Paul (P)Reviews the HTC S710 'Vox'

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#1
PaulOBrien

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Note: This article is based on a prerelease version of the device, and any of the details below may change prior to launch.

Introduction

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There's no denying that HTC's candybar Mobile Phone offerings of late have been few and far between. Since the very well respected Tornado platform release (which includes the i-mate SP5, QTek 8310, T-Mobile MDA, SPV C600 etc), the only candybar Smartphones release has been the HTC Breeze design - which spawned the HTC MTeoR, i-mate JASJAM and the ne'er to be released SPV C700 - and the low volume selling HTC Monet - aka the Virgin Mobile Lobster 700TV. The Breeze platform was almost universally slated for poor design, poor specs, awful battery life and unstable software build. The Monet on the other hand felt my wrath due to an awful keyboard design. Bearing in mind that the SPV C600 was launched back in October 2005 and the HTC MTeoR was launched in June 2006, the wait for a new candybar Smartphone has been considerable.

Enter the HTC Vox reference platform, aka the HTC S710 (and soon to be the Orange SPV E650).

Buying the S710

At Expansys, the S710 is currently showing a SIM FREE price of £289.95, which is not expected to change significantly before launch in April. Compared to it's peers (all prices from Expansys)...

Samsung i600: £389.95
Toshiba G500: £349.95
HTC S710: £289.95
HTC MTeoR: £289.95
HTC S620: £264.95
i-mate SPL: £223.59

As you can see, the device sits at the middle to top price range for Smartphones (particularly 2G Smartphones), but still remains cheaper than most Pocket PCs. It is comparable to it's predecessor in price, the i-mate SP5.
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Hardware - Overview

It's easy for the uninformed to dismiss the S710 at first glance as 'just another Smartphone'. Let's look at the specs...
  • Windows Mobile 6 Standard (formerly known as Smartphone)
  • TI OMAP 850 Processor @ 201MHz
  • 128MB ROM
  • 64MB RAM
  • 2.4" QVGA TFT display
  • Quad band GPRS + EDGE
  • 802.11b/g WiFi
  • Bluetooth 2.0
  • 2 Megapixel Camera
  • 1050mAh battery
  • 50mm x 101.5mm x 17.7mm
  • 140g
  • Slide out QWERTY keyboard
The bits that are really of interest are highlighted in bold :(

When the device hits the market, it will likely be the first to feature Windows Mobile 6 Standard, the latest iteration of our favourite Operating System :) The S710 boosts the 2.2" screen found on previous HTC Smartphones to 2.4", which actually makes a considerable difference in use. Finally, of course, there's the keyboard!

The S710 inherits the spring assisted slide out keyboard found on the HTC P4350 (Herald), which has received much acclaim from reviewers, myself included. On the flipside, the keyboard mechanism does add to the weight, hence why the S710 is tipping the scales at 140g.
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Let me give you a tour of the device.

Hardware - Around the device

Let's start with the front.

At the top, we find the speaker, which is flanked by notification LEDs on either side for WiFi, Bluetooth and GSM activity. The speaker has a polished centre in contrast to the matte finished surround to the screen. This preproduction unit has no branding, but expect to see HTC branding to the left of the speaker in production, and Orange / E650 branding alongside the speaker for the Orange variant. Below the speaker sits the screen itself, which as previously mentioned is a 2.4" QVGA item. There's no two ways about it, the screen is gorgeous. It's bright, sharp and noticeably more pleasant in use than it's Tornado based 2.2" counterparts. Expect the S710 screen to become the new Smartphone benchmark. The screen is not recessed for protection.

Immediately below the screen you'll find the directional pad. Made of black rubber with a polished centre action button to match the speaker, the directional pad feels good in use, at least in the left, up and right axis. On this particular unit, the down action is less decisive than the others and is hampered a little by the pads closeness to the '2' key. I am hopeful that this will be improved in production units. On a more positive note, the S710 FINALLY marks the return of 8 way support to Smartphone keypads... yes, it supports diagonals! :) To the left and right of the pad are soft keys, and the keypad sits below this group. I'm pleased to report that the keypad feels nothing short of excellent, and i've been bashing out messages using the new xT9 implementation at great speed, with no complaints. The keypad is light years ahead of HTC last Smartphone effort, the Virgin Mobile 'Monet'... thank goodness! On the bottom left hand side of the front sit the 'Home' and 'Green' keys, complemented on the right by the 'Back' and 'Red' keys. Again, all of these are well placed and feel great in use. On this unit they are in polished silver to match the action key and the speaker, however I anticipate that prior to mass production these may gain a matte finish. A light sensor sits below the '0' key, to allow the keypad to be illuminated only when required, for power saving reasons.
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To the back of the device. On the black rubberised back you'll find the 2 MegaPixel camera with portrait mirror (no flash here), the speaker, an external antenna socket, and 2 small raised feet. The battery cover (with HTC branding on this unit) takes up the majority of the back.

The left of the device features volume up / down buttons, a voice dial button and a lanyard loop. You'll also notice the SIM holder is visible... the SIM can be changed without removing the battery when the keyboard is slid open. Opening the SIM holder will power off the device.

The right of the device features a camera button and a microSD slot, protected by a rubber cover. It is no longer necessary to remove the battery to change the microSD!

The top of the device is home to the power button, which has a good press action, unlike some previous HTC Smartphones.
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The bottom of the device is home to the microphone, and the extUSB port. The port is protected by an (annoying) rubber flap, and is used for conventional miniUSB charging, as well as for a headset connection, as seen on previous HTC devices. There is no conventional 2.5mm / 3.5mm headphone connector on this device.

Finally, we come to the S710's party piece, it's slide out keyboard! Holding the device with the keypad at the left, the front of the device slides upwards with a convincing spring-assisted 'snap'. The operating system automatically wakes up the device, and switches the orientation to landscape (a feature made possible in Windows Mobile 6). At the top of the keyboard sit Caps and FN indicator LEDs, and 2 soft keys. The QWERTY keyboard itself features the letter keys as you'd expect, Shift and FN keys (which can be locked), a smaller than normal space bar, a dedicated full stop key, arrow keys, a backspace key and an enter key. Symbols / Numbers are entered by pressing FN and then the appropriate key. The keys are plastic with a good firm clicking action, commendable tactile feedback given the form factor. The keyboard slides closed with the same satisfying sound, and the device immediately switches back to Portrait.
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Software

Due to the fact this is a preproduction device, I don't plan to do a full overview of the software, as this is the one aspect that is certain to change prior to launch.

With Windows Mobile 6, the incremental improvements in the Smartphone Operating System continue. Changes and improvements include a better looking UI, the previously mentioned landscape switching support, Windows Live services, HTML mail support, Office Mobile and many many other minor changes. One of my favourites is the ability to smart-filter message sender / subject in inbox in the same way you do contacts. It's slick and works great (see my S710 preview video linked at the bottom of this article for more details). The S710 also features the latest Smartphone incarnation of T9 from Tegic, named xT9, as seen on the T-Mobile Dash. It's a little bit quicker and slicker in use than previous versions, although it STILL doesn't let you go back and edit already entered words :)

In summary, even on this test device, i've found the software build to be slick, stable and exciting with noticeable improvements over previous Windows Mobile 5 devices.
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In Use

What's good?

At barely bigger than a C600, for me the dimensions of the S710 are spot on. It's easily pocketable, looks good and feels well built. At 140g it's no lightweight, but it's still infinitely more pocketable than many 'Pocket PC's, and I can easily slip it in any pocket without noticing it's there. All of the design details work well, save for my slight gripe with the keypad 'down' action. The large screen is a joy, the keypad is excellent, the keyboard is genuinely useful, and it's great to have external access to the microSD again... well done HTC. The software build (even on this preproduction unit) is stable and the resolution switching when opening out the QWERTY keyboard is infallible. I've found the vast majority of applications I have tried work with the portrait / landscape form factor. Battery life is comparable to previous Smartphones, despite the bigger screen. The 1050mAh unit is the staple Smartphone battery we have seen many times before. Most of all, the S710 has the 'wow :) factor' that has been missing from Smartphones for so long... it's the envy of everyone you show it too (right Monolithix (MVP)? :) ).

What's not so good?

I'll ignore those who claim 140g is too heavy (it's not in my experience), and concentrate on what I found to be genuine issues. To be honest, there aren't many! The 2 MegaPixel camera is predictably poor, and it's about time HTC moved to better quality autofocus shooters like that found in the HTC Athena. The extUSB connector continues to be a pain, and it's compounded by the annoying rubber flap as found on the Excalibur devices (I actually just pulled it off on my HTC S620). In truth though, that's about as fast as I can go with the 'Not so Good' category. Specs wise the lack of 3G connectivity may be an issue for some people... for that we will have to wait for the 'HTC Wings', the successor to this device coming later in 2007. In truth however, that doesn't affect usability on this device as much as it might a device running the Pocket PC operating system, where more intensive browsing etc. would be more likely.

Conclusion

I can't remember the last time I was as excited about a device as I have been about the S710. It's fair to say that of late I have 'strayed from the Smartphone path', and become more of a Pocket PC users, primarily due to the fact that Pocket PCs have raced ahead with innovation while Smartphones have been caught in something of a rut. Well, that's just changed.

In a nutshell, the S710 is a brilliant device that is going to sell by the truckload, particularly through the operator channels. Lack of 3G aside, all the vital ingredients are right. The S710 combines an anticipated competitive price point with good looks, the ' :) factor' and the latest and greatest Operating System. I think Smartphone fans finally have something to be smiling about.

;) :D

Pros and Cons Overview

Pros:
  • Windows Mobile 6
  • Size
  • Design
  • 2.4" screen
  • 8 way directional pad
  • Keypad is nice to use
  • QWERTY keyboard
  • WiFi
  • :) factor
Cons:
  • Down action on directional pad (preproduction issue?)
  • No 3G
  • extUSB
  • Naff Camera
www.MoDaCo.TV content

High quality DivX Download: Click Here

Windows Media Player Mobile direct link: http://soapbox.msn.com/StreamingUrl.aspx?v...26-b10ab9539650

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See also

HTC S710 / Toshiba G500 Camera Faceoff

MoDaCo.TV HTC S710 / Toshiba G500 Preview

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#2
PaulOBrien

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Now posted live, feedback welcome!

P

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#3
Microsoft

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thank you for doing this =) Lovly!

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Mobile Phone: Qtek 8010, 200 MHz, 32 MB RAM, 256 MB MINI-SD, Telia
GPS Mobile Phone: Motorola A925, 168 MHz, 32 MB RAM, 256 MB SD, Tre (Three)

Well about that symbian sh*t to motorola :) Tre (Three) was "giving" away phones at a cost of 67$, no more costs, thats it 67$ and no more. The best phone they had was motorla A925, so i bought it. I think i will use it as a GPS unit :) Becuse it have inbuilt GPS :)

#4
Samsonite

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excellent review, Paul! Thanks!

after much procrastination and faffing about, i'm holding out for this phone. My Magician is now held together with sellotape, with no power button, dings all over it and a battery that wont last a day!

i only hope that the networks (please T-Mobile, please!) pick this up as soon as they can. How long from 'release' would you think we will be able to get a T or O device? not that i want the network ROM but otherwise its a SIM free with a contract from the various re-sellers like what Expansys do.

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#5
chucky.egg

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Quite impressed with the speed of the screen rotation. My Wizard is much much slower.

I've put the Wizard back in the drawer and been using the XDA IQ (SP5) for a while, but a combination of the two would be near perfect.

Yeah, this is the one for me.

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#6
Monolithix

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Looks just like what the Smartphone scene needs (bar a decent camera, sort it out HTC!). Think i'll still wait out for the Wings though ;)

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I still exist


#7
Marcel A

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Does Tomtom 6 works on this device Paul ?

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#8
PaulOBrien

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Not great, as TT6 really is for PPC.

P

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#9
Chiz

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Nice one.

These vids are great.

Thanks

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#10
moonshot

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I'll ignore those who claim 140g is too heavy (it's not in my experience)


Well sorry but its not a very good review then. All issues should be addressed.

The reason why many of us bought the c500, c550 and the c600 is because they were light and we did not need a qwerty keypad.

I think a line has to be drawn in the sand as to what is a smartphone and what is not. The VOX is not a smartphone. Maybe a smart pocket PC.

It will sell because of the novelty value, but two months down the line those who have one will realise that if they are willing to carry 140 grams in their pocket they could have bought a better gadget to play with. If all they wanted was a replacement for their light smartphone, they will wish they had not bothered.

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#11
chucky.egg

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The review is fine. It mentions the weight (Not that you can do anything about that anyway) and says that the reviewer doesn't think it's an issue.

If you disagree then perhaps this isn't the phone for you, but to say the reviewer is wrong about the issue is highly subjective and clearly not based on experience of this device.

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#12
Exodia

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I think a line has to be drawn in the sand as to what is a smartphone and what is not. The VOX is not a smartphone. Maybe a smart pocket PC.

Looks like a smartphone to me, its compact and running the smartphone version of the OS. Looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck...
Then again, the 300 pound girl next door looks like a woman, talks like a woman and even smells like a woman, but some people still insist that shes a cow.

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HTC Desire

#13
Marcel A

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What will be the release date ?

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#14
PaulOBrien

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Well sorry but its not a very good review then. All issues should be addressed.

The reason why many of us bought the c500, c550 and the c600 is because they were light and we did not need a qwerty keypad.

I think a line has to be drawn in the sand as to what is a smartphone and what is not. The VOX is not a smartphone. Maybe a smart pocket PC.

It will sell because of the novelty value, but two months down the line those who have one will realise that if they are willing to carry 140 grams in their pocket they could have bought a better gadget to play with. If all they wanted was a replacement for their light smartphone, they will wish they had not bothered.

It's not a very good review because I disagree with you? Interesting perspective ;)

No matter how many times you try to convince everyone the Vox isn't a Smartphone, it is. And to make that judgement without seeing or using one is distinctly questionable.

I'm a bit intrigued by the 'better gadget to play with' for 140g, you're clearly missing the point. A real life user example is my dad, who currently has a C600. He wants a candybar, doesn't want a touchscreen, wants a numeric keypad, wants the Smartphone OS etc., and he's completely smitten by the Vox. It's the SMARTPHONE he wants, and having seen / held the '140g device', he also is sure the weight is not an issue. He doesn't want a PPC, he wants a Smartphone, and he wants this one. He's not the only one :D

P

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#15
JamminJP

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looks like a great phone, now do I sell my S620 ;)

if I get this all I am getting is a "normal" phone kepad as the basic phone is the same as the S620

now should I wait or get it!

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JasonP
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#16
PaulOBrien

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And Windows Mobile 6 ;)

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#17
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And Windows Mobile 6 ;)

P


OH yea how could I forget that! doh!

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JasonP
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#18
Microsoft

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could you host fulll resolution of those pictures in the review?

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Mobile Phone: Qtek 8010, 200 MHz, 32 MB RAM, 256 MB MINI-SD, Telia
GPS Mobile Phone: Motorola A925, 168 MHz, 32 MB RAM, 256 MB SD, Tre (Three)

Well about that symbian sh*t to motorola :) Tre (Three) was "giving" away phones at a cost of 67$, no more costs, thats it 67$ and no more. The best phone they had was motorla A925, so i bought it. I think i will use it as a GPS unit :) Becuse it have inbuilt GPS :)

#19
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well my voda contract is just about up and after seeing this on expansys for £30pm with voda i'm having to say...i'm bloody tempted!

I would like to get a bit of feedback about how good/bad tomtom is on it though.

before i upgraded the ROM on my old C500 i used to have a version of TT on it and it ran quite nice.

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#20
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Prompted by the latest news article on coolsmartphone.com I've just been to the orange shop in Chester, if you ask they have the E650 dummy in the back and it looks good! A fair bit smaller than my t-mobile vario, exactly what I've been after. Can't wait for the release, hope the battery life is decent.

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