Approximately a year ago Orange launched their best smartphone yet, the SPV C500. Neowin reviewed the device and it turned out to be the most popular smartphone that has ever hit the market.
A year later and this time around it's a new operating system and a sleek refined model to wow new year shoppers and smartphone fans alike.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the SPV C600.
Read on for full review...
View: Orange SPV C600 Review
View: Buy Orange SPV C600
At first it's easy to say that the device is very similar to the C500 and that's a fair comparison. The outer shell of the C600 hasn't changed considerably from the C500 with only a few shifts and additions.
From the C500 there haven't been many hardware changes. The screen is now QVGA and is slightly larger than that of the C500. The device measures a mere 10.5cm in height, 4.8cm in width and 2.0cm in depth. This is nearly identical to the C500.
At the top of the device the shape and position of the power on and off button has been lowered, although I dislike the button being lowered I think this is a good idea generally as it stops you accidently powering the device off. Like the C500, along the side of the device is where the camera button is located.
Along the left handside of the device is the standard up and down volume controls for the phone speaker and an addition of an internet explorer button. The button hooks into IE straight away allowing you to quickly check train times or surf the Orange world site for news and sports results.
At the bottom of the device HTC have once again implemented the popular mini-usb solution. If you're a smartphone fan then this follows on from nearly all smartphones and pocket PC's on the market. Plugging the mini USB into a computer will allow you to use ActiveSync or to charge the device. Located to the left of the mini USB is a headphone jack to plug in the headphones supplied in the packaging. A headphone jack is located to the left of the mini-usb connecting but does not provide the ability to use your own headphones, unlike the C550, Orange haven't provided a convertor cable in the pack.
The front of the device features two LEDs located around the ear piece. The left hand LED will light solid green if the device is fully on charged, solid orange if the device is being charged and flashing red if the battery is very low. The right hand LED blinks bright blue when the bluetooth option is enabled.
HTC have changed the keypad slightly in a few places from the C500. The "joystick" from the C500 has been removed and replaced with the joystick which was commonly found on the SPV E200. This will thrill smartphone gamers! Since I've become used to using the "chunky" joystick found on the C500 I am finding it hard to get used to the joystick on the C600. The joystick has a great quality feel to it unlike some that I've used in the past from Sony and Nokia. The call buttons (red and green) have been moved to above the home and back buttons and they feel better to touch. For braille users the number 5 button now has a extruded pip on it making it easier to use.
At the back of the device there is a handy "mirror", an external aerial port and the camera. The camera has been greatly improved from the one shipped with the C500. The camera is now a 1.3 megapixel camera (instead of 1.0 in the C500) and can take 1280x1024 resolution pictures. Just above the camera is the standard Microsoft stamp; "Designed for Windows Mobile". You can remove the back plate of the device to reveal the battery, SIM card and spot for mini SD.
Battery life is similar to the C500. On average my daily consumption is 20% per day. Which means the phone's full charge lasts me approximately 4-5 days. This is based on using the phone for a call every few hours during 9AM till 5PM. The battery life is improved from the C500 which lasted for approximately 3 days.
Windows Mobile 5
The C600 runs on Microsoft's new smart phone operating system, Windows Mobile 5. The new operating system is a great improvement from Windows Mobile 2003 SE. Users need not rely on Orange's photo ID application anymore. Microsoft have built support for contact pictures directly into the OS. The pictures sync over the air along with email, calendar entries, contacts and now tasks. Tasks is a new addition to sync over Exchange ActiveSync or manually over ActiveSync allowing users of Outlook to use and sync the tasks easily whilst working mobile.
Apart from user interface tweaks the major new addition to Windows Mobile 5 is "push email". Although it requires an upgrade which is not available yet. Microsoft plans to release the update in 1Q 2006 and it's not yet known whether OEMs will provide this as a system update or Microsoft will release it as a "hotfix". Either way it will allow users of Exchange 2003 SP2 to receive their email in a similar fashion to Blackberry users. The great news for enterprise mail operations is that Microsoft have built this functionality directly into Exchange 2003. Research in motion who own Blackberry requires enterprises to purchase seperate Blackberry servers for this.
The homescreen has the standard Orange plug-in across all signature phones allowing users to quickly and easily navigate the device with one key.
The start menu within Windows Mobile 5 has changed into an icon based operation as shown below. If you dislike the new interface you can change this back to a number driven menu using freely available registry tools. If you're an avid smartphone fan then it takes some getting used to but can be much easier to use and locate applications.
There is a lot of settings on this device and most of them are similar or the same as the C500 settings. New additions include a connectivity manager and menu allowing you to quickly disable Bluetooth or the radio. The alarm clock now has its own section named "Clock & alarm". I'm still puzzled why you can't set the device to repeat alarms. The alarm clock is useless without this functionality. From the settings menu you can change the device's theme. There are 3 inbuilt themes which are Orange, Metallic and Blue. The unlock screen which is loaded as soon as the device is locked is now customisable and you can add the time and date to the unlock screen. Unlocking the device is now industry standard by hitting the top left key and then *. Previously it was # and it's about time that this was changed as it's always confusing when using multiple devices that the SPV range wouldn't conform to an industry standard.
The new contacts screen is 100% better than previous Windows Mobile versions. It's now clear which number is which with pretty pictures defining mobile numbers, home numbers and email addresses. You can now add pictures to the contacts directly and custom ring tones. Selecting contacts is as easy as all Windows Mobile versions. You dial part of the number or name directly into the phone which intelligently detects the contact you are looking for.
The messaging side of things allows you to send MMS, Email (over the air with Exchange or to Sync with Outlook later on) and of course SMS. Sending SMS or Email's to contacts with pictures and full information gives a better UI now too and allows you to "see" who the message is from.
Similar to that of the
C500 you can easily track who you've called, missed calls from and received calls from. The call information lets you know what time, date and for how long the call was. It will also provide which method if the call is from a contact.
Now that the camera is 1.3 megapixels, this allows for us to take 1280x1024 pictures in "superfine" mode. Other modes available are 640x480, 320x240 and 160x120. All pictures get stored in "My Pictures" within "My Documents" on the internal memory or storage card. I recommend purchasing a mini-SD card to ensure you can take a lot of pictures in the best quality. The pictures are available to view and edit in the "Pictures & Videos" application.
Pictures & Videos
This section allows you to view all the pictures and videos that you have created or uploaded to the device. By default the application will not load your pictures from your SD card meaning you have to manually switch (annoying). Zooming in on pictures has been changed slightly. You can no longer go into a picture and press up and down on the joystick - this option is now menu driven unfortunately. A great addition is the ability to edit pictures. You can rotate, crop and auto correct pictures allowing you to quickly fix up pictures whilst being mobile. Excellent addition!
Internet Explorer is greatly improved with the C600. You can view sites in full-screen and you can tell exactly how much data is being downloaded at any given time. Mobile favourites will sync with your Desktop PC allowing you to always keep a backup of your C600 favourites.
The calendar isn't noticeably different from that of the C500. You can now see more enteries on the C600 due to the bigger and higher resolution screen.
ActiveSync 4.1 is greatly improved from previous versions. ActiveSync 4 or higher is a requirement to use the C600 on your PC. Although it's good to see Microsoft push on with versions I think the backwards compatability support could have been better here to allow for previous versions too. Many enterprises lock down applications and restrict versions so it may be months before customers could use this phone at work. However, as I mentioned previously you can now sync tasks over the air with an Exchange server. You can sync favourites, media (Mp3s, videos, recorded TV etc), contacts, calendar entries and email to the device using the ActiveSync 4.1 application.
The file manager will allow you to navigate the device and select files to rename, move, copy and beam (via bluetooth or IR). The bluetooth support seems to have improved as I am now able to send files successfully via bluetooth.
The two presets (176x144 or 128x96) allow you to record in AVI, MP4 and H.263. Again like the JPGs from the camera. All videos are stored in "My Videos" in "My Documents".
Orange help and Orange Plus
Orange help allows you to get quick answers to simple questions you may have about the device and some top tips to better customise the device.
Orange plus is an SMS service which will quickly retrieve information about the latest sport and news etc.
A great new addition to Windows Mobile 5. This allows users to check their hotmail, sign into MSN Messenger and check out MSN Mobile's homepage within one application. I'm unsure how this will change when Microsoft switch things to "Windows Live". Hopefully they'll be an upgrade to MSN Messenger Mobile to enable some better functions. The MSN Messenger included in WM5 is very similar to the C500 with an improved UI.
Windows Media Player 10 is included on the device allowing you to sync files with your PC using ActiveSync 4.1. If you record in AVI with the camera then WMP10 plays this fine now. Like previous versions you can play video full screen too.
Allows you to clear data from the device, manage open applications etc.
Like usual Microsoft only include bubble breaker and solitaire.
Below you can find a few comparison shots of the Orange SPV C600 against the Sony PSP, Orange SPV M5000, SPV C500 and the Apple iPod Nano.
This device is a great improvement from previous smartphones. It's a shame the device does not have Wi-Fi unlike most new smartphones. Windows Mobile 5 makes things seamless, easier to use and gives you smarter mobile computing. The memory management on the device is greatly improved. If your device is running out of resources to be able to use the camera correctly then the device will close down old applications that are hogging memory - much better.
If you are looking for a phone this year then the C600 is a good choice. If you're a windows user then the device will wow you with its ability to connect to your PC, if you're not then organising your contacts, meetings and media will be simple from this tiny device.
The C600 is available free from Orange to new pay monthly customers - you cannot get a better deal than this. Who said there was no such thing as free lunch?
Many thanks to the Orange External Communications Team for allowing us to review this great device.
View: Buy Now at Orange
For all our American visitors this device is being sold as the Cingular 2125 with a strange little lump on it (apparently to boost signal) so contact your local Cingular dealer for further information.