Siemens ME45: rugged mobile

Lots of rubber

Review Think of ruggedised mobile phones as being like Doc Martens - fashionable because they are tough. The Siemens ME45 is for snowboarders and skiers, not builders.

The shockproof nature of the phone means lots of rubber. A rubber cover for the socket at the bottom, all around the case, and a great rubberised feel to the keys. The door to the battery is even sealed with a rubber gasket. The back is then held on with a screw that can be opened with the supplied key or a coin.

Measuring 106x46x20mm and weighing 99g, Siemens claim a battery life of 300 hours standby or six hours of talktime; in practice, three days easy.

Just as the M35 was closely related to the S35, the ME45 is clearly a sibling to the S45. There is the same smart amber display with a pixel resolution of 101x80 pixels, and a central four way navigation key flanked by two function keys. On one side there are two volume keys and the infra red port while the other side has a button for a voice recorder. When the phone has not been used for a while there is an analogue clock which fills the display.

The left navigation key brings up something every GPRS phone should have: a GPRS usage meter. All but one of the GPRS tariffs charge you in megabyte chunks, typically £4 a megabyte. If you use one kilobyte more you are charged another £4. The ME45 shows the amount of data used for both the browser and external applications.

The address book is fantastically comprehensive. You can store up to 500 entries, each with three phone numbers and an address. These entries are stored separately from the phonebook-which is the SIM memory, but you can exchange data between the address book and the phone book.

When you insert a new SIM the ME45 asks you if you want to copy the SIM contacts into the address book. You can use the address book to make phone calls, so once it is set up you may as well always use the address book. You can also use the supplied software and cable to synchronise with Outlook. The address book also works with the voice dialling feature. You can set up to 20 contacts or phone functions to be triggered by a voice command.

Text messaging is comprehensive. Naturally there is T9, and also the new EMS system, which lets you add pictures and sounds to a message. The predefined pictures show a duck with a huge range of emotions. The sounds aren't great but it's still exciting to receive a message with its own fanfare.

The WAP browser is version 1.2.1, amazingly still limited to 10 bookmarks. The phone can use both GPRS and circuit switched data. Internet-based configuration is available via the supplied software and cable.

Thanks for the memo

The organiser makes good use of the big screen with day, week and month views. You can set 50 appointments with icons, and attach a short memo or voice note. Appointments can be sent by infra red or SMS. It's all very slick, and easy to update using the cable and Outlook synch.

Lots of mobiles have calculators, which in general are a pain to use. The ME45, however, does a great job of it. You use the four way key to select a function, and more importantly the right function key to choose functions. It's easy to use and, like so much of the phone, well thought out. The games are OK; there is a block stacking game and balloon shooting game. As you would expect with an EMS phone it takes downloadable ring tones.

So the ME45 is tough on the outside, and smart on the inside. There are a lot of features here that rival phone manufacturers should examine closely.

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