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Orange SPV M500 smart phone

'Magician' restyled

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The M500 comes with broadly the same apps as the i-Mate Jam, though with a few of Orange's own utilities, such as Back-up, Orange Plus and Download, added. I also found Fonix's VoiceDial voice-recognition app was auto-installed when I started the M500 up for the first time, along with ClearVue PDF and PowerPoint readers, and GPRSMonitor, a handy tool which not only keeps track of how much you're spending when you use GPRS to send and receive data, but puts an extra status bar on the Today screen. The bar provides a small screen brightness adjuster, battery readout with estimated run time, GPRS activator, and Internet Explorer and Messaging activation icons.

Orange SPV M500

Speaking of GPRS, the M500 can be set to either Class 8 or Class 10 operation, and will operate across 900, 1800 and 1900MHz GSM networks.

VoiceDial works well, particularly once I stopped shouting at the phone - the earpiece volume goes loud enough to make you think you're on speakerphone, though it isn't - and held it up to my ear. I thought I'd try it with a Bluetooth headset, but while the M500 paired with my Motorola HS850 first time round, it didn't work as expected with VoiceDial. While the software picks up what you're saying, it doesn't relay information back to the headset, so unless you can hear the handset's speaker, you can't tell if it's recognised your voice correctly. I'm still not certain the M500's own microphone wasn't picking up my voice rather than the HS850, but I think I was far enough away to trust the headset in this case. Taking VoiceDial's recognition on trust too, I just said yes after a suitable interval - it asks you to confirm or reject what it thinks you've said - and was always put through to the right phone.

As per other incarnations of Magician, the M500 isn't well adapted to one-hand usage - sooner or later you'll need to reach for the stylus, whether to call up the Start menu or dismiss a screen. This is the M500's only real limitation, and it applies equally to other Magician-derived devices. To be fair, it's more to do with the operating system, but it's disappointing compared to Palm's work ensuring the rival Treo 650 can operate one-handed.

Orange SPV M500

Your battery life will vary, depending on call load. Orange quotes five hours' talk time and seven-and-a-half days' stand-by operation on a single charge of the 1200mAh battery. I got a little less than that, but then I had Bluetooth turned on. However, I noticed nothing to suggest a battery life significantly below the typical 1-2 days between charges common among smart phones.

Verdict

The M500 - and the Spy, if you're down under - is a great PDA phone. It's a device that perfectly shrinks the classic PDA tablet form-factor to a size that allows it to feel comfortable as a mobile phone. I still believe Magician is the best keyboard-free PocketPC phone available, and I'd much rather carry it around than HTC's larger but keyboard-equipped alternatives. Only the Treo 650 comes close, and that has a keyboard and a different OS.

The M500 is only cosmetically better than older Magicians, like the i-Mate Jam, the O2 XDA Mini and the T-Mobile MDA Compact, but better it is. This is a much more attractive handset than its predecessors.

Orange customers looking for a more data-centric upgrade need look no further, and the other versions remain for folks after a SIM-free purchase or a version for other networks. If you're happy to switch carriers, the M500 is the best of the bunch. ®

Review by
The Register

Orange SPV M500
 
Rating 95%
 
Pros Perfect size for a PDA/phone combo; good feature and application sets; Bluetooth; SD IO support.
 
Cons Not well suited to one-hand operation; the tricky-to-use SD slot.
 
Price £100 on contract
 
More info The Orange SPV M500 site

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