Orange SPV C600 smart phone
It's all in the screen
Review Orange was the first mobile phone network in the UK to jump on the Windows Mobile platform when it shipped the original SPV toward the end of 2002. The SPV C600 was launched late last year, a mere three years after the original SPV and the changes are amazing...
The first two SPV models - the SPV and the SPV E100 - never gained a huge following thanks to their large size and sluggish use. It was the SPV C500 that really opened up Windows Mobile as a viable smart-phone platform. Since then, phone development has moved on at a rapid pace, and Orange has managed to squeeze in a music version - the C550 - between the C500 and the C600.
Although physically the three latest SPV models haven't differed very much in terms of size there have been a fair few changes between the models. The most prominent difference isn't a hardware feature: it's the OS. Now we get Windows Mobile 5.0 instead of Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition. Even here you could be mistaken for thinking not much has changed. Orange's customisation of the menu system uses pretty much the same interface as most new Orange-branded phones.
However, press the menu button and you realise that the operating system has undergone some major changes. Rather than having a list of applications there are now nine icons per menu page. The More button under the left soft key lets you move to the next page of applications. Each of the icons is associated with the numerical keys on the keypad, so by pressing Start then 4, you'd get in to the camera application, for example. The Start button has lost its Windows heritage, as no Start menu pops up, as was the case with previous Windows Mobile devices.
The screen resolution has been increased to 320 x 240 pixels and this is the most important hardware change to the C600. Not only is it much brighter, but the mesh effect that the C500 suffered from is completely gone. The only slight downside is that the screen can only display 16-bit colour - ie. 65,536 colours - not as good as the best handsets on the market which can do 24-bit. Still, the 2.2in screen- that's 0.1in bigger than the C500's display - is very easy to read and the higher resolution makes it a lot more usable, especially if you access web or WAP pages.
The SPV series (L-R): SPV C600, SPV C500 and the original SPV
The phone has been tweaked a little: the casing has much sharper corners than the C500, presumably to accomodate the larger screen. The C600 is also slightly thicker than its predecessor - 16.3mm vs 19mm - but this is hardly noticeable. The long sides of the C600 have sharper angles than the C500, which gives an illusion of the C500 being wider than the C600, though this isn't the case.
Oddly enough, the keys on the keypad are larger than those on the C500, despite the bigger screen, which takes up more space. The layout of the keypad has been drastically changed and the keys are closer together than they were the C500. Gone is the C500's love-it-or-hate-it rocker switch and in its place the C600 has a joystick. However, this is far from the best joystick I have used on a phone as it's quite stiff, making it slightly difficult to operate at times.
The two soft keys are still in the same location underneath the display, and the home and back buttons are located above the joystick. The call and end call buttons have been moved from the sides of the phone to a position just below the home and back button.
The camera button is still located on the left-hand side, while the volume up and down rocker has been moved down slightly on the right. This has been done to make space for a new button which gives you instant access to the Internet Explorer favourites menu. The C600 utilises the same mini USB connector, and it will charge over USB as well as with the included AC adaptor.
There's also a 2.5mm audio jack in the bottom of the C600 and the headset is identical to that of the C500. The sound quality it on par with the C500, but not nearly as good as that of newer phones, especially the more specialised music models. The lack of any kind of bass and treble control in the Windows Media player doesn't help to improve things.
The LED found on the front of the C500 has disappeared - the C600 sports two LEDs instead, one on each side of the ear piece. The right one is the power light and the left one is the Bluetooth LED. The power button is still located at the top of the phone alongside the IrDA eye. The speaker has been moved from the left side to a position just behind the power button.
The integrated camera in the C500 was fairly disappointing, even a year ago. The C600 has a 1.3 megapixel unit which captures stills at a maximum resolution of 1280 x 1024. Video is recorded at a fairly paltry 176 x 144 pixels in MPEG 4, H.263 or Motion-JPEG AVI formats.
The internal workings have been given an overhaul as well; the processor has been upgraded from an OMAP 730 to an OMAP 850, but rather strangely the clock speed has been reduced by 5MHz from 200 to 195MHz. The memory has changed, not in terms of size but allocation, so the C600 has a lot more available system memory, but in turn you get less storage capacity. Orange bundles a 32MB Mini SD card with the handset, double the capacity of the one the C500 shipped with. Still, this is fairly stingy when you consider that a 128MB card will set you back no more than £10 and the cost to Orange would be even less.
The battery is now rated at 1150mAh, up from 1050mAh for the C500, but the talk time is rated at four hours compared to five hours of the C500. These numbers are Orange's own estimates, and are likely to differ depending on your usage. The stand-by time of the C600 has increased to six days compared to the C500's four, which is a huge improvement - at least for those that don't use their phone too frequently.
For world travellers the good news is that the SPV C600 is quad-band, so it should work in most parts of the world with the only possible exception being Japan.
Apart from the headphones and the charger the only other thing in the box is a USB to mini-USB cable, used to sync the phone with your PC. A CD with ActiveSync and Outlook 2002 is also part of the package.
The SPV C600 is a huge improvement upon the C500 without changing the core product too much. It's a shame that Orange didn't add Wi-Fi as there are models from Q-tek and i-mate that are based on the same hardware as the C600 but which do provide WLAN connectivity.
The SPV 600 isn't for everyone - PDA users might prefer a smart phone with a larger screen and the familiar tablet form-factor - but the new Windows Mobile 5 operating system has brought along a lot of new features and made it much more competitive with other mobile phone operating systems. It still has a few quirks and some minor bugs that need ironing out, but on a whole it's a vast improvement on Windows Mobile 2003 SE. In use it felt slightly sluggish until applications were loaded into the memory, but once you accessed the same application a second time it was very quick.
Considering that the SPV C600 is free on most contracts from Orange - for both business users and consumers - it's a good choice for anyone that wants a handset that looks and feels like a regular phone but wants more sophisticated functionality. It might not be as advanced as some of the PDA phone devices on the market, such as Orange's own SPV M500, but then the C600 should be viewed as a potential replacement for your phone, not your PDA. ®