Trying to get by...

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Audiovox SMT5600 Review

Here is a nice review I found online: Like many, from Robert Scoble to Narendra Rocherolle, I have become addicted to the Audiovox SMT5600 (called the C500 in Europe). How do I know that ? Simply because I have never used my phone so much in the past! I used to have a PDA (Palm V), a cell phone, an MP3 player and, whenever I thought about bringing it, a digital camera. For the longest time, I have wanted to reduce the number of devices I had to carry (not mentioning interface and power cables, adapters, etc.). When I got into moblogging (through client Buzznet), getting a decent cameraphone became a must. I had been thinking about getting a Blackberry for a while, especially when their new 7100t came out. However it does not have a camera. Robert had shown me his phone a number of times, and it seemed to be an interesting option. I found the MPx220 quite interesting (because of the mega-pixel camera) but I read so many bad reviews regarding sound quality, the camera and reception problems that I decided to take a pass (Chris Shipley told me she just got one, so we'll see what she says about it). However this got me into the idea of going for a SmartPhone, on the premise that the "native" integration with Outlook and Windows should work better. fter a couple of months of using the 5600, to which I added a 256MB Mini-SD, I am quite satisfied of the choice. I had to unlock the phone to use it on the T-Mobile network, and the GPRS configuration took a bit of effort, but it is great. I am using a hosted Exchange account with MailStreet, to which I added the Mobile ActiveSync option. It works perfectly, and so does the access to my Gmail account.

The SMT5600 was only carried by AT&T Wireless, and upon the merger with Cingular, they stopped selling it. I therefore had to buy mine (slightly) used on eBay, and used this unlocking solution.

To provide a bit of balance, here are a few hilights (plus/minus) for both the phone and the SmartPhone O/S (am sure Robert will forward to the relevant people at Microsoft):

  • +: The phone design is great, the screen is of great quality, and I have found that the keyboard and T9 (the text input software) allowed me to take rough notes in both English and French. The reception is generally much better than my previous phone (the T610).
  • +: The sound quality is good for phone calls and podcasts, and good enough to listen to CD music. I have not used the speakerphone much, though it seems to work fine. I am using a Jabra FreeSpeak bluetooth headset most of the time, and it works great.
  • -: The camera is the only slight regret I have. It is a very good VGA camera, but more often than not, I wish I had a 1.3 megapixel resolution like the Nokia 6630. You can clearly see the difference on this scene: SMT 5600 vs. Nokia 6630.
  • +: The SmartPhone O/S is quite well implemented (except the boot, a bit slow). I found the UI very easy to get used to and the library of programs quite rich (but for a backup solution, see below). Essentially I am now using my phone as a mini laptop, sometimes not even taking my Tablet PC with me if I know that I only need to take a few notes (the test was to take raw notes of that event).
  • +: The implementation of Outlook (email, calendar, tasks, contacts), Windows Media Player, Internet Explorer are definetely good enough. They might be a tad more functional, but this might impact speed and memory consumption. Posting pictures to my moblog can be done by email with a few clicks, which is cool.
  • -: I just wish I could send multiple pictures in one email. And also, it would be great to be able to rotate a picture just after shooting it, and save it with the new angle.
  • -: The biggest lack flaw in this O/S is the fact that there is no bundled backup/restore solution. One day, my phone completely froze and I had no choice but hard reset it, which means kiss goodbye to data and configuration. Data were synchronised on my PCs, but not the settings. Here went two hours of reconfiguration of the phone... The next day, I uploaded Sprite Backup, and saved the settings of my phone to my Mini-SD card and my PC. I resetted the phone and restored the whole lot, with a bit of work required.
  • -: The other functionality (which like backup/restore is part of Windows CE) is the ability to synchronize folders automatically. It is a bit of a bummer to have to manually download podcasts and upload photos.
  • -: More of a detail, but it should be possible to configure the usage of a bluetooth headset per profile, or at least, not transfer calls to the BT headset when I am in headset profile, listening to music/podcasts. This means that you have to put your BT headset on, replacing the "regular" one in order to answer a call. Quite inconvenient, and risky if you are driving. This shades/BT headset combo might eventually be a solution.
  • -: It has not happened yet but I am worried about getting O/S updates on my phone since it is not carried by T-Mobile. I understand that it is carriers' decision to update O/S "over the air:", and I have a feeling that I am going to feel sorry about this.
  • +: A very neat feature: setting your profile to Automatic means that the phone will set itself in Meeting mode during meeting times set in your calendar.
  • +: MSN Messenger on the phone is great but I just loaded Agile Messenger, which is a Trillian for SmartPhone. Way cool (thanks to Russ and Mike, MOMO founders, who showed it to me).

I will probably switch to a phone with a higher definition camera in a few months, but I really hope to be able to stick to the SmartPhone O/S. Even if it crashes/freezes every now and then (once a week ?), I make sure to shutdown the phone every night, and it really worked for me so far.

Source: (Software Only) __________________________________________________________ Here is another great Review.

No comments: