E200 Review

E200 Review



The E200.. What is it ? Well, for those who don’t know what a Smartphone is, it’s basically a phone which is based on the Windows Mobile Operating System. This phone can play MP3’s, it’ll syncronise with your PC so all the contacts you have on your computer are matched on the phone. Calendar notes will be matched too – so you need never remember anything again! :) It also has a full colour screen, it’ll play PROPER sound when someone calls.. yes, a recording of your favourite tune if you want. It’ll also do that Polyphonic stuff too.




What else do you want out of it ? Well, you can almost name it …. apart from maybe asking it to make water into wine (which is tricky, I’ve tried it and believe me it’s ruddy difficult).. this phone can do it. Proper browsing the internet in full colour? No problem. Talk to your mates with MSN Messenger over GPRS ? Sorted. Film your mate falling over in the pub ? Easy. Take a picture of your mate being dragged home, sending it via MMS and email to all your mates so you can laugh about it? No worries… I could go on here, but you’d get bamboozled with the options. Record Voice Notes, attach them to emails so you don’t need to write them out on the keypad, play games – download new ones, watch videos and OHH.. so much more.. In fact, if you really want to know what this phone can do then just click here!







Changes from previous MS Smartphones



You may have heard about the E100 – if you’ve seen this site before then you’ll definitely know! :) So what are the main differences? Well.. The additions are..

Bluetooth
Integrated camera
Windows Mobile 2003 O/S
More RAM (32Mb)

Let’s go into these in more detail…


Bluetooth
Is basically a short-range communications protocol, allowing you to send / receive data, use a wireless headset, and hook your phone into your PC without cables or cradles. I’ll go into this a bit more later.

Camera
Well, that’s in the back, and it increases the sreen-update speed from previous MS Smartphones that had plug-in cameras. It includes software that allows you to easily record video and take pictures easily.. plus you can save all this on the memory card (SD or MMC) so that you don’t fill your phone memory up!


Windows Mobile 2003
Well, this is where it gets complicated. The previous version of Windows Mobile was called MS Smartphone 2002. With me still ? Well, they renamed it slightly. Anyways, Windows Mobile 2003 now includes several improvements of 2002…




Windows Media Player
This now has the WM9 Codec – which allows more streaming media etc to be played.


Orange Integration
Much improved, and not over-powering, so if you want to get a new ringtone / backdrop / game, then you can – quite easily. You can also get “Orange Help” and Update or Backup your phone as before. The new Orange backgrounds and general layout of the homescreen is quite nice, and I didn’t feel the need to remove it straight away! :)


Navigation / Directory changes
“Programs” is now called “Start” on the homescreen, to bring the OS into line with other Windows Operating Systems. Also, when you ActiveSync to the phone you’ll find that “IPSM” is now called “Storage” – this makes it a bit easier to understand. I like this.


Inbox
This has had quite a bit of work done on it. 8 different email accounts are now supported, instead of the previous single account. There’s also a nice new MMS client and you can add signatures for each account you use – even text messages! Talking about text messages, the SMS counter now functions correctly .. HURRA! Plus when you’re typing a text you DON’T get the Subject field showing on screen – HURRA! And … wait for it.. you can delete ALL SMS text messages at once ! HURRAAAA!!!!!!!!!




Navigation around the Inbox takes some getting used to. For example, if I’m in the SMS Inbox and I want to get to the SMS Sent Items, I’ll need to hit..

Menu->Accounts/Folders->Folders->Sent Items

.. while this doesn’t SOUND tricky, you can find yourself getting lost at times. Once you get the hang of it this isn’t too bad. One thing that did confuse me was if you’re currently viewing the SMS Inbox and you hit…

Menu->Accounts/Folders->Folders->Menu->Manage Folders

.. it doesn’t seem to do anything useful ? What’s that all about? :)




I was put off by the new “weightier” Inbox at first, but now I’m more used to it, it’s a definite improvement.


Settings
The settings option itself is fairly “high up” on the main menu, making it more visable.




Inside settings we now have “Beam”, which allows you to allow Incoming Beams – this means that the previous IR application has now been binned. Much better..




Home Screen – This now allows you to pick backdrops etc from the Storage Card on the default Orange build. Whilst this is an improvement, I still can’t choose sounds from the Storage Card on the default

Bluetooth – This has now been added in, along with some associated programs in the main menu (under “Accessories”). This will allow you to turn Bluetooth Off, On (which only communicates with your bonded devices) or “Discoverable” (which means you phone can be found by other devices etc).. You can also search for and add in new devices here – like your Bluetooth headset etc.

Date and Time – I’m going to mention this because, although not changed, it’s now slipped further down the settings menu due to the addition of “Beam” and “Bluetooth”. This is now even more difficult to get to if you’re setting your alarm for an early start. Although the actual “Settings” option is now on the first “Start” screen, and some Orange homepages have the alarm clock on the homescreen, I would still like to see the “Alarm Clock” functionality moved further up and available easier. On the good side, we now have settings set correctly so it actually wakes you up! :)


Camera / Video
A new camera app is now on the main menu, and allows you to take several thousand (depending on the size of your SD card). Running this shows the speed of the camera – a vast improvement on the plug-n-go E100 / SPV one. You can also ZOOM! and .. and … AND you can alter the brightness of the picture (HURRA!)… I have the following options ..

1) Auto
2) Daylight
3) Incandescent
4) Flourescent
5) Dim
6) Effects
7) Adjust View


With option 7, you get the option to tweak the brightness, gamma, hue, saturation etc etc…



(Pic above from threegmobile.net)

In the Options screen within the Camera app you can alter the Storage location easily (saving on the card or the phone), adjust the flicker control and increase / decrease the JPEG image quality. You can also alter the Capture Size on both video and camera (independently of each other), turn audio on / off and a whole heap more. Unsurprisingly, this software is absolutely spot on – why ? Because it was programmed by IAStyle.com.. that’s why. It’s spotty-dog. Me like.

Multimedia Album – This allows you to see the excellent pictures and drunken videos you’ve recorded. You also get the ability to send a picture via MMS or email. It also manages sounds too, so you can play WAV files etc from here.





MSN Messenger
Although pretty similar to earlier versions, this one allows you to log in and chat to your mates from all around the world whilst sitting in the pub / garden or where-ever.


Jawbreaker
My missus loves this game. I’ve not played it much, but hey – it makes nice sound effects etc.



Internet Explorer
Although looking fairly samey, this has had a face lift. It now supports several display options aswell as XHTML, Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), JavaScript 5.5, IPv6, Windows Markup Language 2.0, animated images and more. There’s still no frames support – bugger.


ActiveSync
ActiveSync now supports bluetooth – and you can connect over bluetooth quite quickly. One thing I’ve noticed here is that option 3 and 4 (Setup BT ActiveSync and Connect via Bluetooth) tend to move themselves around whenever they feel like it. See this article for more info on how to do it.


Caller Photo ID
**THUD** .. Yes, I’ve just fallen over. Caller ID ? As default? In ROM ? Yes, yes and yes.. How excellent. I dunno who made this decision at Orange / MS but thanks for this – this is one HECK of an addition and this should be part of every MS Smartphone sold throughout the planet. This, along with the camera / MMS functionality makes adding a picture to a contact VERY EASY.



Just run Caller ID, select your contact, hit “Assign Photo” then “Menu->New from Camera” … Click, save… done. Lovely lovely. Again, IAStyle.com have done a bang-up job on this. Spot on.


Orange Help
Excellent utility this, telling how to use photos, video, email, internet etc etc.. Top work by Orange on this.


Space Maker
Again by IA Style, this will free up space on your E200. Fantastic.


Task Manager
IA Style again. It’s brilliant. This allows you to stop apps as and when you feel.




Anything else I need to know? What about the handset itself?



The hardware is largely unchanged from the E100. The joystick is much better, and the surrounding “footplate” doesn’t wobble or push in like the E100 did. The phone itself is slightly heavier than the E100, but you get a cool green….green….blue… green..green…blue.. flashing LED and it charges from the cradle. Woo..




The camera works well, and comes with a little mirror so if you point it at yourself you can aim it perfectly. Video quality is like this in the daylight and like this in low-light.

One thing I’d like to mention here is that I’d been using this handset with a fully fitted car-kit – this one from Ora to be exact. I’ve also (due to the law) got a Bluetooth Jabra headset. What struck me when I first got this was ..

What happens when the phone is in the car kit (and I have the sound coming out of the car-kit speaker) and there’s a Bluetooth headset within range ? Does it come out of the speaker and the headset ? Does the microphone on the car kit work at the same time? What happens?

Well, I’m glad to say that this MS Smartphone is indeed SMART in that area. It spots my Jabra headset, flicks the audio on automatically when-ever I MAKE a call (when I receive a call, I just tap the answer button on the headset!) – there’s no confusion with the car kit, and that stays quiet. Excellent – and the car kit was designed with the E100 in mind…. but it works fine! Good huh?! :)


Conclusion?
I’ve been putting this review “off” for a good few weeks now, because I have to admit that I was unhappy with it at first. I’ll tell you why in a minute, but in the meantime I’ve been messing around heavily with the Bluetooth functionality ….

See this article on how to set up Bluetooth
See this article on browsing on the E200 over Bluetooth using the PC/laptop as your gateway
See this article on browsing on your laptop over Bluetooth using the E200 as your gateway



.. and I think it’s won me over. See, the thing I was most unhappy with – and the one thing that probably can’t be fixed by software updates – is the battery life. Now, this particular paragraph has been deleted and re-written about 8 times. I don’t want you to be put off, but at the same time I have to tell you the truth. If you’re using Bluetooth, battery life is hammered. And I do mean hammered. If, for example, you’ve “paired” your phone with your Jabra Bluetooth headset, and the Bluetooth mode is set to “On” then you’re gonna get about 8-12 hours usage out of the phone. You’ll get 8 hours if you use the headset a lot and maybe browse by connecting over bluetooth to your PC / laptop – and maybe 12 hours if your usage is less. This, if you imagine – is like unplugging your phone at 8AM when you’re off to work – then as you drive home at .. say.. 7.30PM it’s bleeping at you. That’s not good. Not good at all.

UPDATE – UPDATE – UPDATE

Orange have released an update to E200 users which does appear to improve battery life quite a bit – this should be considered when reading this review! New E200’s should (in theory) have this update built-in…





I also found a few bugs installing homescreens. If I receive a text message it can sometimes do this.

Sod it – while I’m here, here’s what else I’ve found … The T9 dictionary forgets your custom words .. STILL. Although the “people” who do the T9 functionality promised MS that this was fixed, it hasn’t been checked or tested and.. it still forgets. GPRS does not auto-disconnect on idle, which depending on your carrier could cost you money. The MMS implementation doesn’t include sound messages. IE appears incomplete, it doesn’t tell you how big a file is as you download it, you see a progress screen which states xKB of “0 bytes”, and it’s always 0 bytes. If you click a cab file link which returns a 404 IE displays “CAB file doesn’t exist.. We should output 404 headers etc here”.

Now – me having a very short attention span (I’m an MTV child), I would’ve thrown this back after finding these problems.. but .. I think .. I think I like it still. You learn to adapt to the battery life. I plonk it in the cradle at work, then it’s on charge in the car-kit. Plus.. I can ActiveSync over Bluetooth and take the phone into the bathroom while I’m dropping the kids off at the pool and listen to live radio from Australia, or America or anywhere in the world.. all over Bluetooth, courtesy of my broadband connection. All without break-ups.. no GPRS charges. All thanks to Bluetooth, the E200 and Windows Media Player. By gum.. I think I like it.


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