Orange SPV C500 Review


My first impressions of this handset are good. It’s fast, the refresh on the camera is much better, the battery lasts blinkin’ ages, it’s well built, it has a completely flat screen.



 


Then I start using it.. and still, things are good. It’s nippy, there’s a definite crispness to the screen and HTC – who built the handset for Orange – have done an excellent job building it.


 


A FIRST LOOK


Pictured below is the boxed black Orange SPV C500, sent in by CoolSmartPhone.com member Adam White












In the box there’s… no cradle. There is a standard USB -> Mini USB cable. You’ve probably seen the same sort of thing on digital cameras, MP3 players and such. There was one on the Motorola MPx200 Smartphone too.


There’s also a headset with push-button and a scrolling volume control so you can … errmm.. adjust the volume of your calls. A power supply, battery and a 16Mb Orange MiniSD card are also included.


 






 




 


 

Putting the phone together is a matter of SIM card, MiniSD card, then battery (yes, the MiniSD card is beneath the battery. Although some of us might not like this, it does mean that there’s no more lost cards!), then the back cover – yup, a slip on cover.

The handset tested here was silver, and it had the metallic feel about it – although the cover isn’t all metal. You can tell just how tiny this thing is because the Orange logo is shrunk! :)



 


OUTSIDE


Sound and Calls
The sound quality is excellent on this handset. Calls are crisp and clear, plus ringtones can be heard in the noisiest environments. Polyphonic / monophonic ringtones sound really different and more melodic on this handset.  Having the volume on “Loud” with this headset is incredible – the sound comes booming out like a fog horn. There’s no way you’re ever going to miss a call when this thing goes off. 


There’s two speakers on this phone, one on the side (which blasts out the “ringing” and “message received” tones) and the normal speaker. They appear to be two different types as the one on the side is really loud.



The speed of the handset it means that making a call is quick – there’s absolutely no “lag” between pressing the green button and the call connecting.



Design and looks
I’ll be honest here – let’s be brutally honest shall we? Remember the first Orange SPV? The weird keypad, the flaky paint, the boxy design? The original SPV was built by a company called “High Tech Computer Corp” – or HTC. They’re also responsible for this .. and boy has it come a long way. This is an excellent design and size.




Although the new rocker-style direction pad is slightly tricky to get used to, they’ve noticed that most people use UP and DOWN on their handset to scroll through the menu options – thus the up and down rocker-action is well suited.



The buttons are a slightly different layout to previous handsets – with the “Home” and “Back” keys now more centred and further away from the main keypad.



There’s also a light sensor on the handset which works well to pick up precisely the correct amount of “darkness” before the keypad lights come on. These backlights are blue in colour with nice bright green and red lights behind the call answer / release buttons.







The screen is completely flat – there’s no curvature whatsoever and makes for a striking appearance. I have to state here that it’s pretty amazing to see a screen of this size on a handset so small. When you consider that the screen alone takes up almost 50% of the whole handset, plus the power that’s crammed into this thing (remember that there’s still some laptops and PC’s out there running at 200Mhz!) – it’s difficult to squish all this into something so small, but they’ve done it – and they’ve done it with some style too.
















The buttons are smooth and horizontally domed. I can only compare them to tic-tacs. There’s a definite “click” when you use them.
At the top of the handset is the usual LED which shows the state of Bluetooth / signal / power. This is a pretty funky oblong shaped thing. 



Also on the top is the power button and the InfraRed port. On the left shoulder of the handset is the volume up/down buttons – however you can use these to do other things – such as..


-Pressing and holding the “UP” volume button will record a voice note
-Pressing and holding the “DOWN” volume button will initiate a call from voice command
-Tapping the power button brings up your available profiles


 













The camera is just like the handset – tiny, very very small. It’s like one of those used in hidden camera documentaries! There’s also a mirror next to it so you can take a snap of yourself. My good American mate Bill spotted something about this camera – it’s very easily to clean (there’s no collar around it getting in the way) and it suits the handset – it doesn’t poke out or look out of place.

At the bottom of the handset is the headset port and the power / sync cable port. This is a miniUSB port which is pretty standard now – we saw this port on the Moto MPx200 and – to be honest, you need a small plug-hole on a handset this size!


You can’t use your existing SD card. .. Damn.. However, you CAN sell your existing SD card on ebay, then buy a miniSD card with an “SD adaptor” (this basically lets you use it as a “normal” SD card too), then you’re a winner! :)



The battery is made by Samsung and is a tiny little thing. It slots in easy enough and covers the MiniSD and SIM card. The cover then slots on top to close the whole thing up.


 



For those that are interested…
I also took some pictures of it next to a Sony Ericsson T610 handset…..



My original pictures of this phone in mega hi-res can be seen by clicking the links below..


Massive pic 1 (front of handset)


Massive pic 2 (top of handset)


Massive pic 3 (angled front)


Massive pic 4 (side)



****Gripes (Outside the phone)


None, none at all. The battery life is fantastic, the looks are great, the build quality is good and the whole thing feels tough and sturdy despite it’s small size. If I absolutely HAD to mention something it’d be that AT FIRST it’s tricky to press down the joypad and select something. This isn’t anywhere near major as you’ll get used to it in minutes.


Let me just mention the battery life again. Some of you may remember the reviews of the E200 that we did. The one major problem was battery life. This is completely and utterly sorted – there’s NO problems with battery life in this handset at all, it’s improved beyond belief and lasts for days on end. I’ve heard people quote 4 and 5 days – this isn’t made up, you really CAN get this sort of battery life from the C500!


 



INSIDE


 


Stuff you should know


As I’m going to write this review for both “people thinking about getting their first ever Windows Smartphone” and “people upgrading from another Windows Smartphone” it’s important to know the following bits and bobs…








































Sounds
– The C500 will play WAV files, WMA files and a wide range of MIDI files as ringtones, text messages sounds or alarms. These can be easily copied across from your PC with the included USB cable in a matter of seconds. So pretty much ANY sound in the world can be booming out of this handset.

It’ll also play MP3’s and video with Windows Media (see below!) The Orange SPV C500 comes complete with a large range of ringtones already – however I believe that ringtones are a big selling point for any mobile phone, so I’d like to have seen more as default. Possibly a WAV file like a cockerel for the alarm or some funny “boing” noises for text messages etc. Stuff like this can easily sell a phone – even though the handset can do way more !


InfraRed
– Files and contacts can be received and sent via the infrared port on the top of the handset. The sending / receiving of contacts isn’t uniformly supported across all handsets though, so you may have trouble receiving from other phones. Infrared is a great for moving files around – such as an MP3 to your Pocket PC or a mates’ phone! Here I’m using the included File Manager to send a file over Infrared. You can also send a file over Bluetooth, however you’ll need to download Binarys excellent SmartExplorer – see link in the downloads section.
Bluetooth – More on this in a minute, but this handset comes complete with Bluetooth onboard, which allows you to use a large range of Bluetooth headsets and you can also send / receive files to other Bluetooth enabled devices – or even use your PC / laptop over Bluetooth as a gateway to the internet.


Sync! – The great thing about the Windows Smartphone is the fact that you can link it to your PC – all the contact details from your Outlook get linked to your phone – they’re completely synchronized so even if you drop your phone and lose your contacts, they’re still on your PC! You can even use the phone as a mobile data store – all your MP3’s can go on it and you can listen to them on the go, or you can copy important documents to the memory, then transport them around.

Camera
– An integrated camera is included which also allows you to take videos. This is particularly good for taking photos of your mates, which you can then attach to their number. This will show their face on screen when they call you. You can take a quick picture by hitting the “camera” button on the right side of the handset. Again, in comparison to previous handset from HTC there’s a definite “beefiness” to the buttons on the side of the handset.

See examples of the camera quality with this internal dark shot and this photo under fluorescent light.


Calendar
– You can keep track of birthdays, meetings, appointments and much more with the calendar, this automatically synchronizes with your PC so there’s never any inconstancies.
Oh, and don’t worry if this screenshot (left) looks funny, I blurred out some details – that’s all. :)

Email
– Email on the go – add voice recordings, attachments, pictures – the works. You can either synchronize your email with the PC or use your phone to collect email directly.


MSN Messenger
– Stay up to date with your mates by hopping on MSN Messenger – even when you’re down the pub!

Internet Explorer
– Browse the web where-ever you are with a choice of viewing styles.

Favourites, plus surfing over either GPRS or your PC’s Internet Connection are included.




Voice notes
– Record notes – just like a Dictaphone. Attach these to an email or listen to them later.

Windows Media 9 – Listen to streaming media on your handset or MP3’s from your data card or internal memory – just copy it across from your PC. Who needs an iPod ?


File Manager – Move, rename, run, copy and delete files with this mini file explorer. Yes – a file manager on your phone, as default.


OK – so now you know what to expect from the Orange SPV C500, let’s have a look at some other bits – plus what’s changed ….


Home Screen
I must say that Orange (or whoever designed it) have done a really good job on the home screen. The main functions of the phone are all in one place and it’s ordered vertically. Menu options pop out when you press “right” or press down the action button. There’s always the option of changing the home screen of course, but this default one is pretty damned good.


 


Caller ID
A gripe I have about the Caller ID. Caller ID is in fact a separate piece of software – it’s not part of Windows Mobile, so it reads the existing contact details. What I’d love to see is for Caller ID functions to be included as part of the Contacts list. That’s a wish on my part, and HTC have added in the capability to take a photo, then simply click “Save As->Caller ID Photo”. This is good, I like this – but if I do it the other way around and Open Caller ID, THEN I try and choose a picture, I can’t. Why ? Well, the file structure has changed again. I don’t mind this, it’s progress, and it’s neater, but when I have to fiddle around to find the right folder. Imagine you’ve taken a picture of someone, then later on you want to add their picture to their number. You need to do this…


Start->Orange->Caller ID->Assign Photo


The first time you run it, it’ll begin by showing you the contents of….


Storage\My Documents


In this folder are the “stock images” – like a bunch of flowers, a cake etc. But now, images from the camera are saved in…


Storage\My Documents\My Photos


So you need to move into that directory. You only do this once, but it’s a sign that someone changed around the directory structure – programs that previously looked in  ….

Storage\My Documents

…for images will now need to look in

Storage\My Documents\My Photos ..

…. and videos are stored in…

Storage\My Documents\My Videos.

Yes, yes – I know this will make it easier for the consumer, but we need to stop playing with directory structures now. I don’t think anyone else has mentioned this yet, but it’s also a problem when choosing a new backdrop (home screen). For example, I can choose “Camera”, then take a photo and save it as my new homescreen. Fantastic. If, however, I do it the other way around and go…

Start->Settings->Home Screen->Backdrop Image

… I can’t choose any of my photos, because they all live in …

My Documents\My Photos

… and the system expects them to be in…

My Documents

… DOAH! This is all because the camera app is saving stuff in a different folder…



Caller ID is fantastic and I’d like to see it COMPLETELY weaved into the “contacts” list. in future. The Caller ID software is well integrated with the Camera software, so it’s easy to take a picture and add it as a caller ID photo or home screen.



Camera / Video software
Built into the phone is the excellent IA capture software, now owned by HTC. It’s now got a few extra features, such as Picture Theme, which allows you to frame a picture of yourself. Here’s an example, first I select “Picture Theme”…



Then I choose a frame – some have two “holes” so you can capture two miniature pictures, so here’s one..



…and here’s the other…



..obviously you’d probably wanna take a picture of you and your darling together. :)

I can send this picture easily from the menu options via MMS or Email. Again I can set this as my background (home page) or use this photo as a caller ID picture. I can also save it to my SD card or internal memory and transfer it to my PC later.


The camera function is very powerful and the refresh rate is much quicker than anything I’ve seen before. It’s easy to take pictures while you’re on the move now, without having to stop hold the phone extremely still. This is much, much improved and I’m very impressed.



The video recording is – again – excellent. There’s a larger range of recording formats, which help condense the video down and improve the frame rate. Much better.


Bluetooth
This has improved a great deal and is a bit more user-friendly. It’s easier to bond devices and working with Bluetooth headsets is a breeze. You can set devices as “hands free” and there’s a newly designed icon that pops up when you use it. It detects when you’re close to your Bluetooth headset too by showing this headset icon. Sometimes this takes a minute to come up when you’re in range, although if you ARE in range and it still isn’t showing the headset symbol when you get a call, it WILL shove it through the headset (and then show the symbol). This slight delay is, I presume, due to either battery saving or the “search” cycle on either the phone or the headset being a bit slow. 



Either way, it works well and the sound quality on the bluetooth is much better than before. It also manages calls better, and I can now tap the “call” button on my Jabra Bluetooth headset, speak into the mic and initiate a call (with the Voice Dialling function, mentioned below). Excellent stuff. 


Auto Band Switching
The C500 will automatically now swap to whatever network will provide a signal,  so there’s no need to fiddle around with the phone when you get off the plane.

The Inbox / Messaging
No more inbox on this new version of Windows Mobile – it’s now called “Messaging”. I must admit that it’s a lot easier to use. For those of you who’ve owned a Windows Smartphone before – They (MS) have done a cracking job of making navigation easier – you can hope around folders quicker. But when you write a text message… you choose a contact.. uh – oh .. DOINK !!! Yes, that infamous boink noise is still there. It tells everyone in the room that you’re writing a message. Don’t ask me why – 2 years, it’s still there. Kill it.



There’s also a completely new T9 engine. If you’re an existing Smartphone owner you’ll be sitting there for a good while muttering things like “EH?! What the?! But?! How the?! What the frig?!” .. basically because it now has a drop-down selector to choose different words. This is much better and easier for newer users to get to grips with. It’s a bit of a change for existing Windows Mobile users, but HEY! New things are good!



Above you can see how much easier it is to switch modes when typing. The new T9 engine is great once previous SPV owners get used to it, and the drop-down selector for “possible words” is a dream to use.



Signatures now work and you can now turn on delivery reports for all text messages, which you couldn’t do before. T9 “added” words are remembered after a reboot too. Oh, and MMS – you can send everything… videos, the works.. All nicely done and very intuative.


Voice Dialing
This now actually works. You press and hold the “volume down” button it begins listening to you, then you just say the name of the contact and it’ll dial. To record a name, just go into Contacts, then open your contact, then hit “Menu”->”Add Voice Tag”.



This works really well and it’s sometimes surprising how right it is, even when your half-asleep on a Monday morning


Windows Media Player
This is now Windows Media 9, plus you can view video in FULL SCREEN! Hurra!! 



Plus you can set this as your default viewing preference ..  Niiiice. You still can’t skip through tunes, but hey.


Java
You can now run Java stuff on this phone, which is great. I’m not sure how this will work – I presume Orange and other network operators will make stuff downloadable which then run on the Java Midlet Manager.

To learn how to use this click here!



PacketVideo
This is included in the ROM. What is it ? Well, PacketVideo lets you watch high-quality video and audio over wireless networks (GPRS etc).



Orange additions
Orange have added lots of extras for you. Links to games, Ringtones, Wallpapers plus a help option, some downloads (this was called Orange Update), a backup utility and Orange Plus. These are all under one folder and managed by Orange. They’re all well done, the Orange webpages are spot on and constantly updated. Top work.




Speed
I have to give this a mention again because the phone is very nippy – navigating around the menu is a breeze and file transfers over the included USB cable seems a lot quicker than with any other Windows Smartphone I’ve used.


 


****Gripes (inside the phone)


I left this review for a few days because I tend to go overly annoyed at the daftest things within minutes of picking up a new handset, so here’s the things that get on my nipples the most after several days of usage…


1 – The infamous DOINK noise
It still goes “D O I N K” when you select a contact to send an SMS. AGH!!!! Get rid of this, it’s extremely annoying.


 


Here’s what’s been improved. Now, Orange have also announced (on October 20th, 2004) an update which improves it even MORE – see here for details on getting this update if you don’t think you have it already. The chart below shows the improvements, but don’t forget that if you purchased your handset after November / December 2004 you may already have the update..





















































IMPROVED


AFTER 4.1.1.4 UPDATE


MUCH better battery life – 5 days or more


Faster GPRS


Great design, smaller and sleeker


Gaming problems fixed


T9 Easier to use


Backlight fix 


Bluetooth integration and compatibility better


Improved memory management


Camera is slick and has added options


Videos can be sent via MMS


Video recording is smooth and has more formats


 


Caller ID is integrated better


 


Messaging is a LOT easier to use.


 


Mini-USB port means cable is more standardized


 


Crystal clear call quality


 


Crystal clear ringer sound


 


Speed of phone overall is much better.


 


Windows Media Player has full screen and is V9


 


Inbuilt file-manager


 


 


 



As you can see, there’s a lot that’s been improved.


Conclusion

I have to say that this handset does indeed rock. It rocks like a steamed-up Ford Escort on McDonalds carpark. It’s fast, it’s small .. and when I say small, I mean small… put this thing in your back pocket and it flops horizontally – you almost end up putting it in your “tiny little pouch on the front of your jeans that you never normally use”-pocket. The sound quality is excellent, over bluetooth it’s perfect – no garbled calls that make you sound like some Cylon robot from Battlestar Galactica – this is perfect.

Somehow I didn’t think I’d be impressed by this phone, but I am impressed, very impressed indeed. HTC have improved their designs and build quality greatly in such a short space of time and they’ve taken onboard all the comments we mentioned about previous handsets.

If I were you, and I wanted to upgrade my Smartphone, or move to the best Smartphone currently on the market – I’d go for the Orange SPV C500 like a shot. This is an impressive phone which is both functional and powerful – it’s the most impressive Windows Mobile phone out there at the moment. I’d also like to mention the price – it costs buttons, it’s incredibly cheap – especially when you consider what you’re getting for the money. Upgrading is cheap and buying a new one is even cheaper! :) Get one now.



Get the SPV C500 from Orange – www.orange.co.uk or from our friends at Fonetasticwarehouse.com, with one of their deals below…