Orange SPV C550 Review


 

The latest in the SPV range, the C550 is pretty similar to
the C500 which was released a few months ago. This time however the joystick has
made a come-back, Windows Media Player 10 is on-board, there’s dedicated music
buttons on the front, funky headphones, a massive 128Mb MiniSD card in the phone
ready to go, the camera is now a hi-res mega-pixel jobby and the screen
resolution has swelled too!

As a user of Windows Mobile phones, I’ve written this review from
the "existing owner" perspective. However, it does contain useful information on
what the phone can do. My earlier review of the

Orange SPV C500 here
will give you a good idea on what these Windows
Mobile phone can do too. The C500 is pictured below on the left.

So we’ve heard the rumours. What’s the truth behind this ?
Is the Smartphone growing up? Does this handset deliver ? There’s only one way
to see..

 

Looks

The C550 has a different finish and is more "silver" in
colour than the SPV C500 (silver version) and SPV M2000. It’s as if it was
produced in a totally different factory to the C500 somehow. There’s a strange
feel to it too. The silver outer body feels like a mix between plastic and
rubber, plus there’s curves everywhere. The handset is rectangular with curved
edges when viewed from above – the layout is neater and more symmetrical than
previous handsets. This design style is now being reflected in other devices made by HTC and it’s very smooth indeed. I’ve heard people
saying, "this is as big as the E200". This is simply not true, as you can see by
the pictures below.

The back has the new 1.3 Mega pixel camera
which takes shots of up to 1280×1024 pixels. That’s enough to fill a standard TFT monitor on it’s maximum resolution. To the left is the standard mirror so
that you can take kinky shots of yourself in the shower.

Inside, under the battery is the inclusive 128Mb MiniSD
card – already slotted into place by some magic elf at the factory. This comes
loaded with extra goodies from Orange.

The keyboard is located right at the bottom of the front
panel and the keys are very close to each other – not spaced like the C500. The
bevelled buttons help to compensate for this and it does become easier to use.
The joystick itself is far better – possibly the best one I’ve used out of the
entire SPV range. HTC have learned not to put a funnel shape around this
joystick (the E100 had a tendency to collect dust, food and small insects in the
joystick area). This is much better and looks like the infamous "nipple" that
you’d find on laptops etc. The answer / release buttons are also located on this
lower keypad. If you’ve used a Smartphone previously it may take a couple of
attempts to stop / start phone calls as you’ll be so used to your
previous setup. They’re big enough and bold enough to master though. The keys
are backlit and have the usual light sensor to turn them on when it gets dark –
all keys have a soft white backlight with the answer / release keys being lit in
green and red for ease of use in the dark.

Between the main keypad and the softkeys are the new music
keys. As default these send you into the Orange Music Player, which helps you
choose and download tunes to your phone for about £1.50 a track. GPRS appears to
be the only connection that will allow you to do this too. Hmmm… More on that
later. Above these keys are the heavily-used "soft keys" (left and right, for
accessing menus) plus the "back" and "home" keys, which are now quite small and
all on one line. This can sometimes be tricky when hitting the back and home
keys, but again this is probably something you will get used to.

The screen is slightly larger than the C500 and is set
further into the handset than the C500. This tends to reduce glare and gives
colours more richness. More on this screen later!

Above the screen is a familiar looking earpiece, but with
the power / charge / activity LED cupped to the left-side and the bluetooth led
wrapped around the right side. Very nice. This leaves more room at the top of
the handset for a wide IR port.
 

Around the edges of the phone we have what I’d call the
"record" button. This used to activate the "Voice Notes" option on older
handsets, but now loads Internet Explorer instead. Under here is the standard
volume controls, with the camera / photo button being on the opposite side so
that you can snap piccies on your hi-res camera.

At the bottom we have the 2.5mm headphone / headset port
and the mini USB connection for connectivity to your PC. For some reason HTC
have decided to hide these behind a rubber flap which is hinged on the left by
the headphone port. It also spins round on the "hinge" so you can rotate it
around. When I tested the Motorola MPx200 I actually liked these flappy covers. However, about a month or
two after owning the MPx200 pretty much every flappy rubber thing had fell off
or ripped off. The news on the C550 is rather better so far – it hasn’t torn or
fell off as yet, although I do have problems popping it back into place
afterwards. I’ve now found that there’s a knack to this – on the rear of the
rubber flap is a moulded section which fits into the mini USB slot. Provided you
push that bit in fully, it’s easy. If and when it does drop off, it’s no big
deal.

 

-> What you get in the box….



Software and Operation

I try hard to not write reviews within the first few
days of having a handset. Why? Well sometimes hard to split the "I don’t like
this bit because it’s different to the last Smartphone I used" opinions and the
"I don’t like this bit because it’s just not good at all" opinions. I made notes
when I first got this and gone back over them now to see which bits still apply.

Turning on the C550 for the first time and you’re presented
with a cool swooshy Orange logo. The new hi-res screen then shows it’s stuff as
you’re presented with menus having 10 options instead of the usual 9. If you’re
an owner of a regular Windows Mobile Smartphone then this alone will give you a
bit of grief during the first day or so of use as you hit "9" in vein trying to
get to the next menu along. You’ll quickly learn that "0" is now the key to
press for "More" instead. The menu screens also show the new smooth font, which
is a tad chunkier but nicer to read on the higher pixel screen.

Hitting any one of the "music" buttons on the front of the
phone brings you to the Orange Music Player, which allows you to preview, buy,
download and play tracks over your GPRS connection.


I was a little shocked when
this came up and then claimed, "Your Orange Music Player is out of date, click
here to download update" straight away – I’d only fetched it out of the box 10
minutes previously! Either way, after a 736Kb download of a CAB file, you’re
ready to start using it. Here it is below, after the update. There’s a "browse"
and "Search" option now…

Now, I can understand why Orange have integrated this
Orange Music Player into the phone. Your GPRS usage will go up because you’re
browsing through the player to see the latest chart tunes, preview them and
download them. Not only that, but you’ll need to fork out about £1.50 for each
one.

However….

If I’ve got some music on my phone – say I’ve downloaded an
MP3 track from some online music store and copied it across to my phone. Say
I’ve put it in the Storage Card under "My Documents". Surely I should just be
able to press "Play" on my spanky new C550 ? Err… no. No matter what you try
in the Orange Music Player, it’ll only play music that you’ve downloaded from
Orange Music over your Orange GPRS connection on your Orange phone. Doah! Yes, the GPRS connection is the only way of doing it. You cannot use the pass-thru connection (using your PC’s connection over ActiveSync) to download tunes.

But wait, there’s a way out. Click
"Start->Settings->More->Button Settings" then change it to "Windows Media
Player". Phew!

Now I can download music from any online music store, not just
Orange Music, synchronise it with the phone and play it on my phone. Phew! It’s
about now that you’ll notice the sound. Music appears to blast out of the top of
the phone plus – strangely – the keypad itself. The mixture of high notes from
the top, plus slightly deeper tones coming from the keypad makes for good
listening. I went into "Data Connections" at this point and set the "Internet
Connection" to "Automatic" – out of the box it’s set to "Orange GPRS" –
"Automatic" will make the phone connect over ActiveSync via your PC’s Internet
connection if it’s plugged up.

The main home screen actually isn’t that bad at all, and
includes a good selection of backgrounds from with names such as "Disco",
"Glow", "Cheeky" and "Hills". Very nice they are too. The "Stroke" background
(which is below, along with all the Orange ones) shows off the resolution on the
screen nicely.








I’m going to quickly go through the menu options on this
handset. If you’re in any doubt about what this Smartphone is capable of and
you’ve never heard of the "Windows Powered Smartphone" before, then check out the C500 review we did too. It’s worth noting how clear the menu icons are –
each one is crystal clear and there’s no hint of a pixel. Very nice.

(Menu screen 1)

 

First lets go through what’s on the menus. These may be in
a slightly different order if you’re a previous Smartphone owner. For example,
the Calendar is now on the second menu page. On the menus we find…

- Messaging. For your MMS, SMS, Mobile Email and
synchronised email with your PC. Text Messages is now the FIRST option, it was
actually the second on the C500, so this is better in my opinion. Only one
problem with it so far, for some reason when you send a text message to multiple
recipients, it’ll come up with an "Unable to send" error on the second recipient
and refuse to send. Sometimes, every now and then it works fine. Then it’ll
fail. But strangely it DOES send, even though it spits and error message back at
you.

Actually while I’m here, can I make a suggestion ? Groups.
I want to include them please. I want to be able to create a group (or
distribution list, whatever you wanna call it), then add people on. Then I wanna
be able to get a text message and send it to a big group of people all at once
please. OK ? Good.

Each account screen is pretty familiar. I half-expected the
new screen to allow me to see more text in the preview windows here, but it’s
the same by the looks of it. When composing a message of any kind there’s now a
new symbols page which includes pictures of smiley faces.

When you click on
these faces it automatically puts the necessary combination of ":" and ")" etc
to make the smiley face you want. Neat.

It also looks like the MMS client has been up rated.
There’s no fiddly MMS settings in the "Account Settings" screen now and the MMS
Compose screen is much better with clear tabs, better menus and some animated
movies chucked in for good measure.

 



You can also record video, pictures and
audio (yes! audio!) by using the "Capture" menu. Again this integration is a lot
better. This MMS software works a heck of a lot better than any other MMS
software I’ve seen in a Smartphone.

- Contacts. Wooohooo!! We can actually TEXT details !!! At
last!!! Sorry, for those of you that weren’t aware, I’ve been hammering on since
the first ever SPV that there’s no way to get out of the following situation…

"Say Bob, nice Windows Mobile Smartphone you have there!"

"Thanks mate, check out how many contacts it can store!!!"

"Woah cool, you’ve got Janes mobile number! I’ve been
wanting to call her and apologise for the whole ‘I like your boobs’ comment. Can
you text me her number?"

"Errmm… Errr… I can beam it ?"

"No mate, I don’t have InfraRed on mine – don’t you have a
vCard thing to send her details across all in one go ?"

"Er… no! I can’t believe it! I’ll have to write her
number down on a piece of paper, then text it to you after."

Yes, sad but true. Well, it’s here – vCard !

You can send
details to people – even Nokia owners – containing details of a contact stored
in your phone book. Clicking on this option sends you back into the MMS compose
screen, which then sends it as an MMS.

Also, if you open your contacts, scroll to someone with a
mobile number and / or email address, you’ll get some extra options when you
choose "Menu". These are integrated with the new MMS client and allow you to
send an MMS straight to the person’s mobile number or their email address.

Now, although this phone will now play MP3′s as ringtones
straight from the SD card (put them in \Storage Card\My Documents\) – and you
can choose an MP3 ringtone from Start->Settings->Sounds – it’s NOT possible to
choose a ringtone from the Storage Card under the "Custom Ring Tone". This
option only allows you choose ringtones located in \Application Data\Sounds.
However, the Photo ID application, which lets you snap a photo of someone and
show that picture when they call (more on this below), WILL let you choose ringtones located in
\Storage Card\My Documents – even though it will warn you first…. Strange.

 

- Call Register. This is the same as before. It still has
it’s little "quirks" of not updating a number once you’ve saved it as a contact
name. For example, if "0208888888" called and I save it as "Bob", it’ll still
show "0208888888" in the call register screen, even though you’ve given it a
name. You can click "Menu" on it though and choose "Find Contact", which is a
way of getting out of it.

- Settings. This contains the usual settings you’d expect
from a Smartphone, plus a couple of newbies on the second page.

These options
are "Button settings", which as previously mentioned allows you to switch
between the Orange Music Player and Windows Music Player. There’s also an
"Unlock Screen Clock". Now, obviously some bright spark has come up with a
suggestion to have the time and date in uber-big font when you press the first
of the two keys used to unlock the phone.

  

Good idea yes, but surely we’d like to
be able to see that without having to press anything..at all .. ? Yes? Ah. Now
here’s where we get onto an issue with the C550…

Within settings is an option called "Power Management".
There’s three settings in here. There’s a "Backlight time out" which says how
many seconds before the light on the screen goes off. There’s a "Display time
out", which is the amount of seconds before the screen goes off completely and
there’s the setting for the light sensor. Right, now I want you to get
comfortable in your seat, and I want to ask you a few questions too…

If you’re a C500 user and you’ve got the screen timeout set
to "never" then you’ve probably become rapidly accustomed to looking at the
phone to see whether you’ve had a missed call / message etc. The C500 has a
screen which is easily viewable in pretty much any light, whether the backlight
is on or not. Leaving this "Display Time Out" set to "Never" does of course have
an impact on your battery slightly, but it’s manageable and it’s rare that your
C500 has got a flat battery. On the C550 however the screen appears to be
different… very different. If you set the "Display Time Out" to "Never" then
it appears to ignore you, and turns off the screen when the "Backlight Time Out"
setting states. But wait.. no.. if you stand outside and rotate the phone 90
degrees you can see that actually … yes… the screen IS still on.. errmm…
just. The C550 screen appears to be polarised differently – the "lines" appear
to drop down vertically on this handset, which make it tricky to see anything at
all even when you’re looking at the right angle. Here’s a shots of how the
screen looks under a flash-bulb

So why ? Well, if I’m to take a wild guess it’s either (A)
The type of TFT/LCD screen used – without a backlight it’s just not that
"viewable" or (B) Battery life was found to be severely impacted by having the
screen visible. I hate to think it, but I feel like a last-minute discussion
happened which went something like this…

"Sh*t – this new bigger, hi-quality screen is sucking the
feck out of the battery"

"What are we gonna do about it?"

"I tell you what we’ll do, if anyone sets the screen to
"never" on the time out, we’ll just drop it down to like 1% contrast to save the
battery"

Sorry, but if feels like that’s what happened. I could be
wrong – and I’d love someone to email me now and say, "Well, actually it’s just
the screen, nothing to do with the battery". If they do that, then I humbly
apologise and I take all this back. I know people have lots of phones – a Nokia
or whatever – and these will have screens that blank out automatically in order
to save the battery. Yes, yes I know why the screen blanks out.. but when
you don’t want it to blank out – when you physically set it to never
blank out and it virtually does then it’s just not cricket.

If I was to explain
how the screen looks then I’d say just sitting front of your TV at home. Pick up
the remote control and lower the contrast to the minimum level possible, then
lower the brightness to the minimum setting. This is how the screen looks – even
when you’ve set it to "never" on the screen time out. One even more confusing
thing about this is that if you do set the screen time out to "never"
then it’ll rapidly reduce battery time – even though you can’t really see
anything on the screen. So, to sum up, you must set the screen time out to
anything but "never".

So this – I’m guessing – is why we have the large clock and
date on the "unlock" screen. People can’t have the screen on all the time on
this phone – not a visible, usable level like on the C500 – so you’ll have to
press something to see the time, the date, the amount of text messages, emails,
and missed phone calls. All or some of this stuff is probably what you’d wanna
see if you had a quick glance at your phone.

-Sounds. It’s worth noting here the new sound scheme that Orange
have implemented. The sound scheme contains specially made Orange sound samples
for pretty much everything – Questions, Warnings, everything. Very nice – a
little quiet in my opinion, but it does help to give the SPV C550 more of an
"Orange" brand mark than a "Microsoft" one. As default out of the box the
"Keypad control" is turned off, so no "click" when you move through the menus
and no noise when you dial a number manually. This can of course be changed with
the Sounds->Keypad control option. The system sound volume is set to "1" too, so
it looks like whoever set the defaults on this phone didn’t like lots of noise
from their Smartphone when in normal use.

- Orange extras. Corr, extras galore from Orange here. The
Caller ID, which is nicely integrated, is accessible here. This allows you to
add photos to callers, however you can move the text too and change the size of
the photo you want to allocate, plus much much more.
 

Plus there’s access
into Orange web portals like "Applications, Ringtones, Pictures, Video" and
more.

You can also do a Backup, check for downloads or check the Try Card. Ah
now – the 128Mb Try Card! There’s free video clips to show off with plus some DJ
mixes to stick into Fireplayer, which is like a mobile DJ mixing thing… and
jolly good too. There’s RAC Traffic TV, WorldMate 2005, Fizz Traveller and…AND..AND..
ClearVue suite, which lets you view MS Word, Excel and PowerPoint files on your
C550. ClearVue is brilliant. ClearVue should be included on all Smartphones. End
of. Plus there’s space left over on your MiniSD card to put your own music,
videos and what not. Oh! There’s also “Joes Treasure Quest 3D”, which is a great demo that’ll use the whole screen and show off the phones’ abilities.

- Camera. The Orange SPV C550 has a 1.3 Megapixel camera and
this is another major difference on this handset. The camera itself is great,
really great. On the highest resolution – 1280×1024 – the resolution is
fantastic. Sometimes you may have to wait a couple of seconds for it to adjust
to the lighting conditions when the "Ambience" is set to "Automatic". For
example, if you go from a dark environment to a very bright environment (like
walking outside) then it does take a few seconds to adjust. You may also find
that outdoor shots can appear better when the "Ambience" is physically set to
"Outdoor".

The first thing I wanted to do with the handset was to
test the mega pixel camera. I took a photo of a desk in the office, directly
into sunlight (which, as any photographer will tell you, isn’t a good idea) to
see how it would be handled. I also took one outside on both phones and one of
the C550 box. The results can be seen below. The C550 is notably better and
seems to add a "gloss" quality to the shots.

Orange SPV C500 Photos -

Desk (with sunlight in lens)


Car-Park


C550 Box


Water Cooler


Car Park 2

Orange SPV C550 Photos -

Desk (with sunlight in lens)


Car-Park


C550 Box


Water Cooler


Car Park 2

There’s some more examples of the C550 shots here….

Outside shot 1 outside shot 2
-
outside shot 3
outside shot 4
-


outside shot 5
dark shot 1

Antal van Wijk at
NewMobile.nl
sent in some photos too. Have a look at the pictures

here
,

here
and

here
. Oh, and don’t forget that this will of course record video too. To
see an example,

click here
(you’ll need to open it in QuickTime or something).

Photos taken by the camera are now organised in separate folders. They are in
the following format..

\Storage\My Documents\My Photos\05072800001

The first two digits is the year (2005), the second two is the month (07) and
the third is the day (28). You’ll see this date format in things like zone files
etc. This tweak helps to keep your photos organised better.

Lets do a head-to-head example shall we? Let’s see a shot taken on the SPV C500
at its maximum resolution – 640×480, then the same shot on the same resolution
on the C550. Good test ? Here we go..

Here’s the C500 shot..

And here’s the C550 shot of the same thing, same resolution..

 

Well, I dunno about you, but the C550 shot looks clearer

The camera comes with various levels of zoom depending on
the resolution of picture. On the highest resolution setting you can for example
zoom 1x, 1.2x, 1.4x, 1.8x and then 2x. Jolly nice.







- Multimedia Album. This integrates with the camera program
and allows you to send any photos you’ve taken as an MMS, via email or over IR
(why, why oh why no Bluetooth?). You can also manage your photos (delete, rename
etc), save as Caller ID photo and much more. Oh, definitely check out the
Slideshow option within the Multimedia Album. It’s fantastic and shows your 1.3
mega pixel photos in widescreen format with some lovely transition effects.
Lovely.

- Music Player. We’ve discussed this earlier. You can
access Fireplayer here if you have removed it from the media keys.

- Games. All the games you’ve installed.

 

(Menu screen 2)

- Video Recorder. Here you can access the video recording
facility using the inbuilt camera. It’s the same resolution as the C500.

- MSN Messenger. This’ll let you appear online and chat to
your web-mates even when you’re down the pub. Bostin!

- Internet Explorer. Now, let me tell you about an
improvement here that probably not everyone has spotted. It’s all about some
legal wrangling that we won’t go into here. Basically, when you browse to some webpages on a Pocket PC or a lot of other Smartphones you get this lovely
helpful message which serves no purpose whatsoever. "Press OK to continue
loading content". Well, now it doesn’t do that any more. Woo! :)

 

Above is a shot in "Desktop" mode (no scaling) on the left
and then "normal" mode on the right.. Oh, and the browsing on this hi-res screen is fantastic.
Imagine if you will dropping your screen resolution on your PC to 800×600 or
even 640×480 and browsing a website. Looks a bit rubbish doesn’t it ? Well, not
so on this baby. The C550 and it’s new screen means that web browsing is flippin
fantastic. More text and more graphics appear on the one window so there’s less
scrolling and less searching around. Here’s a few shots of me browsing…

- Voice Notes. It records..errr.. voice.. notes

- Calendar. Oh! Here it is. :) This resolution is pretty much
the same – the screen is expanded to fit, so you don’t end up seeing more detail
than you would on a C500. There’s a new "Send as vCalendar" option too, which
will send appointments over MMS.

- Tasks. Yup. Still there and unfortunately I still don’t
use it. This’ll sync with your PC’s tasks though.

- ActiveSync. This is the backbone of the connectivity
between your PC and your phone. You can access various connection methods here.

- FirePlayer. This is an Orange addition that’ll let you
mix tunes together. Pretty nice too.

 

- Java. This’ll act as your interface to Java Games and midlets.

(Menu screen 3)

- pvPlayer. This will play your recorded videos and 3GP
files.

- Windows Media Player. Located as far down as possible in
the menu structure, it’s almost as if you’re not supposed to see it, but this is
a jewel in the crown of this particular Windows Mobile Phone. It’s Windows Media
Player 10 and it contains a catalogue of all your stored Music, Videos, TV and Playlists. Give it a couple of clicks and it’ll search the phone and memory card
for stuff and then sort it all into categories for you to choose from. It’ll
include Album Art and supports the Rights Management which will let you download
tracks from online music shops legally. Also Windows Media 10 lets you put MP3′s
in "\Storage Card\My Documents" and play them as ringtones. This is actually a
newer build version than the one on the recent Orange SPV C500 update too. More
on Windows Media Player in a minute…

- Within Accessories you have Calculator, Clear Storage,
File Manager, Modem Link, SIM Manager, Space Manager, Speed Dial and Task
Manager. These are useful little apps for doing the interesting little tweaks to
your phone. You’ll of course fine the File Manager especially useful.
 

- Inside Configurations we can see where the MMS settings
have moved to (I presume because the new client needs it there) plus the GPRS
and CSD preferences.


Usage

With the C550 we have a new whizzy Windows Media Player 10
which should allow us to

synchronise music like this
by right-clicking on a file on your PC and saying, "Add
to Sync list", then clicking "Sync" on Windows Media 10 on your PC with your
C550 attached. Ahhh, but it doesn’t seem to work that way. For some reason you
get mixed results. Some files moved across quickly and sync fine, then it’ll get
stuck on a file and refuse to sync. It just stops. No reason, it’ll just stop.
Below is Windows Media Player on my PC. It’s been stuck on "28 percent complete"
for about a minute. It’ll then give up and leave you with part of a file on your
phone.

Apparently this is something to do with Windows Media
recognising the handset incorrectly, but it’s strange how WMA files work, but
MP3 files don’t. It just stops and won’t do any more. The solution ? Well, you
have to
do
it this way
, which is what we’ve all being doing for quite a while now
anyway. This sync problem isn’t a major issue, but it is annoying that this
wasn’t tested.

Moving onto the screen quality. It’s stunning, and
everything appears so smooth – there’s not a hint of blockiness. It’s a joy to
look at.

Games, well yes. Games and apps that were hard-coded with
the previous screen size (176×220) will not stretch, and you’ll have a game
appear with a black border around it or it’ll appear in the corner. I would’ve
hoped that the screen could maybe alter to cope with this and blow it up to full
size – just like games do on your PC. See on your PC, if a game needs to run in
800×600 then it’ll switch your PC to 800×600, then switch it back after. On the
C550 this doesn’t happen of course but in a way that’s good. Why ? Well, I’ll
tell you why. Sure, some games appear smaller. Sure, some apps won’t display
right but.. but.. this is a lesson for the coders really. In just a few short
months handsets like the Motorola Q will be appearing. They’ve got the same
screen as this C550 except the screen is mounted width-ways. So those apps need
to display correctly on a QVGA screen… in widescreen (90 degree rotation) mode
too!

Things are progressing. We can’t have "just 176×220" any
more. Games and apps need to run on several resolutions, and this is just the
start of things to come. However, after testing some games which do have the
"scaling" set and fill the screen fully –
like games by Astraware

the increased resolution really does show up and everything is crystal clear.

Battery life. I’ve heard a lot about the battery life with
this handset. If you look at the battery it’s virtually the same as the C500 and
seems to match the C500′s life span provided the "Display Time Out" is NOT set
to "never". When you get a new phone you’re supposed to charge it straight away.
I ignored this (as usual, because I’m daft) and didn’t charge it until it ran
flat. Now, a few weeks later and I’ve had mine off charge since 7AM today. The
screen time out is set to "1 minute" and the battery meter is still showing
full. Not bad at all.

Bluetooth operates well, enabling you to use your
hands-free kit or car kit whilst driving. I’d love to see an on-board utility
for transferring files quickly over Bluetooth. A lot of other handsets have
this, but on the Smartphone you end up having to download
SmartExplorer from Binarys.com
to do it.

The included MP3 card is a very generous present from
Orange, especially when you consider that the first SPV’s came with an 8Mb card
or 16Mb card. You can cram loads of music and video files onto it and make the
most of them on the screen. The new headphones are also pretty damned good and
slot into your ear well.

 

Thoughts

The phone itself is fairly nippy and operates well. Whilst
it’s slightly heavier and slightly larger than the C500 it’s not really
noticeable. The screen blanking out – when you don’t want it to blank out
is a bit annoying to say the least, however if you don’t mind the screen going
off and don’t mind pressing one key to see what’s happening then this is
definitely a phone to consider. The camera quality is excellent, the build
quality – in my opinion – is better and the screen will suck you in like a
tornado. The addition of the music keys is a helpful addition for those who want
to listen to music on the go, however they may be wasted a little on those who
don’t. As for the games showing up "in a small window" then please do remember
that this isn’t the fault of the handset – it’s just that we have to wait a
little for programmers to recode their games and apps to resize depending on the
handset running the software.

What niggles at me though – I must admit – is the few
problems that have been left in. Let’s look back a bit shall we. When the Orange
SPV E200 was released we had a rapid battery drain problem. This was fixed with
a patch shortly after release. Then, when the C500 got released it wouldn’t load
certain games – a screen problem was left in and games were completely unusable.
Again a patch shortly after release fixed this. Now here we are again.:(
However, let’s look at the bright side. A patch IS possible – a lot of other
handsets on the market couldn’t have a patch sent down. This can, and when it
arrives all will be well with the world once more. Well, once TomTom get their software working on this too, then it will :)

So, if you want a phone that has a screen which you can see
all the time and you don’t mind about camera quality, get the Orange SPV C500.
However, if you want one of the new breed with a higher resolution screen,
megapixel camera, great sound quality and a joystick then get the C550. If you
already have an SPV C500 then, if I’m honest I’d say stick with it for now.
However, if you’ve got an E100, E200, MPx200 or even the Classic SPV then this
phone is well worth a gander. The Orange SPV C550 has got the looks, the power and the quality.
The addition of the play buttons will attract the MP3 boys and girls who can’t
let go of their iPod, plus the inclusive 128Mb MiniSD card gives more than
enough room for you to carry your tunes around. Should you want more space, check out MobyMemory.com for some excellent deals on MiniSD cards.



The C550 is an excellent addition to the SPV range – it’s a powerful bulge in your pocket.


 

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