Well, here it is – a preview of the Orange SPV C600, the new Smartphone from Orange which – until now – has been pretty damned secretive. The C600 is made yet again by HTC with the code-name “HTC Tornado”. HTC sit in the background and make the handsets that most of us end up using, but the networks or distributors slap their own logo on and re-brand them to suit. If you’re still not sure about who HTC are, then just look at the facts – they’re the largest hardware manufacturer of Windows Mobile devices in the world. They already create and design devices for Dell, HP and of resellers like Qtek, iMate and major network operators like T-Mobile and Orange.
The Orange SPV C600 will become the official successor of the well-known C500. The C500, which sold fantastically well, was introduced by Orange in August 2004. Why was the SPV C500 so successful ? Well, it was mostly due its amazingly compact form factor, a bright TFT screen with 65,535 colours and 176 x 220 pixel resolution, MiniSD, Bluetooth and IRda. The battery life was great too, plus there’s a great build quality and it’s still one of the best selling and reliable Windows Mobile Smartphones around.
From left to right: C500, C550 and C600
In the Summer of 2005 Orange introduced the SPV C550. Although it was not the official C500 succesor, it made a few major breaktroughs. There’s a QVGA screen and – yes – a rather usable 1.3 Megapixel camera (sorry MPx220 owners!) It also offers music buttons for Windows Media Player and became the unofficial “Orange Music Phone”. Down side? Well, the C550 runs still Windows Mobile 2003 SE.
In this preview we have a pre-production Orange SPV C600 with Windows Mobile 5.0 ready to roll..
The main highlights of this device are:
– It’s based on the HTC Tornado (Faraday). No WiFi module
– Ultra bright TFT colour screen with a 240 x 320 pixel screen
– Hardware capable up to 260.000 colours (65.535 colours visible)
– EDGE support for high-speed data transfers up to 160 kbps
– The first Smartphone introduced on the market with Windows Mobile 5.0 (The Samsung i300 will have Windows Mobile 2003 SE)
– 1.3 Megapixel camera
– MiniSD memory expansion slot, Bluetooth 1.2, IrDa
– Form factor like C550, no music buttons
Look and feel
In my personal opinion, the Orange Smartphones have always looked great since the introduction of the SPV C500. The C600 is no exception, and has a stylish design with a grey / black-ish colour which is a treat for the eyes. Looking at the lines of the C600 brings back memories of its older brother, but it feels a little bit thicker and heavier. However, like the C550, the C600 sits well in the hand and has a very solid casing and a keypad which is easy to use. At the bottom there’s the usual MiniUSB port for charging and sync’ing. Data transfers are now sped up with USB 2.0 fully supported thanks to Windows Mobile 5. Like the C500 and C550 the miniSD card is under the battery.
On the front of the C600 there’s a bright colour screen which is a real eye-catcher. Unlike the C550 the device has no music buttons. There’s the status LED’s for battery, Bluetooth and network which are integrated near the speaker at the top of the screen.
At the top and bottom the look of the handset is very similar to the SPV C500, the placement of the irDA “eye” and power button are the same, as are the sizes. As you can see in the second picture it looks like Orange have got rid of the rubber flap for the MiniUSB and headset connector.. expect this to return in the finished model though.
One of the weak points of the C500 was the strange rocker-scroller, which was great for the menu navigation but probably less suitable for gaming. On the C600 there’s now a joystick which feels and operates the same as the C550. The keyboard is a lot like the C550.
The Orange SPV C600 comes with Windows Mobile 5 and we assume that the device will be the first one on the European market with this whole new OS. Windows Mobile 5.0 was introduced by Microsoft in May this year and only a few months before Samsung were showing off their i300 at Cebit. Unfortunately Samsung appear to have reacted too slowly and is only just coming to the market now with Windows Mobile 2003 SE. It looks like HTC got the honour of introducing the first Windows Mobile 5 Smartphone – again.
The QVGA screen with it’s resolution of 240 x 320 pixels gives Windows Mobile 5 a real ‘WOW’-factor. Like the C550, the C600 is equipped with the excellent homescreen from Orange. A new feature of Windows Mobile 5 is that the Start menu is shown in grid view, also the “Start” and “Status” bars are looking better than in the previous version.
Unfortunately, switching back to the old menu style is not possible anymore! And if it is, I wasn’t able to find out how! (EDIT – Actually, try this registry edit if you want!) … However, the menu speed is great.
Pocket MSN, from where you can directly access your Hotmail e-mail and the MSN Messenger service. Also there’s Windows Media Player 10. Nothing too special here, WMP10 is suitable for music, however you might wanna look up TCPMP (The Core Pocket) for playing video too, which offers inbuilt codecs like DivX, xVid, MPEG and many other codecs which Windows Media Player simply lacks.
Pocket Internet Explorer does a really good job. The QVGA screen makes browsing much more comfortable.
Contacts is shown here (in the Windows default menu style). The individual contact screen has undergone a few changes, with perhaps the biggest change being able to attach a CallerID picture per contact, as shown.
The introduction of the SPV C550 brought us a new resolution – 240 x 320 pixels for a Smartphone. It sets the standard for a whole new generation and has a much improved resolution over 176 x 220. The SPV C600 screen looks absolutely great and is one of the best displays on the market today. Fonts look smoother, there’s more workspace meaning browsing is better and more comfortable. The C600’s TFT screen is capable up to 262.000 (18-bit) colours, but only showing 65.535 (16-bit)
The only big disadvantage is the screen incompatibilty with old software. Still the device lacks the ability to display old software full screen, which was designed for the 176 x 220 resolution. QVGA is not 176 x 220 (*2), pixel doubling cannot be applied like we saw on VGA Pocket PC’s. The Nokia N90 has a display resolution of 352 x 416 and can apply pixel doubling on the software designed for 176 x 208, the standard Symbian Series 60 resolution. Why didn’t Microsoft and HTC choose for the doubled GUI resolution either? With the old Windows Mobile Smartphone resolution, it should be 352 x 440 (that’s twice 176 x 220)
Camera & video
The Orange SPV C600 has a 1.3 megapixel camera and uses the same lens as the C550. The photo quality is better than HTC Magician and HTC Alpine (iMate JAM, Qtek S100, iMate PDA2, Qtek 2020i) and looks incredible on screen, the overall quality seems to be acceptable. But it still doesn’t come near any Nokia Symbian Series 60 Smartphone, like the Nokia 6630 or 6680. The colours are bright and vivid but the photo is mostly overlightened and not sharp enough. Photos are 1280×1024, but videos still post-stamp size at only 176 x 144 maximum, not even filling the screen.
Sadly, there isn’t still a Windows Mobile Phone device out yet which beats the Nokia S60 Smartphones in photo quality! But ROM updates can do a lot, and the C600 isn’t in the stores yet. For developers, creating seperate camera GAPI’s is not nessecary anymore, also this feature is integrated within Windows Mobile 5.
Sample photo quality and a close-up of the C600’s lens.
5. Connectivity options
The Orange SPV C600 supports Bluetooth 1.2, an infrared port and EDGE, although Orange is not going to support EDGE. Still EDGE is an improvement, in fact it’s an expansion to GPRS and has data rates up to 160 kbps, in theory around 12 KB/s (kilobyte) per second. The main advantage of EDGE is that it’s cheaper and requires little change to the GSM/GPRS equipment of the operator. Also, it doesn’t require UMTS coverage.
Orange has chosen the HTC Tornado without any WiFi. The question is, why would Orange do that? WiFi adds value to the Smartphone, and personally I am a heavy WiFi user. A small and affordable WiFi-enabled Smartphone means true mobility.
Settings and connections menu. Unfortunately, no WiFi here.
Again, Orange is expanding the market with a great and stylish looking Windows Mobile Smartphone device. With good battery life (5-6 days), a superb screen and 1.3 megapixel camera and the new Windows Mobile 5 operating system, the device is a worthy C500 sucessor and worth buying if you are still stuck with a SPV e200 or C500. However, the differences between the C550 and C600 are minimal. Because there is no EDGE support from Orange, the C600 only adds Windows Mobile 5, while the C550 still runs Windows Mobile 2003 SE, and there’s probably going to be no update for it. Why leave WiFi out? For all the C550 owners who are happy with their device, keep it. You can wait for the HTC Tornado line of devices with WiFi built in…. the Qtek 8310, for example, has WiFi built-in. My conclusion is that the C600 is a revolution, but not revolutionary. The differences with the C550 aren’t big enough to make it a larger success than the C500 was in its’ day.
+ First Windows Mobile 5 Smartphone
+ Screen quality
+ Stylish design
+ Battery life
+ Overall build and product quality
– No WiFi
– Not the best camera
– EDGE not usable for Orange customers
– Minor hardware changes to the SPV C550
– Compatibility with old applications