Orange SPV C600 Review



In November 2002 Orange launched the original SPV. At the same time a small page cropped up devoted to it. This single page grew into a site called CoolSmartPhone.com. As we’ve moved on, so have Orange and the SPV range. Orange brought us the first Windows Smartphone and have now announced the latest in their range – the Orange SPV C600. It’s a leap too, because it’s the first Orange phone with Windows Mobile 5 for Smartphone..

A lot of people have been waiting for this device and, just by the design it’s clear how successful its predecessor – the C500 was. The keyboard layout is pretty similar, with it’s two soft keys and strong numeric keypad. Gone, however, is the rocker pad – there’s now a joystick at the centre of the call, back and home keys. Why ? Well, there’s no reason for a rocker wheel any longer, which I’ll tell you about in a moment.

For techies, here’s the specs first…

CPU – TI OMAP850
Speed – 195Mhz
RAM – 64Mb
FLASH – 64Mb
LCD – 240×320 TFT
Colours – 65536

In the box is a headset / personal hands free kit, USB connecting cable (gone are the days of cradles), the power supply, a CD with Microsoft ActiveSync 4.0 for synchronising with your PC and user manuals. You also get a free 32Mb MiniSD card.


OUTSIDE


Lets have a look, as we usually do, at the outside of the device first. It’s granite grey colour with the silver stripe around the side. It’s a very angular handset with clean lines, especially on the base which is completely flat. The left side of the device is quite similar to the C500, however now there’s a new hot-key at the top. Tap this and you’re straight into Pocket Internet Explorer.



Flip the phone around and you’ve got the camera shortcut key / take a shot key.



The top has a power button which is slightly indented, so you’ll need to use your thumbnail to turn it on or off. I guess this is a good way to stop you accidentally turning the device off. There’s also the IR port which, to be honest, is used less and less in today’s environment. There’s also a slot for the larger speaker.



At the bottom, again – tried and tested ports here. Yes, it’s still a 2.5mm headphone / headset socket, however you do get the personal hands free kit in the box. The mini USB port allows connectivity with your computer so that your can synchronise contacts, emails, music, favourites and more. There’s also a small hole which appears to be a strap-loop. LOOK! NO RUBBER FLAPPY THING! Wehay! :)



The front of the device has a main keypad with keys directly against each other. You may remember that on the C500 they were spaced apart, however the C600 has grooves cut into the top and bottom of most keys which makes locating them easier. Two large soft keys remain where they should be – directly under the screen. The “Home” and “Back” keys are placed right next to the joystick, which again is ideal for navigating around the phone. Picking up and using this was surprisingly easy, no matter what phone you’ve had previously.

You can also see the Orange home screen below which appears on all new SPV’s across the Orange range. This works really well when you need to get to heavily-used applications like messaging, call history, contacts or appointments etc. It also changes depending on what’s happening with your phone, telling you how many appointments, emails, text messages you’ve got or who the last person to call was for example.



Size-wise this is exactly the same as the C500. Let’s not forget that the C500 was at it’s time the smallest Windows Smartphone on the planet. The C600 has pretty much the same dimensions, however now you’ve got a mega-pixel camera and a high-resolution screen on the hardware list. Ah – now that screen. The TFT has been brought closer to the outside of the phone, which is where we want it, and the newer high-resolution screen gives a perfect picture.



I said earlier that the device is very angular. This is especially true at the rear of the handset. The sides come in at almost direct 90-degree angles with no curvature as shown below. Above the “C600” logo you can see the 1.3 Mega pixel camera and mirror. No flash alas. Why is a flash now almost standard in “big brother” handsets like the T-Mobile Vario and Orange SPV M5000, but not in Smartphones? We want one please.



Taking the battery panel off reveals the MiniSD slot – you get a ** Mb card to play with courtesy of Orange.



At the top of the screen you’ll notice the speaker has an LED wrapped around either side of it. The green LED flashes on the left side to indicate a network, whilst the blue LED shows Bluetooth is on. These change depending on what you’re doing – like charging, or battery low.

At the very bottom you can just see (under the * T9 key) the microphone and (under the 0 + key) the light sensor, which turns on the white backlight for the keys. The main keypad keys are very responsive and almost calculator-like in a way.



 


COMPARISON SHOTS



Above and below you can see the Orange SPV C500 in black, silver, and right there’s the new Orange SPV C600.









As you can see, the C600 is virtually identical in dimensions to the C500. I also took some shots of the C600 and C500 next to the recently announced C550 – on the far left in both pictures below.






INSIDE


Here’s the home screen we saw earlier in all it’s glory. You can see just how many options you get from this home screen, however if you don’t like it you can always choose a different one from the “Sex Up Your Phone” section on the left. At the top we have some slightly re-positioned icons.



So that’s the home screen. However, hit the “Start” button and you get…


   


Woah! What’s this? Gone are the program lists, gone are the numbered inventories.. We now have a proper option screen. Each time you move over something it’ll animate.. slightly. This is where the joystick comes into play, and probably the main reason why they’ve stuck it back on. So, you can move around this new option screen with your joystick, then push in to select. Job done. Ahh but wait, you’ve also got the option of pressing the relevant number on the keypad if you fancy. Take this as an example..







If I press “1” on the keypad I’ll get Call History. Press “2” and I’ll get Contacts. Press “5” and I get Messaging. You following ? Good.

This new layout gives the icons more prominence and will let you find the program you want quicker. If you want “Calendar” you no longer have to sort through a list of items like this…

1. Call History
2. Contacts
3. Camera
4. Calendar

Now it’s nice and simple – you just look for the icon that looks like a calendar.

Entering “Settings” will take me too…


 



Ahh nuts. It’s a numbered list again. Now, although I realise that this could confuse people I’m slightly puzzled as to why this is a numbered list and not a nice graphical layout like the main screen. To differentiate you could always give it a different background or something. Anyhow, either way we’re swamped with options. One option I was particularly interested in was the “Clock & Alarm”. Previous Smartphone owners may remember that this was a highly-used option that was a tad awkward to get to. However steps have now been taken to make it slightly easier. Click on “Settings” and then “Clock & Alarm”. You’ll then get this..



Making things a little easier is what it’s all about. I’d still like it a little further up perhaps with an indicator so that you know it’s on, however we’ll work on that ;)



Back in the settings option we’ve got an area for altering your network, caller ID etc. Under “Sounds” is.. well, this is probably the area new owners will want to play with first. Here you can choose WAV’s and MP3’s from your phone or Storage card, or download more from this site! :)



You can also alter the home screen layout as we mentioned earlier. Change the colour scheme, background image or time out – that’s the amount of time you wait when using a program before it drops back to the home screen automatically.



Let’s skip along a bit to the Power Management. You may remember our C550 review, where the screen went virtually off even if you set the “Display Time Out” to “Never”. Well, if we try the same thing on the C600 we get an interesting result. If I set the “Backlight time out on battery” to, say 60 seconds, and the “Display time out” to “Never”. Now I wait 60 second and …..the backlight……………. ermmm… dims a bit. Now, although the backlight is really still “on” to some degree, at least you can still see the screen. Sure, this isn’t the default setting and sure, this will suck a bit of battery life, but at least now – when I say, “Display time out: Never”, it actually IS on all the time, and I can see it. It’s going to glow on the bed-side cabinet, but heck, at least you can turn it over :)



On the second settings screen we have “About” and “System Information” which are fairly similar.



There’s also “Error Reporting”, which is best left off to improve speed. You can also choose to turn off the “Unlock Screen Clock”, which comes up when you press the first key in the unlock keypad sequence as shown.



While I’m talking about the keypad unlock, previous Smartphone owners will now find that the unlock sequence has changed. You must now press “Unlock” then “*”. Previously it was “Unlock” then “#”. Ummm.. don’t ask me why it’s changed, I just don’t know.

As with other Windows Mobile phones it’s simple to call people. Just tap in a number if you wish – the first few digits will be taken by the phone and it’ll guess who you want to call. Here I’ve entered “0178” and it’s guessed a few numbers for me. It’s had a look at my contacts and my previously dialled and received calls.


   



As you can see below it’s easy to track who I’ve called (green outbound arrow), who I’ve missed (exclamation mark) and which calls I’ve received (inbound arrow) plus whether it was the persons home or mobile or work number. Clicking on any of these will give you the time of call, length, date and all that.




While we’re talking about calling people, check out the new “Contacts Screen”. You can give each contact a specific ring tone, or – as shown below – a specific picture. When you move over a certain area it’ll switch between calling, SMS’ing or emailing the contact as is necessary. This new contacts screen is much better than previous attempts.




I’d still like to see a “Distribution list” on here, so that I could text several people at once. :)
 



Let’s take a look at the camera now. Again, the camera appears to be set to “Fine” instead of “SuperFine” as default. However, as you can see below we at least now know when the photos are going to be stored on the SD card.


 





The camera allows you to shoot up to 1280 by 1024 pixel photos, which drop down to 640 by 480, 320 by 240 and 160 by 120. Taking a shot seems a lot quicker on Windows Mobile 5.0 and I found myself holding the camera “still” less when taking shots. It means less blurry photos.

All shots are stored in a folder called “My Pictures” in the “My Documents” of your phone or Storage Card, making them easy to find and very “Windowsey”.

For some examples of the quality I’ve included some totally UNresized pictures below…


Snow shot 1
Snow shot 2
Snow shot 3
Snow shot 4
Snow shot 5
Snow shot 6
Snow shot 7
Snow shot 8
Outside shot 1
Inside shot
Inside shot – zoom x 2



Messaging has had a lift too, with a new cleaner interface which can now also include the Caller ID pictures you added earlier like so…




Let’s not forget the various ways I can send and receive – SMS, E-Mail (which is synchronised with my Outlook) or MMS. You can also add POP accounts so that you can send / receive on the move – just remember to set your outgoing mail server to smtp.orange.net. Oh, and let’s not forget the Exchange synchronisation too eh? :)





Internet Explorer now has a full screen mode so we can see even more of each page. With the “Zoom” set to “Smallest” you can cram quite a large amount of data into the high-resolution screen. Bringing the Address bar and other items back is just a matter of clicking the soft-keys.



Here you can see the Zoom in action. On the left is the default, “Medium” zoom, whilst on the right, after altering, you can see the “Smallest” mode.



The way the memory is managed on Windows Mobile 5.0 is far different than earlier Smartphones. Opening programs and applications for the first time can sometime take a few seconds, and likewise opening larger “hefty” web pages for the first time does seem to take a few seconds. Whilst this is happening it appears to be difficult to move around the page as it’s loading. However, once loaded and if you go back again to that page you’ll find things zip along. The progress bar and Windows “Flag” has now moved to the bottom of the screen and the whole thing will vanish once a website has completely loaded



If you’re browsing on the go you’ll find that your GPRS (or EDGE if you have it) connection doesn’t really drop once you’ve opened it. This isn’t a major problem provided no data is going over it, however if you want to stop your connection you now press the “drop call” key once and it’ll stop the data flowing. On previous handsets you’d have to press and hold the “Home key” then press something else, however this is now easier.

One thing I still have a problem with in Pocket Internet Explorer is that you can’t simply “scroll” – you just flick up and down the page via links. If I could scroll up and down, preferably smoothly, I’d be a very happy bunny indeed.
 



Pictures and Videos is now your way of getting into all the videos you’ve recorded on your camera, plus the pictures you’ve taken too. You can view a slideshow of your shots and get thumbnails of both your photos and videos too…



Once you’ve picked a picture to look at you can zoom in (this is a little different to previous Smartphones, I found myself pushing up and down to zoom). Press Menu and you’ll get lots of options to play with.



I can set this picture as my home screen easily, beam it, check the properties, rename it or even edit it!



 



Next we have the Calendar, which helps you keep your life in check and organises all your appointments. It’ll synchronise with your PC via ActiveSync and alert you when an appointment is on the way. The newer high resolution screen means clearer, less cluttered viewing.





ActiveSync is the next option, and although you may never click on it on the phone, this is the place where you can check the date and time of last synchronisation etc. Although ActiveSync is provided on the CD with the phone it’s a good idea to get the very latest version of ActiveSync – at present 4.1 – from Microsoft here.

Here’s a list of stuff that you can sync with your PC…




Tasks is the next available option, which will sync with your PC too.




Calculator is pretty self explanatory. It adds stuff up.. and subtracts.. and .. well, you get the general idea :)





Next up there’s File Manager, which comes courtesy of the makers – HTC. It’ll let you navigate your phone and is basically a cut-down version of “Windows Explorer” on your PC. It won’t let you send files via Bluetooth though, so check out the excellent Smart Explorer from www.binarys.com for a version that does! :)




The video recording system will a fairly good quality video onto your MiniSD card or internal memory. We would, of course, recommend the SD card where you have more room. You can switch between regular video and either 176×144 or 128×96. There’s also the possibility of recording in MPEG-4, which is default and played back with the “PV Player” we’ll mention in a minute, or H.263 / Motion-JPEG.




If you’d like to see an example of the video quality, click here and ensure you have QuickTime installed to view. All videos are stored in a folder called “My Videos” in the “My Documents” of your phone or Storage Card.
 



The Java player will let you play any Java Midlets you download on your Smartphone.




Orange have added their own customized help topics onto this phone, so you won’t find yourself hunting around in the loft for the manual 3 months down the line. Excellent idea guys. Shame there’s no mention of CoolSmartPhone in there though ;)




The Orange Plus service is basically a collection of SMS services. You can get the latest sport, lifestyle, finance news etc delivered over text message to your handset. Just click in and choose your topic.




The Comm Manager is now finding it’s way across every Windows Mobile 5.0 device we review. Here again it’s very easy to click on something you want to turn on or off. To get to this you can use a shortcut key – you press and hold the “Home” button. This used to be reserved for stopping GPRS, however now you’ll use the “call end” button to drop the GPRS. There’s no wifi in this handset (shame!), however it does mean that you have a central point to turn your communication devices on or off.


 
 



Gone is plain old MSN Messenger. Now we have “Pocket MSN” with links to the MSN Home page, Hotmail access and Messenger all under one roof.




Mobile phones usually record and encode video into a variety of heavily-compressed formats to reduce space. Not all of these can be played by the on-board Windows Media Player, so here we have PV Player. You’ll probably be using this to view your own movies that you recorded on the phone, however you can also copy across a variety of “3GP” movies too.




Handy for when you want to do a quick spot of dictating or just remind yourself to do something, this app lets you record and playback voice notes…. or even set as your ringtone!




Windows Media Player 10 is now onboard and can be synchronised with your PC via ActiveSync (see our mention above). Windows Media Player will search your phone and find all the files it can play, it’ll then sort them out into Video, Music etc so that you can choose between them.

Here’s a look at me updating the library of media files on my phone. Notice how you can switch between the Phone Library and Storage Card Library…



Next, I decide to play some music. I simply go into “My Music” and choose something to play..



How about some video ? We can open it and view a video like this…



Or, if you wish, show it in “full screen” like so..






Within Accessories you’ll find a utility to clear your storage. This will completely wipe your phone clean and return it to the “out of the box” state, so be careful with this one. You’ve also got a download agent, modem link and a task manager.



Here you have the old favourites – bubble breaker and solitaire. You can of course install more games and you should find them in here too.


 


OVERALL


As I previously mentioned the memory management on Windows Mobile 5.0 is different. When you first pick up the phone and turn it on out of the box you may find that applications take a little while to start up. When I opened “Messaging” I found that it took 5 seconds to load the first time, however I get the feeling that Windows Mobile 5.0 is built for repetitive tasks, and opening something a second or third time is much, much quicker. Docking units are obviously now a thing of the past, however the mini USB cable does the job and, to be honest, the C600 is too small for a cradle.


With Windows Mobile 5.0 you’ll find that more stuff now works. There’s less compatibility issues which means less hassle. Although a lot of changes are “under the hood”, the improved contacts and navigation is a definite plus point.

The EDGE compatibility is a little wasted here in the UK as Orange doesn’t have an EDGE network to allow the promised 247Kbps speeds. However, if you are lucky enough to be in a country with the capability then the browsing speed would be fantastic.

It would have been nice to get a card slightly larger than the 32Mb MiniSD supplied with the handset, especially as a lot of internal memory is sapped up by the phone, however shops like MobyMemory will sell you a bigger one quite cheaply. As for battery life, obviously if you do choose to have the “Screen Timeout” set to never then battery life is impacted, but you can easily get a days worth of usage out of it with the backlight permanently on. In tests we found that on the “default” settings we could get around four days out of it before having to charge it again.

One thing we did notice about the C600… “Orange Backup” has gone. Where’s it vanished to? This is always an invaluable tool for Orange SPV users and now it’s vanished, so people upgrading from earlier models can’t restore stuff. Weird.


The C600 is a very good phone. It does all the flashy stuff you want plus it ain’t bad at making phone calls either. Call quality is spot on and it connected to my Bluetooth headset first time. Whilst it’s not a massively different handset from the C500, Orange have built on the success that the C500 gave. The SPV C600 can be compared to a Formula 1 car. Although it looks almost the same as last years F1 car, the engine, on-board computer, suspension and stability of the car have been improved greatly.

Get more information on the Orange SPV C600 here at the Orange Shop or check oout these deals below..