I’m on holiday right now. In fact, I’m about 50 metres from the beach. It’s bloomin hot and I’ve read through pretty much every magazine we brought. Now, not being a terrific book-reader, I’d normally spend this time drinking some Banks beer (it’s a beer they do in Barbados). However, I’ve brought the Orange SPV M2000 with me. I can work wherever and whenever I choose without having to lug around my laptop (which doesn’t exactly fit into my pocket), plus I can use it as a regular phone or simply browse the net on GPRS or Wi-fi. I also brought it along so that I could write this review on it as I’ll probably never get time at home! :)
First impressions ? Well, you should take into consideration here that I have
never owned a Pocket PC before. You should also be aware that I’ve used
the Orange SPV C500 – the smallest Smartphone in the world – for quite a while.
This to me, when I first saw it, seemed a little on the large side. It’s quite
a thick device and, with the keyboard at the bottom slid out, it appears to
be a little long too.
This keyboard is a little shocking. I say shocking because the thing that used
annoy me about Pocket PC’s and Pocket PC Phones was the data entry. Tapping
away one letter at a time using the on-screen keyboard didn’t hold much appeal
with me and the hand-writing or letter recognition – as good as it is – doesn’t
like the way I write my “a” or “d” letters. No, I’m sorry – I’ve been writing
this way for ages and that’s how I write my letter “a” and my letter “d” and
I’m not going to change now.
Above I’m attempting to write “Hello, this is a test”. I’m using
my very best handwriting, and I’ve practiced quite a bit with the recognition
training thing, but this is the best I can do. Saying that, I have seen others
using this entry method really well and quite speedily too.
So, this thumb-keyboard, which is best used (unsurprisingly) by using your
thumbs whilst cradling the device with your fingers. Imagine holding your TV
remote control as you normally would, but with both hands at once. I found this
thumb-board to be a major bonus and – whilst I can’t quite type as fast as I
can on a regular keyboard, it seems quicker – for me at least – than the other
methods of entering info or typing. Sure, it takes some getting used to and
you may find yourself looking for the question-mark or something, but after
about 10 minutes use you should have it sorted.
The whole panel is back-lit with a cool blue colour and each key has a slight
bubble on it which makes locating and pressing the correct key quite easy. I’m
pretty confident about saying this because this ENTIRE review was written on
the thumb-board in Pocket Word and I never even came close to throwing it at
the wall as I probably would have done with the letter or hand-writing recognition
The M2000 comes with Pocket Office apps like Pocket Word and Excel. It also includes ClearVue so that you can view full PC files without converting them…PDF and so on. When you first turn it on the M2000 will take you through some setup pages and then the Orange tweaks will be applied.
In the box you’ll find the power pack,
||Here’s the cradle, it’s a nice design and it’s easy to drop the M2000|
into it, along with the additional battery slot at the back.
| || |
The cradle has two sockets at the rear – one for the
I have to be honest here and say that two batteries in a box – whether it be a mobile phone or Pocket PC – worries me. I can see the reason that’s mentioned in many reviews and in sales literature…
“The additional battery can be kept charged for the mobile worker who is only in the office for a short time. They can just swap, sync and go”
….ok, sure. I agree with that, but it still worries me. Unfortunately it wasn’t too long before these fears were realised. Wi-fi is built into the M2000 and it’s a great selling point, however when you use it the battery seems to drain quite quickly. It’s not that drastic, but you’ll need to be close to your other battery or charger just in case it drains down at a crucial point. Why? I’ll tell you why, and I’m stunned myself as to why this is allowed to occur.
Imagine the scene. Your battery is low, so you take off the existing battery before it goes flat and you swap it. You boot back up… Are your files, your programs, shortcuts, email and web favourites still in the same place ? Well yes of course they are.
Now imagine another scene. You get on a 9 hour flight (which with travel to the airport and to your hotel would probably add up to 12 hours or more) or maybe you’ve got a fairly long shift at work – you’ve used the Wi-fi a bit and maybe left it turned on. Perhaps you haven’t used it for a while – it hasn’t even been touched, just on stand-by. Either way you don’t get the chance to charge it and it’s gone beyond the “battery low” messages and turned itself off. So I’ll ask the same questions… Are your files, your programs, shortcuts, email and web favourites still in the same place ? Nope. They’ve all gone. Even worse, everything that wasn’t on your SD card is gone (I now save everything to SD)…. In fact, you now turn it on after charging it and you get that same setup screen you got when you took it out of the box. “Tap here to configure the pointer, tap here to learn how to copy and paste”… You can’t skip these, so you’re left simply shouting at the poor M2000 in disgust and poking the screen randomly in a vein attempt to retrieve your favourite game, document or internet page back. Even your contacts are gone, so if you’re “out and about” and you left it too long to swap batteries your screwed and that all-important call you were supposed to make to that new client is now impossible. Please though don’t let this put you off – it is managable if you’re sensible (unlike me) and DON’T leave the wi-fi and bluetooth turned on all the time. Plus, this happens with most Pocket PC’s anyhow!
A solution to this problem comes in the form of xBackup, which stores all of your data onto the SD card so that you can restore it later. Depending on the amount of data you’ve got, you’ll need around 25Mb of space free on your SD card, obviously more if have more data.
This xBackup software works well, but you’ll need to go out and get yourself an SD card big enough to cope with the job as there isn’t one in the box. So, I ask myself, why doesn’t this device simply do a backup to some internal persistent storage ? Why does the backup battery not last longer, keeping your data safe ? Why didn’t they just give you a 128Mb SD card in the box and then program the M2000 to do an xBackup itself just before all internal power is lost, then automatically do a restore if it finds a backup file ? I have no idea. However, I do know that this same “flat battery, no data” problem has happened to me twice in the past 2 weeks – although I must confess that I was using the wi-fi heavily and maybe not allowing it’s first all-important charge (after taking it out of the box). I am working around it now, by buying an SD card and backing up regularly and also ensuring that the wi-fi automatically turns itself off after not being used for 2 minutes (this is actually the default setting, I just turned it to constant!) – this does dramatically improve things, and after the M2000 was off-charge for more than 24 hours it still had enough juice to continue.
So to summize, provided you allow the wi-fi to turn off after 2 minutes of idle time and you’re sensible about bluetooth usage (not leaving it on “descoverable”), it’s perfectly fine.
Moving on, I must confess that I do enjoy using this device. I doubt it will replace the SPV C500 I have for sheer ease of use or the quick ability to make phone calls. However it is undoubtedly more powerful. The following paragraph is a case in point, and shows the perhaps worrying (for the networks at least) trend toward cut-price phone calls.
At home I have broadband and a wireless router as shown below…
It’s a Vigor router and allows me to check and update CoolSmartPhone.com from anywhere around the house or even the garden… or sat in my car on the road outside. Ahh… Now there’s a thing.. If I can park near our home and pick up the Wireless signal from our house, who’s to say that everybody else can’t do the same? Well, you have to use a form of encryption. Now, I want you to stick with me here because it will get confusing but you need to know.
Wifi is very useful because it’s a quick and easy way to get your Pocket PC online. When a network is found, Windows Mobile will prompt as to whether you want to connect to it…
After you’ve chosen “Connect” it’ll let you on provided there’s no encryption
– if there is encryption then it’ll ask you for a pass-code. Without
encryption you are automatically allowing anyone (your neighbours, people passing
by, people parked near you home) access onto the internet for free. They can
get online and use your super-fast internet connection without you ever knowing.
It’s very important to turn it on, even more so if you live in an apartment
or a town house where there’s a lot of people around you.
So, encryption. You can either use WEP or lock it down to an access list. An access list means that only devices with specific MAC codes can get onto that wireless router and access the internet. What’s a MAC code ? Well, every network card has one – it’s like a number (licence) plate, and each one is different and specific to that network card. So, if you were to use an Access List you would have a look at the MAC code printed on your wireless card (on the M2000 it’s in the Wireless LAN Manager under the ‘Current Configuration’ section. – Thanks Paul Stead for helping me out with that!) then add this to your access list so that ONLY that device and no-one else can get online. WEP is your other option (there are more, but I will stick to this for now), where you tell your router, “Yep, anyone can get online, but they have to use a password of ‘Home5’ before they can actually get a full connection. So, if anyone does pick up you signal, they’ll probably give up as they’ll not know what the password is.
Why am I waffling on about this Wi-fi stuff? Well, the M2000 has wi-fi built
in, so you can merrily browse the web anywhere in your home provided you’ve
got a wireless router. I tried this with my own home ADSL wireless router and
it worked pretty smoothly. The wi-fi in the M2000 picked up my home network
and asked me if I wanted to connect with it. After this it’s just a matter of
entering the correct password (I am using the WEP encryption mentioned before)
and you’re away! Although this was pretty painless (by the way, you only need
to enter the password once) I did find it a tad tricky when entering a building
with many different wireless access points. The “picker” that pops up on the
main screen only offers you a choice of two networks, and if the one you want
isn’t on there, you may have to fiddle around a bit to find it and connect.
However, the ability to browse the net quickly by just picking up this device
(as apposed to lugging a laptop around) is one facility I’ll be using very often
So, now I will finally get down to the feature that I was most interested in. Skype. Regular readers will know that I’ve used Skype before on my laptop. Skype allows computer-to-computer calls or computer to regular phone calls with the excellent SkypeOut service. For SkypeOut to work you’ll first need to get a Skype account and then add some credit to it. Don’t panic though, it’s all safe and secure and a tenna (£10) is enough to get you started. The reason why SkypeOut is popular is the cost – it’s ridiculously cheap to call someone on the other side of the world…or down the road, or another mobile phone. We’re talking pennies here people!
I’ve already bored you to tears describing wireless encryption (and the need for it) plus the wonders of Skype. Why? Well, I will actually finally tell you. See, there’s a version of Skype for the PocketPC. You can download Skype directly onto your M2000 or by browsing to www.skype.com on a normal PC and installing it to your M2000 over ActiveSync. I browsed to it directly with Internet Explorer on my M2000 like so..
Then it’s just a matter of creating an account, logging in and then (if you wish) add some credit to a SkypeOut account so that you can make calls to “normal” phones. You can even now get yourself a “SkypeIn” number so that people can call YOU by dialling a regular telephone number – this then rings your Skype phone.
Log on, dial a number anywhere in the world and you’re gonna be paying a whole lot less than if you used the “normal” way of calling – I.e. Through the mobile network. Now, if you haven’t understood much of what I’ve said so far, don’t worry. Below (if you click on the picture) you’ll find a video of my running Skype on the Orange SPV M2000. The M2000 is connected to the internet via wi-fi. What I’m doing here in the video is calling another person – in this case a different account on my laptop in another room. However, the laptop could be anywhere in the world, and I may not even be calling a Skype account – I could call my Aunty Marge in Australia on her normal phone, or my Uncle Bob in Tokyo. Just look at the rates for calls from your Skype account to the world!!
However, Skype needs an internet connection, so you can hop on your wi-fi connection at home…..or, if you’re not at home, you’ll need to “find” a wi-fi connection where you currently are. To locate a connection you could rely on the in-built connection manager on the M2000 or get this…..
This is called WiFiFoFum for the PocketPC and installed it on the M2000. This free software will sit and scan for a wireless network. When it finds one it’ll log it and find out whether it’s encrypted or not. When you move around it’ll bleep to say when it’s found one, then you can attempt to connect to it. Can you see where I’m going with this “oh my god, this is the longest slighty off-topic part of the review ever” ? Yes, Skype needs an internet connection, I have a PocketPC with Skpe installed plus I can easily find an internet connection with the Wi-fi scanning software.
In practice it is frighteningly easy to get a free internet connection. I set WiFiFoFum running, then I set off to walk around the block to take the dog for a walk. I was astonished at the results (picture below). In just one block I’d found not one, not two or even three, but several wi-fi connections with absolutely no security whatsoever. Just have a look below…
Anything shown above as an AP is an Access Point, and if it says “Off” in the WEP column, then you’ll probably be able to access it. In fact, while I was on the playing field half-way through the walk I picked up several at once, then connected to one, browsed and then logged into Skype. I was all ready to make a phone call on Skype – using someone elses internet connection. I really was amazed at how many people had not locked down their wireless connections. The rise and rise of broadband services means that wireless ADSL routers are now fairly common-place and a lot of people find that a mention of “WEP 64 bit encryption” is too confusing. After all, once it works, people don’t tend to mess. This is fairly scary though and it shows just how easy it is for any PocketPC owner to easily find a free internet feed, just by parking up in a typical residential street.
Update – I got an email today from Malcolm Hall, who made the excellent WiFiFoFum. He actually opened my eyes a bit as to why there seems to be a lot of unsecured networks. He says…
Everyone I know actually disables WEP on their wifi routers on purpose, to give passers by and neighbours the chance to go online for free. I mean I’ve been on holdiday loads of times and got on line just by placing my laptop on the window. So since I’m thankful for that, I offer the same thing at my place. But yeh the majority of open access points with default SSIDs are just people who weren’t bothered to configure them properly, or didnt care.”
Part of the reason I wrote all that is because I am in Barbados at the minute, and – after turning on the WiFiFoFum program one day, I found three wireless networks. One was called simply “Barbados”, one was called “StLawrenceGap” and the other was called “link1”. Now I’ll let you guess which one had absolutely no encryption. Logging onto it, then running Skype and checking in with family back home on Skype using this Barbados wi-fi connection costs pennies – not hundreds of pounds.
So, with the Orange SPV M2000 I can read and write Word and Excel documents, play movies and video clips with Windows Media Player, transfer, store and explore files, hey – I can even make phone calls too! What else can it do though? Well, it’s got Bluetooth, so we can easily pair it up with headsets and other devices.
We also have quick-keys on the front of the M2000 which get you back to the homescreen, messaging, internet explorer and an OK button too.
|At the top of the screen are two buttons for Contacts and Calendar.|
On the top of the device we have the SD card slot, headset socket and power button.
|At the very bottom of the handset is the USB connector. This is exactly the same one found on the SPV E100 and E200 handsets.|
I guess the only other external bits worth mentioning are the control paddle, which works very well. It’ll allow you to move around as if you’ve got a mouse, such as moving up and down Word documents etc
The last external item I’m gonna mention is the battery itself, which took some removing! The locking clip at the bottom needs to be pushed down to pop out the battery, and I wound up using the stylus to do this, but it does take some force to move this clip down..
As I mentioned before, the M2000 will also let you make phone calls. I probably only have my own stupidity to blame here – and perhaps the fact that I never read the manual – but it seemed to take me ages to find out how to make a call! In the end I found that it was a simple push of the green button, then you punch in the number or type out the name on the thumb board.
|The M2000 also has a range of Activesync options and Activesync itself will of course allow you to synchronise your contacts, calendar, tasks, email, files and more with your PC. |
As you can see here, it’s easy enough to add contacts on the go too, plus you get lots of options when you click “Tools” after selecting a contact, as shown.
|Here’s a shot from the standard home screen, listing everything you have access to as part of the default Orange M2000 build. (Apart from WiFiFoFum and Skype)|
|Here’s everything available in “Programs”…|
Here’s everything in the Settings menu.
|For all you techies out there, here’s the data provided by the device information. I’ve added a 32Mb SD card in the slot.|
The M2000 has a camera which is similar to that found in the Orange SPV C500. Because of the bigger screen on the M2000, the preview screen is massive and it refreshes incredibly quickly.
|Here’s the actual camera, complete with the usual mirror so that you can take a shot of yourself. There’s no flash, but it’ll work pretty well in low-light and the “night” mode is faster than that of the SPV C500.|
|When the camera button is pressed it launches a damned good camera / video recording application. All the previews come out in full screen, so you get a really good idea of how your shot will come out.|
Here’s some sample shots taken with the inbuilt cam..
Although not a mega-pixel cam, I think it’s fair to say that the quality is pretty much smack on. All of the above shots were taken on the maximum resolution – 640×480.
The M2000 is a very powerful device that can almost replace your regular laptop. The addition of the keyboard – which is a bold design move purely because it increases the size of the device – is a definite bonus. Again, don’t forget that the WHOLE of this review was typed out on an M2000 and I made very few mistakes. Add to this the phone capability and you have an incredibly useful communication and work tool which can be carried around easily. The M2000 does however suffer from a reset-back-to-factory-defaults when the battery is left to completely run down, however the inclusion of xBackup at least goes someway to working around this problem.
Apart from my gripes, I’ve learnt to like this device as my first ever PocketPC Phone and it’s great to be able to sit at home and browse the net without having to get the laptop out. No cables, no mouse, no hot lap ! I can also use it as a portable radio, playing streaming radio online with the inbuilt Windows Media Player. If I’m in the kitchen I can simply go to Windows Media Player, find my favourite online-station (if I’ve previously added it to My Favourites then it’s only a couple of clicks) and voila – music on the go.
If I can’t get wi-fi then the GPRS (class 10) will give me a connection, or I can use a Bluetooth modem, infrared modem, or I can slot it into the cradle and use my PC’s connection too. I also like the ability to copy across a Word document from my PC and edit it while I’m on the train or plane.
This device is extremely useful and can do a great deal. With the keyboard slid home it looks like many other PocketPC’s or PocketPC Phones, but the inclusion of the keyboard – which after a very short while is easy to master – means that this gets a definite thumbs up from me.
If you’re in the USA then DON’T DESPAIR! You can get one by clicking here!