Orange now has six phones in its 3G range: LG U8150, Sanyo S750, Samsung Z107, Nokia 6630, Nokia 6680 and Motorola C975. We have used the first two of these phones to evaluate Orange's 3G service, and concentrate here on the Sanyo S750 -- the first of the company's 3G line-up to be available in the UK.
The Sanyo S750 is the only phone in Orange’s range to incorporate a sliding mechanism to reveal the number pad. Implemented well, this type of design makes for a compact phone, but the S750 is actually rather tall. Orange quotes the dimensions as 50mm by 108mm by 22mm. In fact that 108mm does not take into account the external antenna which adds, according to our measurements, a further 21mm. The S750's weight, at 125g is not overly heavy. With the phone closed, you get buttons for starting and ending voice calls (and, with an extra keypress, video calls) and navigating the on-board applications. To do anything more, you'll have to slide the device open. There are two cameras, one on the front and one on the rear. A softkey button is set to launch the camera: if the phone is closed you get the view from the front camera (i.e. of yourself); open up the phone and a few keypresses are needed to switch to the rear camera; with the phone open, the button launches the rear camera by default. The Sanyo S750 has an SD card slot for memory expansion, and thankfully you can access this without removing the battery -- it's at the top, protected by a solidly hinged cover. The earphone socket is on the right edge, which is not ideal. This socket and the charge/USB connector at the bottom are both protected by well-secured rubber covers. Synchronisation software is provided, but you don't get a cable so you’ll need to either set up a Bluetooth or infrared link or buy a USB cable.
The Sanyo S750 has a long list of features, as befits a high-end phone. It's supports GSM at 900, 1800 and 1900MHz, GPRS and UMTS (3G). It will also act as a 3G modem for a notebook computer when configured properly -- you can download setup instructions for Windows XP, ME, 2000 and 98 here. There is only 8MB of built in memory, and even before taking any photos or storing any data on the phone we were left with a little over 3MB free. So you'll need to use the SD slot for serious data storage -- in fact, with an SD card in place you can use the Sanyo S750 as a mass storage device. We did not have the optional USB cable -- which has a proprietary connector at the phone end -- and so could not test this feature. However, the instructions at Sanyo's Web site are pretty straightforward. The 2.4in. QVGA screen delivers 262,144 colours (18-bit colour), makes the most of the bundled software. The S750 is Java-compatible and comes with a calendar, address book, currency converter, voice memo tool, to-do list manager, alarm and MP3 player. There are two Java games: Reversii and a Golf game, the latter being a demo version. Stills can be captured at 1,280 by 960, 640 by 480, 240 by 320 and 120 by 160, while video support runs to 176 by 144 and 128 by 96. There is a 4x digital zoom, and the rear camera incorporates a flash unit. Images can be easily attached to MMS messages or sent to other devices via Bluetooth or infrared using a single softkey selection. Orange’s 3G offering delivers a fairly standard blend of entertainment and information. The Orange World service, with its mix of ‘football, film and fun’ provides access to such items as film reviews and trailers, celebrity interviews, football match and goal highlights, news (from Sky) and weather. The Traffic TV service, which is exclusive to Orange, provides access to CCTV footage from roadside traffic cameras. GPRS users can download traffic reports, stills and video clips, while 3G users can also download live CCTV feeds. The service is free for a month, and thereafter costs £1 a day, £2 for 3 days or £4 a month. Which brings us to Orange’s pricing strategy. The company is being aggressive with its 3G pricing, which as of March 2005 includes an offer to get two handsets for the price of one through Orange Retail stores and other Orange channels (some indirect Orange channels are offering different deals). There is no restriction on the handsets you can choose under this offer if you opt for Orange’s YourPlan 120 or above. Orange is also currently offering a free three-month trial of its 3G services amounting to 1000MB of data, 30 minutes of video calls and three free music tracks for each of the three trial months. The phones themselves vary between £0 and £120 in price depending on the phone and tariff chosen. Orange 3G is only available only on YourPlan 30 and above. There are various 3G data tariffs for both business users and consumers. A basic ‘Pay as you Consume’ tariff with data charged at £2.35 per MB is joined by four bundle plans offering 7MB of 3G data for £11.75 (extra MB charged at £1.76), 65MB for £23.50 (extra MB charged at £1.18), 400MB for £52.88 (extra MB charged at £0.59) and 1000MB for £88.13 (with a ‘fair use’ cap and no charge for extra MB). Orange says its 3G network currently covers 70 per cent of the UK population.
We found the Sanyo S750 slightly irritating to use. It is relatively large, particularly when opened for access to the keyboard, and the external antenna’s physical presence is annoying. Our test unit failed to provide a consistent 3G connection -- our other test phone, an LG U8150, delivered a much more consistent 3G signal, in locations where the Sanyo unit failed us. Battery life is estimated at 100 minutes of video calling, 190 minutes of GSM, and 210 hours on standby. Our real world testing supports this, although video calling did drain the battery particularly quickly. The ability to use the Sanyo S750 as a modem may appeal to those an alternative to a 3G data card. This can be achieved using either Bluetooth or a cable connection, although it would be useful if Orange bundled the required cable with the phone. Orange’s 3G service is essentially Orange World beefed up with video offerings. The main new element in the suite of services is Traffic TV. This is fun to use the first few times, but we can’t help feeling it adds little to SMS-based traffic report services for drivers. We found that clips were too slow to load and coverage too restricted to be truly useful.