Sendo Z100 Smartphone: first impressions

The first Microsoft-powered smartphone comes from UK manufacturer Sendo, and has just been released with the usual fanfare. The full review is a few days away, but here's a brief first look.

Small, silver and sleek: at around 100g the Sendo Z100 may be the lightest device ever to run Microsoft software. The Smartphone 2002 operating system is remarkably similar to Pocket PC 2002, but — as implemented on the Sendo — lacking a touch-sensitive screen.

Sendo's Z100 is the first Microsoft Smartphone 2002 device

The 2.2in., 176-by-220-pixel, 16-bit colour screen is vivid and well-lit, and can be read indoors and out. The keyboard takes up around a third of the front of the phone, and includes home and back keys alongside the normal telephone buttons; there's also the world's smallest joystick. Sendo says that this is around the twenty-fourth configuration of controls it's tried — maybe so, but the joystick still suffers from a tendency to select an item by clicking down while you're trying to navigate in another direction. Doubtless experience will bring the requisite light-fingered touch. There's also a power button at the top of the screen, a volume control rocker to the side of the case and a voice-record/camera shutter button above that. The camera is a separate inch-square add-on that clips on the bottom of the phone. It can produce full VGA resolution images of 640 by 480 pixels in 24-bit colour, and you can send much smaller versions of these pictures via MMS.

The Z100 accommodates a digital camera add-on that records VGA-resolution images in 24-bit colour

Once turned on and connected, the top of the Z100's screen has a status line showing the usual enunciators for signal strength, voicemail, battery status and so on. Beneath that is a row of icons signifying shortcuts to various applications, then the service provider's name and current time, and then things like upcoming appointments, email and SMS status and so on. There's even room for a little Windows logo, but you can change the background image. Files — video, audio and image — can be moved to and from the phone through ActiveSync 3.6: the phone comes with Windows Media Player, but other players can be loaded.

Smartphone 2002 has a familiar Microsoft look and feel

The Z100's online prowess comes courtesy of Outlook, Internet Explorer and MSN Messenger. It picked up the ISP settings from an old Virgin SIM and connected to Google in around thirty seconds. Navigating full-screen pages with the built-in Internet Explorer is clumsy, but WAP pages and others designed for small screens work very well. The built-in audio's not bad either — you don't get much volume or high fidelity from the earpiece, but for the size it's more than adequate. The hands-free kit is stereo and good enough to enjoy music through. We tried to see how the phone would react if we called it while it was playing a 160Kbps MP3: it didn't pick up the call, but that may be a function of the beta software on our review sample.

We'll find out later how well the radio works, whether the software is robust and the talk time up to scratch. For now, our first (rushed) look shows the Sendo Z100 has lots of promise — and a few nagging doubts.