Although Research In Motion (RIM) has partnered with other companies to allow access to its over-the-air Web-based email delivery services, the SK65 from Siemens is the only third-party smartphone to have the full Blackberry software and support for RIM's Blackberry Enterprise Services built in.
The advantage is that enterprises can push data to the SK65, providing better mobile access to calendar and email resources plus automatic synchronisation with office systems.
Our first look at the SK65 was in the controlled environment of the product's launch, and we were not able to check the data sharing and synchronisation facilities first-hand. However, we did give the handset an initial once-over for features and usability.
Siemens' Blackberry-enabled SK65 smartphone will ship in November.
The device is small and light, measuring 47mm wide by 120mm deep by 22mm high and weighing 144g. Not too bad for a feature-packed smartphone that includes a relatively spacious QWERTY keyboard.
Think of a handset as being made up of two ‘wedges’, one sitting above the other, hinged at the central point. Swivel the two wedges around the hinge, and they part, locking again when they're at right angles to each other. The rearmost wedge reveals the ‘QWERT’ side of a keyboard to the left and ‘YUIOP’ side to the right. In the centre sits the numberpad from the front wedge.
The SK65 has an innovative swivelling design that opens to reveal a QWERTY keyboard.
Two-thumbed typing is possible -- indeed, we found this to be a more ergonomic experience than on either the Voq Professional from Sierra Wireless or Handspring's Treo 600. We doubt your average executive will be writing lengthy reports on his or her SK65, but composing the odd email using what Siemens calls its ‘cross-to-type’ system is distinctly possible.
There is no camera -- apparently to discourage use of the phone for personal activities and to attract enterprises wary of industrial espionage. However, most of the other expected specifications are present and correct.
The SK65 is a tri-band GSM/GPRS phone. There is 30MB of user memory but no storage card support. The display delivers 16-bit colour, Bluetooth is integrated, and email support covers SMTP, IMAP4 and POP3. You get calendar, to-do and notes applications built in, along with Java and support for MIDI ringtones (the latter two features sit oddly with the camera’s absence -- clearly this is not an entirely pin-striped, buttoned-down device).
Battery life is expected to run to around 300 minutes' talk time, and up to 250 hours on standby.
One omission interests us: the lack of Wi-Fi. If the SK65 is to become an all-purpose communication device, as Siemens suggest will be necessary for future handsets, shouldn't the SK65 cater for Voice over IP (VoIP)? But without Wi-Fi it can’t join local wireless networks -- an omission that might become an issue before long. However, Siemens plans a range of high-end smartphones, so maybe Wi-Fi will show up soon.
The SK65 will come in three variants: a top-of-the-range version supporting Blackberry Enterprise Services; a ‘prosumer’ Web client-based version; and a standard ISP email variant with no RIM services on board.
Siemens would not give pricing for any of the three SK65 variants but expects the phone to become available in November, through network operators and retail, as well as direct to enterprises.