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Ring ring:10 mobile phones tested

Everybody is different, and everyone's needs from a mobile phone differ markedly. Check out our Australian reviews of 10 distinctly different phones.
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By Administrator on
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Everybody is different, and everyone's needs from a mobile phone differ markedly. Check out our Australian reviews of 10 distinctly different phones.

It's been an interesting year in mobile phones. The Australian mobile market itself only really started to explode when service vendors started subsidising the cost of handsets against short term contracts, but those days are very much behind us. The market has enough critical mass, and enough users that see mobiles as an essential part of their very lives, that it's no longer necessary for vendors and networks to suck up that additional cost. Finding a zero dollar phone these days usually means either signing up for a high-use, long-term contract, or accepting older and inferior technology that's simply on the remaindered technology stockpile.

All of these phones have outstanding capabilities, and more than a few of them have their pitfalls as well. If you're now talking about shelling out money simply for the handset, it's even more important to pick a phone that doesn't just suit your sense of style, but also your expectations. Of course, the opposite is also true; there's no point carrying around an ugly brick that scratches the eyeballs of everyone who comes within five metres of it.

The removal of most formal subsidies doesn't mean that the RRP of these phones is set in stone, however. It's still quite possible to knock hundreds of dollars off the prices we list simply by shopping around and, depending on your usage model, signing up for a long term contract. It's a fine balancing act, though, especially if you demand cutting edge features; in two years those cutting edge features may seem somewhat dull.

One thing we did notice across all of these phones was a lack of originality in naming conventions. We're still not sure why just numbers -- in the case of market sales leader Nokia, four digit numbers -- rule the roost, but they certainly do. Wouldn't it make for better sales pitches, and more natural conversations, to have phones called "Fred" rather than "9210i"?

Benefon Track Pro
An enterprise-level phone with a plethora of GPS functionality centered around keeping the phone user safe and secure.

Ericsson T60C
Is it time to invest in a CDMA phone? We assess Ericsson's entry into the CDMA world.

Ericsson T68i
The T68i is part of the new wave of colour screen phones. Is Sony Ericsson making waves or drowning with unusable features?

Motorola V.70
Enter the world of designer phones with Motorola's switchblade phone.

Nokia 3510
Nokia's replacement for the well loved 3310 boasts only the simplest features, but with an appealing low price tag.

Nokia 5210
Is it a phone, or is it an excuse for our reviewer to test his body temperature in an unconventional manner? Read on to find out

Nokia 5510
The concept of mobile phone with keyboard never looked quite so odd as it does on the Nokia 5510. Does it offer more just a cool form factor?

Nokia 9210i
Nokia's high-end communicator brand has to go head to head with the Treos and Sony Ericsson P800s of this world. Does it still stack up?

Philips Fisio 820
The Fisio 820 is a large screen, no messing about mobile phone with a surprising lack of inbuilt games, which makes it perfect for the more serious phone user.

Samsung SGH-T100
The SGH-T100 is a very sexy phone, with a very sexy screen. We can't take our eyes off it.

ZDNet Australia's Brendon Chase, Ed Dawson, Alex Kidman and James Pearce compiled this report
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Benefon Track Pro


Benefon's Track Pro bucks the general trend of mobile phones, which has been towards smaller and smaller phones that can quickly be slipped into a pocket. By the standards of those phones, it's a monolith.

The physical build of the Track Pro is relatively sturdy but with few concessions to style; the buttons are large and have a reassuring click to them when pressed. Aside from enterprise users, this phone would suit anyone who has trouble with the tiny keypads on most mobile phones. For a phone with such a large interface, we found the power button a touch annoying to use; it's a very small recessed button on the left side of the phone that must be pressed in for several seconds to switch the Track Pro on. Being recessed, this isn't always easy if you have stubby fingers.

Ring Ring: Introduction
Benefon Track Pro
Ericsson T60C
Ericsson T68i
Motorola V.70
Nokia 3510
Nokia 5210
Nokia 5510
Nokia 9210i
Philips Fisio 820
Samsung SGH-T100

Unlike the much more consumer-focused Benefon Esc, the Track Pro is an enterprise level product centered around its telematics capabilities. The Track Pro has an integrated GPS module and software designed around using that GPS information for a variety of enterprise-centric functions.

The GPS module itself is fully contained within the phone, with a fold-out antenna providing additional coverage. The GPS unit itself can work independently of the phone, so if your SIM suddenly died, it would still be possible to locate yourself with the GPS side of things. We tested the Track Pro's GPS functionality in the Sydney CBD, and found that while it didn't work at all indoors -- and Benefon don't make that claim -- it's outdoor coverage varied widely. In order to get a clear GPS location, the phone needs to be able to get a strong enough signal from at least three different satellites. GPS signals are extremely weak and can drop out from even simple obstructions, so this isn't as simple as it sounds. One neat security feature of the Track Pro's GPS implementation is that it will give a time since it last had signal if it's been lost. That might sound useless, but that way, if you can recall where you've been since the time you lost signal, you can still give directions to suit your purposes.

The other noteworthy feature of the Track Pro is the large red button on the top of the phone that can be used as an emergency switch in either of two ways. If configured for it, a single press can send an SMS to a preconfigured number -- a good idea for workers in dangerous environments. Alternatively, it can be configured to request a press via subtle vibration once in every set period. Fail to press and the emergency message is sent; a reverse dead man's switch, hopefully of course for a live man.

One thing that the GPS will do is drain the battery. It has an economy mode that polls for GPS co-ordinates less frequently, which can extend battery life considerably. If you don't need it for a period, the GPS unit can be fully switched off. On full power GPS mode, we only got a paltry thirteen hours standby time before the battery died.

With its strict tilt towards enterprise functionality, it's unlikely that you'd stumble on to the Track Pro by accident. Like the similar Benefon Esc, it's only worth considering for the GPS functionality. Unlike the Esc it has a large number of solid potential applications centered around the use of the emergency button and GPS features that make it a reasonable buy.

Benefon Track Pro
Company: Benefon
Price: AU$1,265
Distributor: Australian Business Telephone Company
Purchase: Online


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Ericsson T60C

The Ericsson T60c is a CDMA phone, which means it is slightly different from the GSM phones most readers will be used to.

Firstly, it doesn't have a SIM card. The T60c is automatically hooked to the network when the phone is purchased. To change networks, the phone has to be reprogrammed, although this was a feature we were unable to test for reviews purposes.

Proponents of CDMA phones claim the sound quality is a lot clearer than your standard GSM phones. At least as far as the T60C is concerned, we'd have to agree; sound quality was clearer than on similar GSM phones we've tested recently.

The phone is just over 12 cm long, and quite bulbous at the top (5.4 cm at its widest) to accommodate a large seven-line display and the retractable aerial. The button layout is quite useful,

Ring Ring: Introduction
Benefon Track Pro
Ericsson T60C
Ericsson T68i
Motorola V.70
Nokia 3510
Nokia 5210
Nokia 5510
Nokia 9210i
Philips Fisio 820
Samsung SGH-T100
with a standard keypad and a little red on/off button below it. In addition to the two softkeys, above the keypad are two keys, -CLR" which works as a -clear" command and one with an icon of a list, which keys straight to the options list from the front screen, but is most useful when browsing the Web.

In addition to the buttons, the T60c comes with a four-way joystick that also acts as a key when you press it in. This replaces the arrow buttons that are often used on the number keys. It doesn't add much functionality, but we got used to it rather quickly, and it is pretty cool. We can see some people regarding this as the T60C's best feature.

We found the charger was a little difficult to plug into the phone, even after you worked out which of the many slots in the bottom you were meant to plug it into. The T60c is advertised as having 10 days standby time and 3.5 hours of talk time. We found it lasted from 5pm Monday to 7.30pm Thursday, a total of 74.5 hours. This is a lot shorter than most of the phones we've tested. Our WAP browsing was a touch more intensive than on many phones -- we were keen to see how well WAP works on CDMA phones -- and this may have drained some additional battery life.

The T60C takes a new approach to voice recognition. As well as the normal voice tags, the phone allows you to set voice commands for functions such as -call", -cancel", -yes" and so on. It even allows you to do voice digit dialling, where you can dial a number by saying it. To turn on voice dialling, you can press and hold a volume key, or say a -magic word". The magic word is a way to turn on the voice recognition without using your hands, which is smart, but the instruction book does warn to be careful of the radio and other background noise.

The T60c is also WAP enabled. To use the browser you have to generate a security key, which takes a while and doesn't always work, but once you get past that you get a text menu with a variety of functions. You can find some fairly useful information, such as real-time weather in a variety of locations (it's quite pleasant in Mexico right now), e-mail, sport and the like. Information is provided as text, which can be quite useful for things like news. If you get lost on the Web, the -list" button acts as a "home" button.

The other features are the fairly standard and useful things you find on mobiles. The menu involves a series of tabs across the top of a folder, which contains the information for whichever sub-menu you're looking at. The SMS is normal, with predictive input and no unusual features.

Coming out later this year are whiz-bang accessories for the T60c, such as the SmartBack. These are interchangeable back covers that contain accessories, such as a Portable Handsfree with retractable cord, and an FM radio.

Ericcson T60c
Company: Ericsson
Price: AU$605
Distributor: Ericsson
Phone: 1300 650 050

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Ericsson T68i

The T68i is part of the new wave of colour screen phones. Is Sony Ericsson making waves or drowning with unusable features?

Sony Ericsson's new colour T68i is nearly identical to the "Gold member" T68 but it has a few more features to make this joystick phone "fun" including 1MB of storage for digital pictures. Its main selling point is undoubtedly the MMS capabilities that allow users to send and receive MMS messages.

At just 100x48x20mm the phone looks sleek with a 100x80mm colour screen and blue backlit buttons. The screen resolution was a little bit disappointing compared to Samsung's T100 128x160 colour screen. At this time the T68i comes only in the light blue and silver colour which makes this phone look a lot more conservative than the T68's snazzy gold.

Using any phone can be difficult to grasp at first, but Sony Ericsson have attempted to make this easy with the 5-axis joystick feature and an easy to navigate menu on only one screen.

Ring Ring: Introduction
Benefon Track Pro
Ericsson T60C
Ericsson T68i
Motorola V.70
Nokia 3510
Nokia 5210
Nokia 5510
Nokia 9210i
Philips Fisio 820
Samsung SGH-T100

While the T68i might not look as snazzy as the T68, it's definitely much less conservative when it comes to features. The new MMS capabilities allow users to send multimedia messages not only to other phones but also to email addresses.

Sony Ericsson enhances the phone with an optional snap on digital camera accessory, the communicam mca-20. This allows users to take a picture and send it via MMS to another phone or directly to an email address.

The quality of the pictures recorded is average when viewed on the 256 colour screen. Export it out and you end up with a small picture that looks as though it's been taken with a regular digital camera. The communicam is a fun add-on however it's hardly a substitute for a real digital camera, and at AU$399 it's a touch expensive.

With all these fun features you may have a problem finding a carrier for the phone. At the time of writing Telstra is the only major company that supports the MMS capabilities. Vodafone and Optus are gearing up to to release MMS services by the end of August 2002.

The T68i comes both Infrared and Bluetooth ready and allows users to synchronise the calendar feature on the phone with Outlook contacts. The phone is also WAP 2.0 ready. However painful you may think WAP is, the T68i's joystick makes the experience of using the mobile web a little less painful.

Our main gripe with this phone is the layout of the buttons. The number buttons are close together and hard to use. Users can expect to press the wrong button by accident more often than not. That said, if you don't intend to use the number pad you can put your contacts into the address book as a voice command and even add a picture of them for reference.

With the colour screen and Communcam we were expecting to be underwhelmed with the battery life of the T68i. However the phone came up well with our tests, lasting for approximately 7 hours of talk time. That's still quite a shortfall against the claimed figure of 13 hours of talk time and 12 days standby, but we've gotten used to taking vendor battery figures with a grain of salt.

If you wish to save power, the T68i has features to disable colour to black and white and switch off the backlight. There is also a button on the top right of the phone that allows users to see how much standby and talk time is left rather than relying on a battery image on screen.

Sony Ericsson T68i
Company: Sony Ericsson
Price: T68i AU$1299 Communicam mca-20 AU$399
Distributor: Selected resellers
Phone: 1300 650 050
Release date: September 2002

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Motorola V70

Motorola's super-classy James Bond model might look the business, but what´s under the hood?

The first thing that strikes you about the Motorola V70 is the elegant form factor. It is shaded in matte silver with black and grey highlights, while a fetching reflective metal ring clings to the perimeter of the display portal. This circular aspect is also functional – a flat panel that protects the keypad rotates smoothly around this ring, clicking into place at the 12 o´clock mark to serve as the speaker. In this configuration the phone is twice as long, the controls are exposed and you are ready to make a call. The slide orbits around smoothly and clicks into place with a pleasing magnetic snap. We like this feature – however we were hoping that it would spring out into place, like a switchblade.

That said, you can train yourself to suavely open and close it with one hand, which is a classy way to end a call. The phone seems to visually compact upon itself, becoming something the size of a fob watch. Unfortunately, the phone doesn´t have much oomph in terms of earpiece volume and where you might have pressed the phone against your ear to hear better, the “blade” of the earpiece section prevents you from doing this with confidence.

The phone is small when closed, although its protruding aerial adds quite a lot to its length. The metal orbit surrounding the display is a sexy idea, but tends to attracts fingerprints and grimy-looking marks. There are a few replaceable orbit designs though, such as translucent yellow “Honey Dew” and “Sable” which is unsurprisingly black.

Ring Ring: Introduction
Benefon Track Pro
Ericsson T60C
Ericsson T68i
Motorola V.70
Nokia 3510
Nokia 5210
Nokia 5510
Nokia 9210i
Philips Fisio 820
Samsung SGH-T100

The keypad is set into a block of translucent plastic, which glows an ominous blue in low light conditions. The V70 has tiny little shiny keys that are hard, with a short travel that we found slightly tricky to get used to.

The v70´s display is a really trendy white-on-black contrast but there are several layers of reflective material between the exterior and the actual display, which is deeply recessed into the casing. As a result, in bright light conditions it is often difficult to read the display. It's especially poor when lying on a desk, as you can´t read the display without picking it up.

It features a two-line and thank goodness also three-line display settings, which reduce the text size. Why anyone would voluntarily choose to display less than three lines of information on the screen (eyesight issues not withstanding) is beyond us.

The menu system is a touch linear, but mpressively, you can re-order the items as they appear on the menu. This is a highly progressive feature that really lets you minimise the time spent surfing through options that you don't often use.

The V70 has a serviceable voice-dialling function, based on pre-recorded samples for each number. The storage space is ample and you can choose to store each number either on the SIM card or the actual phone. Although, this can have unexpected repercussions. The review hardware we received was packed with personal phone numbers from a previous user – and removing them was quite time consuming. We wonder whether that user has their own copy of these numbers on their SIM card? Considering the exclusive SIM or phone storage option, we doubt it.

When the phone is closed, and idle for a while, an analogue clock displayed on the screen. There are various “cool” forms of this clock, which acts like a screensaver. One mode called “Orbital” displays the hands of the clock as rotating orbs within a white circle. Another clock layout called “Broadcast” is a neo-artistic form with simple lines denoting the hands of the clock only, on a black background. Unfortunately there isn´t a digital form of these stylish analogue clock screensavers. When you turn off the clock screensaver, the default display can include a standard (non-arty) digital clock.

In our informal testing, we found the Motorola V70 gave us 60.5 hours of battery life with average use.

The V70 sports decent SMS functions, including the ITAP text entry technology, which is touted to increase your speed. One thing that we didn´t like is the way incoming SMS messages and phone calls don´t display the “name” of correspondents, referenced from your phone book. Instead, only the number is shown. This sucks when you have many contacts and can´t possibly remember all of their numbers. It forces you to use guesswork to figure out who the correspondent is, or a time-consuming hunt through the address book to find out for sure.

The V70 features advanced games with good graphics – they are smooth but the action games are somewhat sluggish as the screen updates rather slowly. These range from a cool version of Blackjack, an all too easy solo version of Pong called "Paddleball" and a Mastermind clone named "MindBlaster".

The V70 supports GPRS services and a WAP 1.1 compliant ‘microbrowser´, but we were unable to comprehensively test these features. We were not provided with a GPRS compatible account for the review. However the screen´s average resolution and poor contrast don´t make it an ideal candidate for information-viewing.

Overall, the Motorola V70 is a classy looking phone with middle-of-the-road functionality. It performs adequately as a phone, however the functions won´t knock your socks off. Ideal for those who seek to impress.

Motorola V70 mobile phone
Company: Motorola Australia
Price: AU$819
Distributor: Selected resellers

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Nokia 3510


The 3510 is the latest low-end offering from Nokia. If you want a phone that does the basics of allowing you to talk and/or send text messages to people, this is the phone for you.

This phone does all the basic things well. The call clarity is crystal clear, the messaging is simple and easy to use and the buttons are easy to press. It has speed dialling and voice dialling, and the ability to assign different ringtones to different callers. In many ways this phone resembles a 3310, but there are some differences.

First, the screen is slightly larger and the keys are laid out differently. There is the answer key and end call key, two soft keys and two arrow keys. Nokia are also touting changeable covers, for those who like the individualistic touch. Some are just different colours, some glow in the dark, and some are so-called "game covers". These give a different pattern to the keys, supposed to make playing games on the phone easier.

Ring Ring: Introduction
Benefon Track Pro
Ericsson T60C
Ericsson T68i
Motorola V.70
Nokia 3510
Nokia 5210
Nokia 5510
Nokia 9210i
Philips Fisio 820
Samsung SGH-T100

The covers are easy to change, and Nokia have included a rubber matt that lies between the cover and the hardware. We're not sure what it's for, but it may prevent the problem that affects most phones with changeable covers, where the buttons don't work very well.

The messaging menu has many sections, including Chat, archive, voice messages, info messages and my folders - where you can create your own folders to store messages. As we've said before, we think this is a great feature.

The 3510 also has a multimedia message inbox. Up to three messages of 30 Kb each can be saved. We were a little surprised by this, since the phone doesn't have a colour screen. Still, the phone can receive (but not send) messages containing text, graphics and sound. The graphics can be saved for use as a screen saver, and the sound can be saved for use as a ringtone.

The ringtone uses polyphonic sound, which means the phone has sound components from over 40 different instruments, and can play up to four at once. It sounds better than the tonal beeps that normally come from a mobile, but you won't mistake it for a nearby radio. If you configure the WAP settings on your phone you can download extra ringtones from the Nokia site.

The phone also has GPRS and WAP. There are some fairly cool things that can be accessed using these services, and Nokia is trying to promote it by offering free downloads from its site, but we're yet to be convinced of a sufficient value in return for the cost, at least when using phones with the traditional screen. However, this connectivity has become standard, and it is undoubtedly better to have a feature that may become vital rather than be left behind with useless technology.

From a game perspective Nokia has gone out on a limb by removing the perennial favourite Snake and replacing it with some others. We are alarmed to see the recent craze of arcade games based on dancing has found its way onto the mobile platform with 'Dance 2 Music'. There's a Kart Racing game, which is a good concept but the controls don't work too well, and Link 5, a connect-five style game, which is quite good. You are able to download additional levels from the Nokia site via WAP.

With a recommended retail price of AU$399, the Nokia 3510 appears to be the next generation of low-end phones. The ability to accept MMS messages will undoubtedly give the 3510 a little more traction in the lower end market.

Nokia 3510 Communicator
Company: Nokia
Price: AU$399
Distributor:  Nokia
Phone: 1300 366 733


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Nokia 5210

The Nokia 5210 has a lot of features for a mid-range phone, but they tread the line between useful and pointless.

The Nokia 5210 looks like a typical Nokia phone, although the usual hard plastic case is covered in a rubbery substance, creating a feel similar to a He-Man action figure. It weighs in at just 92 grams, making it reasonably lightweight.

One feature we really like is the 'Xpress-on' mechanism for opening the cover. This is a simple method for removing the case in two shells, leaving only the terminator-like skeleton of the interior itself. We found this made changing batteries and sim cards easier than other phones we've used.

Good performance, tough buttons
The number buttons seemed a little harder to press than we expected. This could be due to the detachable case that means the numbers aren't attached to the actual phone, or simply the newness of the phone, although the situation did not improve over the week of testing we had.

Ring Ring: Introduction
Benefon Track Pro
Ericsson T60C
Ericsson T68i
Motorola V.70
Nokia 3510
Nokia 5210
Nokia 5510
Nokia 9210i
Philips Fisio 820
Samsung SGH-T100

The phone performed reasonably well during calls, although the volume was sometimes a little soft. Messaging worked well, apart from the phone restarting itself once halfway through writing an SMS. The multi-part text system allows longer messages, although you are billed on how many standard SMSes it takes to send the message.

As well as the standard ability to create your own profile and ringtones, the 5210 includes a picture editor, which allows you to create or edit your own picture messages. It's quite tricky, drawing in a pen-up pen-down way on a 70x27 pixel screen, but if you have the patience you could create some of those really cool images that do the rounds. Sadly, we only managed to draw the outline of a pig.

Nokia advises that the talktime should be between two hours and 20 minutes and three hours and 50 minutes with a standby time of around 60 hours. This isn't exceptional, but it's hardly terrible either.

Features you may not need
The 5210 is also WAP enabled, although we're yet to be bowled over by WAP. The phone also has a lunar and solar calendar, but for some reason you need to be in Chinese Character format to access them.

The 5210 comes with the Chat feature seen in other phones. We've never met anyone who uses this feature, which allows you to view a series of SMSes by the simple expedient of giving you less space to write. Given that the cost remains the same, we can't see a market for it outside those with exceptionally bad memories.

The phone also has the ability to send and receive data via infra-red (IR). This allows you to send business cards (simply the names and phone numbers in the phone book) and calendar notes to another device that is IR enabled. You can send both these things via SMS, so unless you commonly send large amounts of data between phones the saving probably isn't worth what the feature adds to the cost of the phone.

Lastly, the phone also comes complete with its own thermometer. For some people this will be seen as very practical. Others will see it as useless. Finally, some will simply use it as an excuse to stick their phone down their pants. (38 degrees Celsius, by the way, with a background temperature of 26 degrees Celsius).

The Nokia 5210 is a good phone with some nifty features, but the RRP of AU$549 is slightly higher than others. The budget conscious will find everything they need in a phone in one of the cheaper models. That price could drop depending on plan and contract choices, so if you don't mind potentially forking out for extra style and features, this is a decent phone to pick.

Nokia 5210
Company: Nokia
Price: AU$549
Distributor: Selected resellers

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Nokia 5510


There are now so many mobile handsets on the market a phone has to stand out in some way to be any sort of success in the marketplace.

This can be achieved by enhanced Web browsing features, a large colour screen, an attached camera and so on. Or, it can just take a fairly normal phone and give it a weird cover, which is what Nokia has done with the 5510

That's not to say there's anything wrong with that. Some of the best products produced are those that take tried and tested technology and give it a little tweak to be more useful to consumers. To be honest, we quite liked the 5510 for a number of reasons.

As already indicated, the biggest distinguishing feature of the Nokia 5510 is the layout of the handset, which includes a complete QWERTY keyboard. It's laid out pretty much like a normal keyboard, with the mobile screen in the middle. Below the screen is a set of menu navigation buttons: clear, select and up and down arrows.

Ring Ring: Introduction
Benefon Track Pro
Ericsson T60C
Ericsson T68i
Motorola V.70
Nokia 3510
Nokia 5210
Nokia 5510
Nokia 9210i
Philips Fisio 820
Samsung SGH-T100
This keyboard makes writing an SMS a fair bit easier than with a normal numeric keypad. There's a shift key for capitals, and shifting between symbols on the punctuation keys, and a "Character" button for those symbols not often used. The keyboard also means the phone doesn't need predictive text, so don't spend five minutes trying to figure out how to switch it on, like we did.

There are four buttons on the side, two volume buttons and a hot button each for the radio and music player. There are also various holes for connectivity, including a plug for the computer and another one for connecting to a stereo system.

The 5510 takes its music pretty seriously. Nokia seem to think the kind of people who do a lot of SMSing are also the kind of people who spend a lot of time listening to music and can easily work out how to transfer it between devices. Judging from published demographics of SMS usage, they're probably right.

The first thing you notice when playing music on the 5510 are the earphones, which plug into two different holes in the phone, so each earpiece has its own connection. This allows for some pretty serious stereophonic action. You can also select a sound style from nine choices such as Rock, Classical, Latin, and the perennial favourite: Extra Bass.

The phone has a built in radio with 10 preset stations, which can be altered, of course. From our experience the radio works very well, with clear sound and good volume. Nokia cite the radio time as up to 13.5 hours, if no other functions are being used.

Music can be transferred to the phone with the aid of a USB connecting cable and a CD of software that gets installed onto the computer. We found the interface for the Nokia Audio Manager to be unintuitive, with several lists that we couldn't work out the functions for, and songs were transferred to the phone more by luck than anything else.

The program probably becomes simpler with use, and is worth the effort required to fill the 64Mb of memory the 5510 has set aside for music. Nokia says the phone holds almost two hours of near CD-quality music, we calculate the space to hold about 18-20 songs, which isn't bad at all.

As well as transferring the music across from your computer, the phone also allows you to record directly from the FM radio in the phone, which is pretty cool. The instruction manual has a couple of warnings about the possibility of music being copyrighted and the illegality of copying music tracks for the purpose of selling or distributing them. Unlike Sony, however, Nokia doesn't have a vested interest the music business, so they don't put too many obstacles in your way...

Apart from the "Music" function, the menu for the 5510 is the normal Nokia menu. The phone has WAP connectivity, and some animated screen savers which are fun, but the distinguishing features are the QWERTY keyboard and the music functions.

Nokia 5510
Company: Nokia
Price: AU$549
Distributor:  Nokia
Phone: 1300 366 733


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Nokia 9210i Communicator


The Nokia 9210i Communicator is designed to do what the name suggests -- allow people to meet all their communication needs while on the move.

In addition to the normal mobile functions, the 9210i has WAP, Internet surfing, email and fax. It is a sizable phone, weighing in at 244g and measuring 158x56x27mm. This is to allow space for the PDA functions, which are accessed by flipping the phone open to reveal a keyboard and screen.

Flipping open the phone reveals a fairly spectacular screen atop a keyboard. The keyboard has the normal keys and a few others. "Chr" gives access to a special character menu, and across the top there is a series of buttons that take you straight to various menus such as Desk, Messaging, Contacts, Calendar and Office. It's a pretty fast navigation layout. Another useful aspect is the shift key, which differs from a computer keyboard in that when you press it the next key you press is 'shifted'.

Ring Ring: Introduction
Benefon Track Pro
Ericsson T60C
Ericsson T68i
Motorola V.70
Nokia 3510
Nokia 5210
Nokia 5510
Nokia 9210i
Philips Fisio 820
Samsung SGH-T100

The messaging menu allows you to send and receive email, SMS or fax. The email client supports normal Internet standards such as SMTP, IMAP4 and POP3. The fax and email clients have a very standardised look to them, and for the most part the SMS client is similar. However, it lacks an indication of how many characters you have used, and therefore how many SMS messages will be sent to convey the information.

Browsing-wise you have two options, WAP and standard WWW. Since WAP was designed specifically to allow mobiles with small screens to search the Internet, and the 9210 has a large colour screen, we can't see any compelling reason to use it. The WWW feature allows you to dial into an ISP and browse the web in much the same way as you would on your computer. This sounds pretty cool, but if you're paying mobile phone rates you'd want to know exactly where you wanted to go. Nokia also warn about the dangers of downloading viruses.

In the "office" menu of the PDA there is a file manager, presentation viewer (for PowerPoint), a spreadsheet program and word. Nokia claim they are compatible with most Microsoft versions, but not all formatting would be supported. We couldn't open the word program as it closed on us immediately, and we couldn't find any way to repair it.

The phone functions on the outside of the device are mostly for convenience, since all the phone functions are accessible from the PDA section. When the phone is flipped open the phone section on the outside switches off and the PDA inside switches on, and vice versa when the phone is closed.

The phone has the standard 12-keypad, two soft keys, answer call and reject call buttons and up/down arrows. In addition is has a button that takes you straight to profiles and another on/off button. There's a flip open aerial on top, which we mostly left in. One odd (very odd) aspect is the microphone and earpiece, which are located on the back of the phone.

We found the volume to be a bit soft during conversations, even when we spoke into the back of the phone. Eventually we worked out that the arrow keys on the PDA control the phone volume.

The phone menu doesn't have many options, just messages, call register, settings, call divert and infrared. We found it odd that you can send and receive picture SMS with the phone, but cannot view them. Also, the SMS function doesn't have predictive text, which is practically standard in modern phones.

We found the battery life of the phone to be excellent. It's advertised as 4-10 hours of talk/data/fax time and 80-230 hours of standby. In our informal testing, it lasted from 5pm Tuesday to 8pm Wednesday the following week, a staggering total of 195 hours.

The real challenge for the 9210i are the newer wave of devices such as Handspring's Treo and Sony Ericsson's P800 Smartphone, both of which incorporate PDA functionality into much more portable units. Nokia may have been the first into this territory, but being first doesn't matter in a market where customers don't want first -- they want best.

Nokia 9210i Communicator
Company: Nokia
Price: AU$1799
Distributor:  Nokia
Phone: 1300 366 733


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10 of 11

Philips Fisio 820

The first thing you notice about Philips' new Fisio 820 is the large screen, which boasts 256 colours. While this does not allow photos to be displayed at a high quality, it does give the screen a nicer look than the two-tone colour scheme common to cheaper phones.

This 85g phone seems to be primarily for communication, having GPRS, WAP, Bluetooth, two e-mail accounts and so on. What it doesn't have are any games, so for some people this phone is useless.

We found the features to change the colour scheme of the screen and add wallpaper to be of no real practical use, but like everyone else we like the opportunity to customise our phones.

The menu system is a series of icons in a rotating circle, which you navigate using the arrow keys. We found this a little slow, until we figured out how to turn off the animation. If you're the impatient sort, go for this option.

Ring Ring: Introduction
Benefon Track Pro
Ericsson T60C
Ericsson T68i
Motorola V.70
Nokia 3510
Nokia 5210
Nokia 5510
Nokia 9210i
Philips Fisio 820
Samsung SGH-T100
The design of the keys themselves give those of us with fat fingers the impression they'll be hard to press selectively, but once we trusted them we found we didn't have to be as careful as we first thought. There are five function keys in addition to the number pad, which allows for more direct access to some of the functions.

The final tick in the navigation box comes with the phones use of hotkeys and voice tags. The phone can store up to 40 voice tags, which can be used to dial a number or to access specific functions, and eight of the keypad numbers can be converted into hotkeys for the same purpose. We can definitely see the benefit of spending a few hours customising the phone for activities you commonly use.

At first it looked like we wouldn't be able to charge the battery at all, since the review phone came with an overseas charger that wasn't compatible to our power points. Fortunately, a replacement was found. The battery is advertised as having 385 hours standby time with up to 4 hrs 20 min talk time. We found the battery lasted from being fully charged at 9.30am Friday to beeping in protest at 5.30pm Tuesday, a total of 104 hours of normal usage, which is quite respectable.

Many people use mobiles for SMS more than for voice, and we consider this function to be one of the most important. We initially had trouble writing an SMS, mostly because the instructions on text writing are hidden in the -Add names in the phonebook" section of the user manual rather than the SMS section, where we expected them to be.

We found the SMS functionality offers a great deal of control and variety, but at the expense of fast writing. With practice you may be able to speed things up, but we found the week we had to review wasn't enough to become proficient. However, there are some cool features such as -signature" and -add icon". The phone comes with 50 icons you can add to your message, including -Goal!" and -Red card", which is very useful during the world cup. Of course, the receiver needs a Philips GSM mobile phone; otherwise they get a series of punctuation marks.

The phone comes with a stack of extras, most of which are standard but a few stood out. The alarm clock can be set to go off once, every day, or on weekdays, so you don't have to continually remember to set it. The memory function allows you to see how much memory you have left (from the 273Kb in the phone), and where that memory is being used. It doesn't measure the SIM card, so if you're storing your phone-numbers and SMS on there you'll still run out of space pretty quickly.

All in all, the Fisio 820 is a great phone for communication, and the customisable shortcuts will please a heavy mobile user. It's up to you to decide whether you use your phone enough to justify the AU$999 price tag.

Fisio 820
Company: Philips Australia
Price: AU$999
Availability: Q3 2002

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11 of 11

Samsung SGH-T100

The SGH-T100 is a very sexy phone, with a very sexy screen. We can't take our eyes off it.

The Samsung Colour Phone T100 is a small 88 x 50 x 21.9mm unit that clam-shells open when you want to use it. On the front is a small two-tone display that contains most of the information you need -- time, signal strength, and battery charge, as well as notification of incoming calls and messages.

Like most clams, the pearl lies hidden inside. The T100 opens to reveal a huge 128x160 pixel colour screen that looks simply amazing. In fact, we had trouble reviewing it as our colleagues kept taking it away and gazing at it in abject wonder. The screen is viewable from all angles, but loses quality the further away you get from a straight-on perspective.

It is also a marvel of buttonry. Apart from the 12-keypad buttons and the volume buttons on the side, there are a series of buttons that together resemble a flying saucer. There are the standard two soft keys and the answer call, reject call/on-off button, as well as a dedicated "clear", which is quite useful. Then there are four arrow-navigation buttons, with a fifth in the middle. Three of these buttons double has hotkeys to messages, tones and Internet.

Ring Ring: Introduction
Benefon Track Pro
Ericsson T60C
Ericsson T68i
Motorola V.70
Nokia 3510
Nokia 5210
Nokia 5510
Nokia 9210i
Philips Fisio 820
Samsung SGH-T100
All in all, this phone looks great. Of course, you could tell that from a picture. Our job is to tell you how well the phone actually works. In our tests we found the call clarity to be pretty good. It was a similar story in terms of reception.

SMS works well, but the phone has a disconcerting habit of not moving an entire word to the next line, so it looks like it's split over two lines. It comes out all right at the other end, though.

The menu has the standard features: Call Records; Messages; Voice Functions; Tones; Settings; Organiser; Games; and WWW Services.

The only outstanding feature, hidden in LCD/LED Settings, is the ability to change the wallpaper on the colour screen. The phone comes boxed with a CD containing images and ringtones, and a cable to connect your phone to a serial port on your computer.

The real joy comes with the ability to open your own images with the software, which allows you to crop and download them to your phone. You can transfer up to eight images across. We had an awful lot of fun with this. Just bear in mind that your phone is viewable from all angles before selecting images.

However, while the ringtones are pretty good and you can create your own, and you can set your phone to play a particular ringtone when a particular person calls, we think an opportunity was missed in that you can't do a similar thing with the images. We were hoping to set the phone to display a picture of our girlfriend when she called, a picture of an ogre when the boss called, and a picture of a tall cold one when any of our mates from the pub called.

Would this function have been useful? No, not really. But it would have been fun, and gadgety phones like this do sell on the fun factor.

As much fun as the colour screen is, it also forms the basis of our major complaint with the phone. The colour screen, as cool as it is, is a little ahead of its time because there's no real use for it just yet. For example, when you surf the mobile Web the interface looks just as it does for a normal mobile screen in all the situations we tested, although we are aware of a couple of applications which will soon use GIF images. When you include an image with your SMS, it uses and ordinary black and white pixellated image.

The phone is advertised as having up to 80 minutes talk time and up to 60 hrs standby time. We found it lasted from 8.30pm Sunday to 8.30pm Tuesday, just 48 hours. That's a lot less than claimed, and also less than other phones we've tested. We can only assume the colour screen really chews up the power.

The phone works well, and looks amazing. However, it doesn't really have the added functionality to justify spending AU$1,099 on it. However, if you have money floating around and you like impressive gadgets, this is definitely the phone for you.

SGH-T100
Company: Samsung
Price: AU$1,099
Distributor: Samsung
Phone: (02) 9763 9700

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