- Sliding keyboard
- Windows Mobile 6
- Quad-band GSM
- 802.11b/g Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.0
- Lacks 3G support
- Average battery life
- Expensive without operator subsidy
Windows Mobile 6 was launched back in February, and is now filtering through into shipping devices. Our first Windows Mobile 6 Smartphone is the HTC S710. That's not the only accolade this device can claim: it's also our first Windows Mobile Smartphone with a sliding Qwerty keyboard.
If you have looked at devices such as HTC's P4350 and felt you would like a handheld with a full QWERTY keyboard but that the overall size is just too much for your pocket to bear, then HTC's new S710 could be ideal.
As a Windows Mobile Smartphone the S710 is reasonably small and neat at 101mm tall x 50mm wide x 17.7mm thick, and 120g. This means it fits tidily in a pocket and is more comfortable to hold to the ear for voice calling than something like the larger P4350.
The phone is made in two sections, and the keyboard is revealed when you slide the upper and lower sections apart along the right long edge. When you do this the phone's screen reorients itself into wide format. The result is a device you can hold in both palms, tapping at the keyboard with your thumbs.
The QWERTY keys are not in themselves very large, at around 5mm square. But they are well spaced, and we found using them compared favourably in terms of speed and accuracy to mini-QWERTY keyboards on devices such as the BlackBerry 8800, HTC S620, Sony Ericsson P990i and M600i, Nokia E61, and the aforementioned, larger HTC P4350.
The S710's 2.4in. 240-by-320 resolution screen is not touch-sensitive, and HTC has found room on the keyboard for two softmenu keys to help you navigate the Windows Mobile software. There are also two LEDs, one indicating when Caps Lock is active, the other when the Fn key is in use. You can lock the former and latter with quick double presses of the relevant key while holding down the PgUp key, which forms part of an inverted T on the right-hand side of the keyboard.
Every key has a second function of some sort, from embedded numbers for digit entry and call dialling, to application and feature shortcuts such as launching Internet Explorer Mobile and Messaging software, as well as a range of symbols. Further symbols are available from a picklist.
HTC has come up with a rather nice look for the front of the S710. Gone is the design that marks a Windows Mobile Smartphone out immediately, and in its place is a black-and-silver colour scheme with a clean-looking button design.
The screen dominates the fascia, occupying around two-thirds of the available space. Beneath it is a small navigation button and twin softmenu keys. Beneath these sits the number pad. The Windows Mobile Home and Back keys are on the left and right edges of the numberpad, with the Call and End keys also on the edges, further down towards the bottom of the fascia.
The sides of the HTC S710 are relatively sparsely populated. On the right-hand side is a camera control button, on the left a dual-function button that, on a short press, activates voice control, and on a longer press starts the voice recorder. The volume rocker is also here.
Your SIM card lives in a slot on the left-hand side of the casing, which only becomes accessible when the keyboard is slid out.
The HTC S710 runs Windows Mobile 6. This has many enhancements over its predecessor, Windows Mobile 5, and these are covered in our review of the operating system. One of the new features that may appeal to Windows Mobile Smartphone fans in general, and those drawn to this handset in particular, is the inclusion of Microsoft Office Mobile Suite, which allows for some editing of documents. Sadly the suite was not present on our review sample, whose software bundle was limited to the ClearVue document viewers.
The best we could do with the keyboard was to take notes, write emails and text messages, enter URLs and use Windows Live Messenger.
The HTC S710 is powered by a Texas Instruments OMAP 850 processor running at 200MHz. It has 128MB of ROM and 64MB of RAM. After a hard reset we were left with 60MB of available storage capacity. This can be augmented with a microSD card via the slot on the right edge of the casing, where it is protected by a rubber cover.
One drawback is the fact that the HTC S710 does not support 3G. You get quad-band GSM with GPRS and EDGE, which should keep you connected (albeit at moderate speeds) both at home and abroad. Bluetooth 2.0 is present, as is 802.11b/g Wi-Fi. Both are controlled via the Windows Mobile Comm Manager, which also allows you to put the hansdset into flight mode — that is, to turn off all wireless connections including the SIM. There is no hardware shortcut to this setting, but if you use the default Today Screen skin, shortcuts to the last six applications used are displayed, and if it's not listed here the setting is just a couple of button taps away.
The SIM card is easy to get at yet also well protected. It's housed in a covered slot that only becomes visible — and accessible — when you slide out the keyboard.
A camera lens sits on the back of the casing alongside a self-portrait mirror. There is no flash. The camera will capture stills at resolutions up to 2 megapixels.
HTC includes its own Audio Manager, which allows you to view tunes by artist, album, genre and composer, to see those that are protected, and to manage playlists. It links into the Windows Media player via a softmeu button.
Performance and battery life
Battery life proved to be reasonable but not outstanding. As usual we asked the HTC S710 to play music in a continuous loop with the screen forced to stay on, until a fully charged battery was depleted. This gave us 6 hours and 38 minutes of music.
We were nonplussed to find no audible low-battery warnings while the battery was running down. This is most unusual; our review sample did have one or two pre-production characteristics, though, and we hope this is one of them, and that it has now been ironed out. We specifically asked if a battery benchtest could be carried out, and were told it could be.
Overall, and despite the disappointing lack of 3G support, the HTC S710 is a compelling device. This is almost entirely down to the pairing of a relatively large display and a sliding keyboard. These features make it more usable for email, note taking, SMS creation and other text-based activities than any other Windows Mobile Smartphone we have seen. The presence of Windows Mobile 6 will also please many — especially those who can make use of the new features for enterprises via Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 SP2 and 2007.