- ✓Windows Mobile 5
- ✓quad-band GSM/GPRS, with EDGE support
- ✓bright, clear QVGA screen
- ✓good battery life
- ✕Only 64MB of internal memory
- ✕only 32MB of storage supplied on miniSD card
- ✕miniSD card slot inconveniently located beneath the battery
- ✕lacks Wi-Fi
- ✕slow start-up time
Orange’s range of Windows-based smartphones has undergone several iterations since the original SPV -- the first Windows smartphone to hit the UK back in 2002. Orange was a trailblazer in this market, but now has to compete with other operators and with operator-agnostic devices. The SPV C600 follows hot on the heels of the C550 model, which was launched in July. The latter was very much a stopgap, while the SPV C600 is the first Orange handset to feature Windows Mobile 5 for Smartphones.
Placing the SPV C500, C550 and C600 side by side reveals plenty of family resemblances. The SPV C600 measures 45.9mm wide by 107.7mm deep by 18.8mm high and weighs 105g -- almost identical to its two predecessors. Many of the general design principles are also unaltered -- if anything, the C600 looks more like the C500 than the C550.
The C600's QVGA screen occupies more space on the front of the case than the number pad and other buttons. The number keys are squeezed into a pretty small area, and you may find one-handed use a bit of a balancing act. However, that's no different to many other handsets.
Above the keypad there's a mini joystick for navigating through applications. This is surrounded by a pair of rocker buttons that stretch the full width of the SPV C600’s casing: the lower one handles Call and End functions, while the upper button shortcuts to the main screen and implements a Back function. Finally, a pair of long, thin buttons directly beneath the screen give access to the Windows Mobile soft menus.
The upper right edge houses a small button that initiates the software for the built-in 1.3-megapixel camera. A volume rocker and a button that takes you straight to Internet Explorer are on the left edge. At the top is the infrared port, while the bottom edge houses the mini-USB mains power and PC docking connector, plus a 2.5mm stereo headset jack.
Orange includes a headset in the box, along with a mains power adapter, a PC connection cable, a CD with Microsoft ActiveSync 4.0 for PC synchronisation, a printed getting started guide and a more detailed printed user manual.
The quad-band SPV C600 includes support for EDGE (Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution), which allows data connections at up to 247Kbps in countries with this technology in place. The UK does not currently support EDGE, but France, Poland, Slovakia, Romania and Belgium all do. In the UK, users will have to make do with GSM and GPRS connectivity.
The handset runs Windows Mobile 5 for Smartphones -- the very latest version of Microsoft's mobile OS. We got ActiveSync 4.0 for desktop synchronisation, but this has since been updated to version 4.1 (you can download it from Microsoft’s Web site).
As an Orange Signature device, the SPV C600 features a customised Today screen with a column of icons on the left-hand side giving access to frequently used applications and services. When you highlight any of the icons -- for contacts, call history, messaging (SMS, MMS and email), calendar and Web -- further options are offered on a fly-out menu. The SPV C600 belongs to a new 'Signature Devices for Business' subcategory, and as such it has an additional new icon-based shortcut that gives access to four user-defined applications.
The SPV C600 has 64MB of internal memory for storing applications and data, but not all of this is available to the user. Out of the box, our review unit had 11.5MB of Storage Memory and 27.3MB of Program Memory available. There is a miniSD slot for additional external memory, but Orange only provides a 32MB card and you may well need to add a higher-capacity card. To swap memory cards, you'll have to power down the device, as the slot is inconveniently located underneath the battery.
The SPV C600's built-in camera is competent but not outstanding. It shoots stills at up to 1,280 by 1,024 pixels (scaling down to 640 by 480, 320 by 240 and 160 by 120) and video at 176 by 144 and 128 by 96. There are quick selection modes for shooting MMS video and images to use with the Contacts software, as well as for applying fun picture themes. You can zoom in up to 8x when capturing stills, depending on the resolution; the range of ambiance settings includes automatic, daylight, incandescent, fluorescent and night, and there's a set of manual adjustors for brightness, saturation, hue and gamma. There are also filters for greyscale, sepia and cool images.
Bluetooth is built in, but not Wi-Fi. At the time of writing, the only Wi-Fi-equipped Windows Mobile 5 smartphone is the i-mate SP5.
Applications are now presented in 3-by-3 icon grid rather than a listing, with the 1-9 keys launching the relevant program and the left-hand soft menu key performing a ‘More’ action that brings up the next screen of icons. Out of the box there are three screens in total, with the last offering five icons.
The display is one of the C600's highlights. It is reasonably large, with a QVGA resolution of 320 by 240 pixels in 65,536 colours (16-bit colour). Information is delivered with a clarity that makes it entirely feasible to read texts such as emails on-screen.
The SPV C600 seems to run faster than its predecessors: for example, we didn't find ourselves waiting while switching applications as often as with previous SPV handsets. It still takes an age to boot from cold, though.
Battery life was impressive: Orange quotes 4 hours of talk and up to 6 days of standby time, and we got between three and four days of general usage without needing to recharge. In our standard rundown test, we forced the screen to stay on and left the GSM radio turned on while the handset looped MP3 music through Windows Media Player 10. The C600 delivered a creditable 8 hours 12 minutes of battery life under these conditions, and stopped playing music only when the device powered down. The handset continued to work for over an hour after its first low battery warning.