- Runs Windows Mobile 5
- relatively large QWERTY keyboard
- Tablet PC-style swivel screen
- Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and 3G integrated
- Awkward to use for voice calls without a Bluetooth headset
- bulky and heavy for a handheld
- touch typing is not possible
- patchy 3G coverage in the UK
When we reviewed O2’s XDA Exec we noted that devices based on the same HTC Universal hardware would soon appear from other UK operators. No surprise, then, that Orange’s SPV M5000 is very similar to the Xda Exec in terms of its design and base software. However, it has some features that mark it out as an Orange Signature Phone.
Just like the Xda Exec, the SPV M5000 has a clamshell design, with a miniature QWERTY keyboard and a swivelling screen that allows you to use it either in (tiny) notebook mode or as a standard handheld. The swivel mechanism is sturdy, and the super-clear 640-by-480-pixel screen automatically reorients between landscape and portrait format depending on which is most appropriate (an on-screen button also lets you adjust screen orientation manually).
This two-piece design has inevitable consequences for size and weight: measuring 8.1cm wide by 12.8cm deep by 2.5cm high and weighing 285g, the SPV M5000 is a bit too large to carry in the pocket.
The edges of the device carry enough buttons for effective use when the clamshell is shut: for example, you can make calls using an on-screen number pad or voice commands, change volume and use the built-in 1.3-megapixel camera.
One of the star features of the SPV M5000 -- and the other devices based on the same base hardware -- is its 3G capability. This is the first handheld from Orange to support 3G, and is being marketed primarily at the business community. Orange is also headlining the fact that the SPV M5000 runs Windows Mobile 5. For professionals, its advantages include the ability to handle Word and Excel document in native formats with some extended feature support, plus a built-in PowerPoint viewer (not creator) .
There is 128MB of non-volatile memory in which program and application data is stored. The move to non-volatile memory means that data remains safe if the battery runs down completely -- an absolute must for professionals who rely on their handheld when away from the office.
Not all of the 128MB is available, though. On first powering up our SPV M5000 we had 38.15MB of free storage memory and 28.45 of free program memory, making a total of 66.6MB. An SD card slot allows you to expand storage capacity as necessary.
It's unfortunate that the Wi-Fi connection is only 11Mbps 802.11b. With so many of the other specifications at the top end, it would have been nice to see 54Mbps 802.11g make an appearance in a handheld for the first time.
The SPV M5000 is part of Orange’s range of business-focussed Signature devices, and comes with a range of extras on top of the standard Windows Mobile 5 fare. These include an Orange-designed Homescreen that replaces the normal Today screen. This Homescreen uses an icon-driven interface to provide access to key applications. The usual shortcuts to contacts (including speed dials), call history, messaging (SMS, MMS and email), calendar and the Web are supplemented by a new icon that provides quick access to four applications. Out of the box these are preset, but you can define them to link to any applications you like. Potential candidates would be the ClearVue PDF viewer, Zip file manager or wireless modem utility, which Orange includes along with the PV Player for viewing videos and Java support.
The Start Button provides access to the full set of Windows Mobile 5 applications and to system settings. Orange also provides an icon for controlling Wi-Fi and Bluetooth settings -- we’d have liked a control for often-ignored but still useful infrared here too.
As well as offering a set of QWERTY keys, the keyboard includes a number row, a set of symbols accessible via a function key and dedicated keys for things like Pocket Internet Explorer, Inbox and the Start menu. Above the number row and immediately beneath the screen sits a row of six shortcut keys. These can be used to start and end calls, use Windows Mobile 5's soft-menu buttons, access the contacts database and start a voice or video call.
Our verdict on the SPV M5000's usability is understandably similar to the one we reached on the XDA Exec. The keyboard is not suitable for touch typing, but is fine for two-finger tapping of text messages and other short notes. The convertible screen mechanism is remarkably effective, and we found ourselves automatically selecting the best mode of operation for different usage scenarios. After several weeks of real-world usage, we are prepared to put up with this device's extra bulk and weight in return for the greater functionality it offers.
We used the SPV M5000 in various places around the UK and found 3G coverage by no means universal. You can check Orange's coverage in your area here.
Although it's great for data calls and video calls, the SPV M5000 is not ideal for making voice calls if you want to avoid using its speakerphone. The built-in voice-tags for speed dialling work well, but the SPV M5000 is an awkward device to hold to the ear. A Bluetooth headset is a better option, although it's an extra piece of kit to charge and to carry. Orange quotes up to 5 hours of GSM talk, 3 hours of 3G usage and 2 hours of video telephony. Standby time is quoted at 10 days (240 hours).
We ran the same battery test that we use for unconnected handhelds -- playing MP3 music until the battery runs down to test the raw battery power. For this we turned all communications features off, but forced the screen to remain on. We got a total of 6 hours 13 minutes of battery life, with 5 hours 26 minutes of music and a low battery warning after 4 hours 50 minutes. This stacks up fairly well against other handhelds, but bear in mind that a lot of 3G data communications will drain the battery quicker than simple GSM talk.