I recently purchased the Audiovox SMT5600 through Amazon.com (The Audiovox SMT5600 is the same as the Orange SPV C500 device in Europe). Upon release in October the SMT5600 was strictly available on the AT&T Wireless network. But a funny thing happened on the way to the market — AT&T was bought out by Cingular in November and now the SMT 5600 is nowhere to be found on the AT&T/Cingular website. However, this phone can still be purchased via Amazon.com, Buy.com and LetsTalk.com — so we’ll assume that eventually Cingular will feature this phone on their website or sooner or later kill it from their sales channel, which would a real shame as it’s not a stretch to say the Audiovox SMT5600 is the best Windows SmartPhone available today.
Audiovox SMT5600 (view larger image)
Audiovox SMT 5600 Specs
- Microsoft Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition software for Smartphone
- Tri Band GSM 850 / 1800 / 1900 MHz
- GPRS Class 10
- Built-in CMOS VGA Camera with 4X Digital Zoom and Camcorder
- Voice Recorder
- Built-in Bluetooth
- 2.2 inch, 176 x 220 pixels TFT LCD with 64K Colors
- Built-in Mini SD Card Slot
- Infrared IrDA SIR Port
- Built-in Speakerphone
- Microsoft Windows Media Player 10
- Pre-installed Applications include – Microsoft Outlook, Contacts, To Do List
- Weighs less than 3.6 ounces
- Dimensions – 4.24 x 1.82 x .69 inches
SMT 5600 (view larger image)
First Thoughts out of the box
The first thought in my mind upon opening and holding this device was something along the lines of, “hallelujah, it’s small enough and light enough to fit in my pocket without needing a pocket extension and extra pants support.” You see, the last two Windows based phones I reviewed were the Audiovox 6601 and HP iPaq 6315 and they were relative elephants compared to this Audiovox SMT5600. You have to understand though, the difference between phones such as the SMT5600 and Motorola MPX220 versus the Audiovox 6601 and HP iPAQ 6315 is that the former two are “SmartPhones” whereas the latter two are “Pocket PC Phones” The formula goes something like SmartPhone = PHONE + PDA while a Pocket PC Phone = PDA + Phone. If that doesn’t make sense, view the more detailed section I have included in this article that explains the difference more thoroughly.
What’s to Like about the SMT5600?
As I said, size of the Audiovox SMT5600 is very appealing. With dimensions of 4.24 x 1.82 x .69 inches the phone has a candy bar style design and is very similar in size to phones such as the popular Sony Ericsson T610. The screen is still of a very reasonable size though, at 2.2 inches diagonally, 176 x 220 pixels of resolution, you can see enough on the screen for ease in reading emails and mobile formatted websites. The screen is also very bright, crisp and readable in outdoor lighting situations. Weighing in at 3.6 ounces, this device is well under half the weight of its larger brother Pocket PC Phone devices.
The Audiovox SMT5600 runs the Windows Smartphone 2003 OS. Now, this is the same OS as the competing Motorola MPx220 device, but one advantage the Audiovox has is that the Windows Media player included is version 10.0 and not the version 9.0 on the MPx220 device. Since video playback on the WM 10.0 player was much improved, you’ll be able to view video clips much more smoothly.
If you’re a fan of camera phones then you’ll be pleased to know the SMT5600 comes equipped with a basic yet functional CMOS VGA camera. Simply push the camera button on the top right-hand side of the phone to bring up the camera viewer and then click it again to capture. The camera software has several features that allow you to change such things as ambience (night/day/grayscale etc.). The image quality is actually quite good, the best I’ve been able to get on a PDA camera to date in fact, but with a VGA resolution you have to realize when I say good I’m only referring to similar VGA cameras — compared to even a 1.0 MegaPixel image there’s much to be desired. Below is the obligatory image of the always willing and photogenic family pet:
This picture was taken by the Audiovox SMT5600 in what can be called poor lighting — but the image of our rather light and furry subject matter still turned out okay (view larger image)
The phone aspect of the SMT5600 is good. It is a tri-band GSM phone that operates on 850 / 1800 / 1900 MHz frequences. As stated previously, the phone is only available on the AT&T/Cingular network, but if you have a provider such as T-Mobile and want this phone badly enough you can take your SIM card, plug it in the back, and then find an unlock program to get by the fact AT&T locks you it to using their network. Just Google on “Audiovox SMT5600 Unlock” and you should see what I mean regarding these unlock programs! As far as the reception goes, I’ve only been using this phone a few days and so far no complaints — any problems I’ve had have been network related and I’ve been able to hear all conversations just fine and hear no negative feedback on sound quality from those I talk with using this phone.
Of course being a Windows Mobile based phone you get easy synching ability with Outlook on your desktop. Simply use ActiveSync to get your Outlook email, contacts, calendar appointments and tasks from your PC to the phone. You can use an included USB synch cradle for connectivity and file transfer, or Bluetooth as it is integrated into this phone. If your office runs an Exchange Server 2003 server then you can also sync your email wirelessly, Blackberry-style.
The usability of this phone is pretty darn good too. My major concern in moving from a Pocket PC Phone to a SmartPhone was that losing a built-in keyboard that many larger PDA/Phones have and having less buttons would mean this is just a hassle to use. But I find that the simple button layout — just having a “Home”, “Back” and a rocker directional pad plus the 10-numeric keys can work well. Not perfectly certainly, but well enough. All menu items have a number next to them so if you bring up the “Start” menu for instance, instead of scrolling through each option with the rocker you can simply use a number short cut to jump to that menu item.
Right-side view of the Audiovox SMT5600
Left-side view of the SMT5600
The overall build of the SMT5600 is very good. It does not feel cheap and plastic-like, but rather rigid and sturdy. I’m quite convinced if it were to drop and hit the floor there’s a greater likelihood it would survive without any harm rather than not. I won’t be testing this though.
The buttons all have good feedback, meaning when you push them you really know they’re pushed. The audio out speaker on the device is loud too (if you so choose), so when you hit a button and it makes the audible noise for such an action you really know you’ve pressed a key.
What’s not to like about the SMT5600?
I said the buttons were good and mentioned the rocker directional pad. I half-lied though. All of the buttons are good except for the rocker directional pad. They should have made this thing a joystick. The rocker is really, really wide so it’s easy to differentiate between a left and right action. But height-wise this button is super-skinny and it’s easy to push up instead of down and vice versa. Furthermore, pushing in on this directional-pad is what creates a “confirm” action (equivalent to “Enter” button in regular Windows) and pushing in the button can be a real challenge. I often accidentally register and up or down action rather than confirm because it’s just hard to push the rocker in.
Back-side view of the SMT5600
Bottom view of the SMT5600
The SMT5600 suffers from a slow boot up time. And I mean turn it on and go get a cup of coffee type of time. If you’re phone is off and you need it on in a hurry, you’ll be an unhappy person. I timed going from hitting power to being able to actually use the phone and it was just under 1 minute and a half. Some people indicate it takes theirs longer, in the 3-minute range. I don’t see how that could be the case, but for me 1.5 mins is too long and tests my patience. The trick is of course to leave the phone on all the time so you don’t have to suffer through boot-up, although just as with any other OS, rebooting a device now and again will help in regards to performance.
The phone allows you to have extra Storage via a Mini SD card. This is great as you can buy mini SD cards with up to 512MB and then place your large audio and video files on it. The thing I don’t like is that in order to put the mini SD card into the phone, you have to put it under the battery. So much for using the Mini SD as an easy way to transfer files from another machine to this phone, no way you’ll want to hassle with removing the back and fishing in and out a small card that requires the power to be cut.
Battery life is so-so on the device. It’ll get you through a day of moderate usage, no problem, but forget 3-days of use with moderate usage. I charge my phone each night, so no problems for me. Some might have an issue with the battery life on the phone though.
More Information and longer review coming
I’ll post a longer review in the next few weeks on this phone, hopefully it’ll still be available by then, it would be a tragedy to publish a review of a phone with the addendum that it was only available for 3-months and is no longer being sold! So far I love the SMT5600 though and highly recommend it. So maybe snap it up while it is still available!
Pocket PC Phone versus Windows SmartPhone Overview
One thing you must realize, and that is easy to tell at a first-glance of such devices as the Audiovox 6601, is that although the device is being offered via wireless carriers only, it is first and foremost a PDA. I’ll say the same for the HP iPaq 6315, another Pocket PC Phone I reviewed. If you look at the Sprint 6601 or the iPaq 6315 and didn’t know they were a phone, you’d be surprised to find out they actually do have phone capabilities. These devices use the same operating system as any other PDA out there, currently Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition is the latest Pocket PC OS, but a layer is added on top of the OS that gives it phone capabilities. This extra software on top of the OS is what gives us abilities such as speed-dial, caller ID, speakerphone, conference calling, sending SMS messages and an on-screen dial pad. This extra software then qualifies the PDA as being a Windows Mobile 2003 Pocket PC Phone Edition. A Windows SmartPhone device runs a different OS (Windows Mobile SmartPhone) and is a phone first and a PDA second. A Windows SmartPhone is much smaller than a Pocket PC Phone and has only a numeric keypad, never a QWERTY keyboard such as the Audiovox 6601 has. The Motorola MPx220 and Audiovox SMT5600 are two examples of smaller SmartPhone type devices. If you’re looking to buy a Windows based PDA/Phone integrated device, you must decide whether a PDA or Phone comes first in your life and then buy a SmartPhone if the phone aspect is more important, or a Pocket PC Phone type of device if a PDA with more processing power is what suits you best.