Audiovox SMT5600 Windows SmartPhone Review

by Reads (75,357)

The Audiovox SMT5600 (as sold in the U.S., it is also known as the Orange SPV C500, HTC Typhoon, Qtek 8010, Dopod 565 and i-mate Smarpthone 3 in other countries) is a Windows OS based GSM SmartPhone available on the AT&T/Cingular network.  The SMT5600 is wonderfully small relative to other Windows based phones I’ve used such as the HP iPaq 6315 and Audiovox 6601.  But those devices are classified as Pocket PC Phones, not SmartPhones, and are multiple times the size and weight of the SMT5600.

Audiovox SMT5600 (view larger image)

Audiovox SMT 5600 Specs

  • Microsoft Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition software for Smartphone
  • Texas Instruments OMAP 200 MHz processor
  • 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

Pocket PC Phone versus Windows SmartPhone Overview

One thing you must realize, and that is easy to tell at a first-glance of the SMT5600, is that this device is first and foremost a phone.  This is not the case for the Sprint Audiovox 6601 or HP iPaq 6315 Pocket PC Phones I recently reviewed.  If you were to look at the HP iPAQ 6315 and knew nothing about the device, you’d be surprised to find out it actually does have phone capabilities.  The iPaq 6315 uses the Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition Operating System, 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 Pocket PC phones abilities such as speed-dial, caller ID, speakerphone operation, conference calling, sending SMS messages and an on-screen dial pad.  This extra software layer qualifies the the iPaq 6315 as being a Windows Mobile 2003 Pocket PC Phone Edition device.  A Windows SmartPhone device, such as the SMT5600, runs the Windows Mobile SmartPhone OS 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 Audiovox SMT 5600 and Motorola MPx220 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.  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.

Design and Build

When looking over the SMT5600 you first notice the slim attractive design and relatively large 2.2″ inch screen (176 x 220 pixels resolution).  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.  Since the T610 is not a PDA integrated device, this is a tribute to the design of the SMT5600 in that it provides more functionality but not size than a regular cell phone.  The SMT5600 fits nicely in your hand with its candy bar design.  Weighing only 3.6 ounces means the device is well under half the weight of other Pocket PC Phones on the market, combine this with its slim form factor and you will find it’s easy to pocket this phone — a belt clip or pocket extension is not required!

Audiovox SMT5600 bottom view

On the bottom edge of the phone there is a 2.5 mm headset socket (a stereo set of ear buds with speaker mic and volume dial are provided), along with a standardized 5-pin mini-USB port for synchronizing and charging your SMT5600.  All synch and charge cables are of course provided with the phone.

Audiovox SMT5600 right side view

On the right side of the phone we have a dedicated camera button and the loudspeaker port.

Audiovox SMT5600 left side view

On the left side of the phone is featured a volume rocker. I have found that because the small volume button is directly opposite the camera button it is too easy to accidentally press both buttons at the same time.  In general when you’re trying to increase the volume of the speaker you’re not going to want to take a picture, but this will indeed sometimes accidentally happen!

Audiovox SMT5600 top view

On top of the phone is the IR port and recessed power button.

SMT 5600 Front View (view larger image)

The front of the phone of course features the keypad and screen.  A light sensor just below the keypad decides whether or not to backlight the keys in blue. In order to “fool” the device and force the blue backlight on, simply put your finger over the tiny sensor and press a key.

SMT5600 back view

On the back of the phone is the small camera lens and mirror to aid in framing self portraits.

Key Input

The number keys on the SMT5600 are constructed using a hard silver plastic material.  The shaping of the keys is domed.  The response when pushing a key is best described as providing a “clicky” and tactile feedback that’s pleasant to use.

Green and red Talk and End keys are easy to push and very obvious in regards to the action they perform!  Between the Talk and End keys is a Home and Back toggle button.  These keys are also easy to push and the function is obvious.  If you get to some screen or menu you didn’t mean to navigate to on the phone, simply hit back to get to the previous step you were at, or hit Home to go back to the Today screen.  Right below the screen are two soft keys.  From the Today screen they are by default used to launch the Windows Start menu or jump right into your Contacts database.

The second major component for input into this device, aside from the push button keys, is the joystick/rocker control.  The rocker is excellent for left/right actions, decent to perform up/down actions but for clicking enter (a press in on the joystick) you’ll need a hand as sturdy as a surgeon’s.  Seriously, I’ve been using this phone for 3 months now and I still have to concentrate hard and be very careful when trying to push in on the joystick.  The usual mistaken action is a push up or down.  There’s way too much resistance from the joystick when trying to push it in, so the result is your thumb slips and you push up.  You’ll love how easy it is to scroll fast through your contacts list, but then when you get to the contact you’re trying to open you’ll actually get a build-up of anxiety knowing you now have to push in on the joystick and open that contact.

Performance and Reception

This phone is being used in the New York City area on a T-Mobile GSM network.  Yes, this is an AT&T/Cingular phone but it can actually be unlocked to work on any network.  This does cost a little bit of money to buy an unlock program of course, I found this site to be successful for me: http://www.c500-unlock.com/.

T-Mobile reception in New York City is probably the worst of all providers available.  Coverage in the area I live in is pretty bad and I usually get no reception in my apartment.  However, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the SMT5600 as it has been getting more bars of signal within my apartment than any other phone that I have used.  Whenever speaking to people via either the speakerphone or built-in microphone the clarity on the other end of the line was reported as good, and the speakerphone volume was ample although certainly not loud.

In regards to the processor performance, the Texas Instruments 200MHz OMAP processor is ample speed for all the applications used on this phone.  Even Windows Media Player 10.0 runs well with this processor, and when playing video, that’s probably the most demanding application you’ll be running on this device.  There’s never any lag when navigating through menus.

One downside in regards to performance is that 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 your 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 minutes 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.

Camera

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 SMT5600 camera quality is good for a phone — not the best I’ve seen yet not the worst.  The user friendly albeit limited VGA camera encodes JPEG Photos (640×480, 320×240 or 160×120 with up to 4x zoom) also phone size Photo ID (176×180) as well as 2x Zoom Video and MMS Video (both 176×144 or 128×96). The camera is just a nice to have feature and is best used for general information sharing and fun photo ID.  Using the camera to email a photo, or store a few pictures on the phone for discussing something later with a client or friend is a good use.

Madison Square Park in NYC as taken with the SMT5600 (view larger image)

The pictures are all ‘soft focus’ which translates well on the screen however close-up photos of text come out as illegible. The camera also has adjustments for ambience, brightness, gamma, tint, and saturation. This makes it very usable in darker situations as you can adjust the light sensitivity to improve the image.

Memory and Storage

So where do you store all the pictures and contacts you’ll be putting on this phone? Specifications for the SMT5600 show 64 MB ROM and 32 MB SDRAM as standard. In reality, the phone actually indicates you have about 28 MB of flash storage, plus 23 MB of memory for Storage and program execution. The rest of the memory is used by the OS. Underneath the battery on the back of this device is the SIM-card slot and a place for the included mini-SD card on which you can store further data.  However, this awkward location makes it time consuming to swap cards as you need to remove the battery. Mini-SD cards are currently available with up to 512MB storage, this is enough to fit a good number of MP3/WMA music files on or some video to watch on Windows Media Player.

Software and Applications

The Audiovox SMT5600 includes a portable version of Windows Media Player (WMP) 10.0. This supports the playback of not only stereo MP3 music but recorded TV (if you have a Media Center PC), video, photos, and more in the palm of your hand.

Other included applications such as Pocket Outlook work as you’d expect, with support for POP and IMAP and SSL connections (the SSL was a nice surprise).  It’s of course great to always be in touch with the info you need, but it’s even better to have some fun  — from games to MSN Messenger to Internet Explorer, the 5600 has more than enough to keep you entertained.  Checking sports scores has never been so easy!  With WMP 10.0 you can also customize play lists, view album art, and download content from favorite music and video services with relative ease.

There is quite a bit of SmartPhone software available that integrates to help you get things done. ClearVue has a bunch of viewing applications for the SmartPhone. Each program provides accessibility to native Microsoft Office, PowerPoint, Word, Excel, and PDF files. It’ll cost you $29.95 to buy the ClearVue Suite from Handango.com, and with purchasing that you even get printer drivers for your SmartPhone.  Software that provides maps and language translation are also readily available and can be quite handy.  For a nice library of software you can purchase visit the Handango.com SmartPhone catalog.

Worth noting also is that this phone has a J2ME environment so in addition to .NET Compact Framework applications designed for SmartPhones, it will also run existing J2ME applications, which is great as there are currently a lot more of those available than the .NET variety.

One extra cool feature is that you can set the phone to be aware of your Outlook calendar to the extent that it automatically puts the phone in Meeting mode (silent) when your calendar says you’re in an appointment.  Now that just tickles me.

Synching

Connecting to a PC with the SMT5600 couldn’t be easier using Windows Mobile SmartPhone Software 2nd Edition and ActiveSync 3.7 installed on your PC. No drivers to load, no hassle.  Just plug and play. Connectivity is through mini USB, IR port or Bluetooth (Bluetooth is version 2.0 which uses less power and the performance with headsets is far more reliable).

With ActiveSync 3.7, keeping tasks, calendar, e-mail and contacts in synch with Outlook is a breeze. I can easily synch 450+ names and many numbers, along with multiple events in a calendar in less than 5 seconds.

Conclusion

If you want a device that is first and foremost a phone and information Storage center, but also has a good amount of PDA features then the SMT5600 might be calling your name.  It’s not perfect, the form factor means that inputting text is tough to do in a fast manner unless you’re really good with the T9 input method, and viewing large web pages is of course impossible.  You’ll need to find websites and internet information sources that make sense to use on this phone, mMode is a good service but there are plenty of SmartPhone optimized websites out there for basic news information.  The build and quality of the phone is very good, the performance is good, battery life is good and the phone functionality up to snuff with the rest of the crowd, so there’s little left to complain about.  The SmartPhone form factor is likely going to become more and more popular in the U.S., if you want to get on board early, the SMT5600 is a good phone to start with.

Pros

  • Size is excellent, easily pocketable and light weight
  • Good looking phone with sturdy build, survives drops well (per accidental test!)
  • Fast performance with 200MHz processor
  • Good battery life — up to 4-days of use between charging
  • Nice screen
  • Email, internet access via GPRS connectivity

Cons

  • Low Volume
  • Rocker/joystick is somewhat hard to use, especially to push in
  • 0.3MP camera provides poor quality images

Pricing and Availability


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