Living with the Orange SPV E650 – the story so far

what’s the Latest Orange SPV really like to live with? my comprehensive review

Having lived with the E650 for a full three weeks this is a summary of the journey so far,  overall it’s been a very positive experience.

I’m not stat hungry so I’ll be providing real world measures of performance, my perception of the way the device operates not  stopwatch statistics.

The device has been used in a real business environment, as part of an Exchange 2003 messaging system using exchange activesync so some of the snazzier features associated with Exchange 2007 are not there yet but our upgrade is imminent so hopefully the three month review will be able to include these.

I am a geek and a techie but I try to apply the mother test for ease of use – I.e. could my mother use it? – a good yardstick for the levels of technical aptitude and patience displayed by most directors :)

my most recent devices of choice have been the Orange SPV c600 a candy bar smartphone running window Mobile smartphone edition 5.0 AKU 2 and the Orange SPV m3100 a traditional PDA form factor with touch screen 3G which I wanted it for and the addition of a sliding QWERTY keyboard (which I didn’t want at the time but now love) running Windows Mobile 5.0 AKU 2.3 Pocketphone edition (for now) 

The E650 has complemented my traditional notebook for two weeks but for the last week it’s been my only contact with work as I’ve been away on Holiday (more about that in an Off-Topic later).

conventions :

Where I refer to keypad I mean the E650 standard phone alphanumeric keypad where I refer to keyboard is the slide out QWERTY keyboard

Highlights:

  • The Keyboard – it’s a great addition to a Windows Mobile 6 Standard device mitigates a lot of the fiddliness of the interface
  • Fetchmail – until you try it you’ll not appreciate how much of a difference something this simple makes.
  • recoverability : I’d have loved to have said stability but I’ll explain later
  • Search as you type in Pocket Outlook AND Text messages

No Lights:

  • search as you type search in Pocket Outlook  only searches on display name and subject and suffers the unfortunate keyboard glitch in text and PO
  • lack of ‘ add word’ in T9 mode (mitigated by keyboard)
  • stability seems a little suspect when battery level is low
  • no MSN messenger or Voice command (included in the SDK by Microsoft but incomprehensibly omitted by Orange (I’ve bought Voice Command 1.6 US version from Handango – again more later)

Lowlights:

Review

Form Factor:

e650 rest

it’s a Vox I know but the E650 skin isn’t out in MobiControl just yet

The device is a lovely piece of kit, a little heavier and bulkier than the C600 and most standard candybar format phones – way heavier and thicker than the slim Jim LGs of this world but it fits comfortably in the shirt pocket and the weight provides a reassuring feel that suggests great build quality.

The keyboard is a real surprise to people not in the know the E650 just doesn’t look like it could hide a  QWERTY in a device that size. the keyboard action is very slick only requiring a little push to expose or close the keys, much nicer than the m3100. Portrait to landscape transitions can be a bit slow occasionally but it’s no massive deal. 

The screen is great much more vibrant and clearer than either the m3100 or c600.

The phone has four hardware buttons on the periphery – on/off on  the top; the voice activation and volume rockers to the left of the screen and the camera button to the right – the camera button placement is somewhat counter intuitive as when you access the keyboard you rotate the phone clockwise which leaves the camera button on the bottom of the rotated handset if you are shooting in landscape mode – a minor gripe.

The front mounted function keys are easy to access, I was worried about the placement of the send and end keys as they look like they could be easily operated in a pocket however the E650 actually suffers less from this than the c600.

The soft keys are a little fiddly at first but you get used to that, and anyone with more slender fingers than mine wouldn’t be troubled. 

The SIM slot is hidden behind the keypad and is accessed when the keyboard is exposed and there is an external MicroSD card slot covered with a rubber shield, again a great improvement on the c600 but less vital now that MicroSD cards are Multi-Gigabyte

USB and accessory connection is via an HTC extended mini USB port – a pain in the backside tbh which is covered by another rubber flap which makes the handset unstable when stood up on its end, a minor design flaw that only grates because the rest of the device seems so well thought out.

Operation

The E650 is great to use, much zippier than the equivalent WM5 device, despite the underpowered processor (only 201 MHz). occasionally (very occasionally)  the Camera application refuses to start due to memory usage but this is down to the fact that there is no native way to end an application apart from through the task manager a disappointing feature of smartphone versions of the WM platform.

Battery life is good although the quoted 5 hours / 7 days actually equates to about 2 1/2 days realworld usage (GPRS, voice, a little WiFi)

Configuration

I’ve always found the smartphone interface a little fiddly for making settings changes however the keyboard is a real bonus here – there’s no massive differences between the WM5.0 & 6 menus in this area.

applications

I’m concentrating on the core business applications – for me that excludes the camera although the 2 Megapixel produces pictures sharp enough to annoy your coworkers when you are on holiday. 

Office Mobile in WM6 is great but is really only designed to read attachments the giveaway is that the apps start in view mode  – you could (at a push) compose on the E650 as  the keyboard makes this possible for those with thinner digits – I still hit space+n or b+space a bit too often for my liking.

Pocket Outlook tends to be the place I spend most of my time :) – Highlights are Fetchmail which is a massive productivity tool and a real encouragement to download the rest of any message, it’s that smooth. (and a nice GPRS earner for Orange)

Keypad shortcuts are fantastic

wm6shortcuts

email triage is speeded up no end and this is a major use of most smartphones.

The E650 even has adobe reader LE installed so clicking on a PDF attachment allows you to read it

e650  adobe

We’re still running on Exchange 2003 SP2 in our production environment so when internal IS get Exchange 2007 sorted I’m sure Webready and HTML mail will be fantastic additions, looking forward to this.

Contacts quick search is much improved and now ignores gaps between consecutive keypresses

e650  gaps1

and the # is interpreted as a space which makes finding the actual Richard or Dave or Andy you want that much easier

e650  gaps

You at last can send a contact as a vCard however the E650 insists on sending it as an MMS rather than a text which seems odd and might affect your bill – it doesn’t work at all on my  work SIM as we disable MMS for all our staff by default.

Calendar operation is slick as well week view with appointment details is another great productivity aid 

e650  week

and the ability to add both required and optional attendees from contacts or the company directory when creating an appointment was something I always yearned for in WM5

e650  attendees

Where’s my Microsoft Voice Command Orange? and MSN messenger ?

Voice command is bundled by Microsoft and I’ve just gone out and spent £20 on it because of this omission.

No messenger is not so bad for me as we use office communicator but I can see it annoying some people – there are suggestions  that Orange’s new flat rate tariffs will exclude IM and VoIP so this might be the reasoning

Stability

overall stability is good apart from when the battery runs low when you get occasional application errors – this would have been a problem on WM5 however on the E650 the device seems to recover without a glitch and I’ve yet to lose any data at all – apart from a momentary annoyance this is much less of a problem than it has been in previous versions.

Ease of Use

The handset feels great in the hand and one handed operation is easy in phone mode, all the keys falling easily under the thumb, in landscape mode with the keyboard exposed a juggler can manage to use the E650 one handed

Missing Links

Could I get rid of my c600 at the moment? – absolutely the E650 outclasses it in every way

how about the m3100? ….. no I use TomTom navigator 5 a lot and memory map when walking neither of which are windows mobile 6 compatible. I do miss the touch screen in some apps however the E650 is rapidly weaning me off it.

Overall Assessment

I use the word slick a lot in this review that’s exactly what the E650 is, slick  very very slick.

there are a few minor niggles but they are outweighed by a factor of 10 by the improvements

Do I use the E650  more often than the equivalent WM5 devices? no

When I do use it is it faster brighter and better? sure thing 

Do I get more done? oh yes

Will Orange get this eval unit back ? NO CHANCE

the Orange E650 isn’t my perfect device but it’s not far from it. 

should you buy one – at £0 on most contracts and £165 on the Orange business price list yes you should, it’s a steal. if you are a business you’ll get that £165 back in a couple of weeks in improved productivity. 

Buy one if you can find one – after Jason’s admission – good luck :) 

[Edit : you might want to read my other earlier impressions just search here ]

[Edit: Tracy and Matt have reprinted this review over at their blog with some useful illustrative photo’s of some of the physical aspects of the E650]

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4 Responses to Living with the Orange SPV E650 – the story so far

  1. Guy Adams says:

    Nice review,

    Im still waiting for my Orange business unit to arrive, its almost painful. Especially as I had to order a HTC S710 for my bosses grandson just a few days ago.

    Time for a call to Orange I think.

    Still can’t believe the voice command is eft out? The HTC has it?

    Thanks

  2. fanatical says:

    Cheers Guy, there’ s definate shortage of orange branded E650s – flipping typical

    I believe the s710 has voice command but I’ve not seen one Matt Davis over at http://www.tracyandmatt.co.uk has so he might have a definitive answer.

    Voice command is interesting great in the car, but my wife has an incomprehensible Cumbrian surname which always throws it ;) I end up ringing my favourite Thai restaurant in Nottingham half the time :D – I’m going to post a review of Voice Command 1.6 on the E650 as some point soon.

  3. MAtt says:

    This is simply the worst phone I have ever EVER had, between the constant freezing and slow sluggish performance, You’ll find there is a hardware problem whereby your screen will go blank and stay that way for 30 minutes. Which is ideal when texting, worst of all Orange wont actually do a thing about it which is really handy. My advice DONT EVER BUY OR TOUCH THIS PHONE unless you wont to basically get ripped off.

  4. Kerry says:

    I also advise NOT to get this phone – I am currently on phone number 3 as the previous two malfunctioned and the screen kept freezing. This one is also malfunctioning now and I appear to have a poltergeist in the phone as it randomly scrolls down in whichever screen I am viewing, randomly opens explorer, and scrolls at high speed through predictive text options in text and contacts in the address book which makes both virtually impossible to use.

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