Reg review Siemens comes relatively late to the smart phone market. Its first handset of that type, the SX1, finally began shipping in the UK in March, despite being pitched by Siemens as the next big thing more than a year ago.
Back in 2003 when Siemens chiefs were telling Symbian developers what a difference the SX1 would be, it was only up against the imperfect Sony Ericsson P800, some clunky Nokias and Handspring's slow Treo 300. Since then, PalmOne/Handspring has shipped the impressive Treo 600 and Siemens' rivals in the mobile phone business, Nokia and Sony Ericsson, have shipped the 6600 and the P900, respectively.
The upshot is that while the SX1 was a stand-out handset a year ago, it's up against some pretty stiff competition now, primarily Nokia's 6600, the device it most resembles.
Like the 6600, the Siemens handset looks like a mobile that's put on weight, but while the Nokia is clearly the one that ate all the pies, the SX1 hides its spare tyre rather well. Both handsets are 10.9cm tall, but at 5.5cm wide and 1.9cm thick, the SX1 is less bulky than the 5.8 x 2.4cm 6600. You can certainly feel the difference in size and weight (110g to the 6600's 125g), and I found the SX1 much more comfortable to hold.
Photos of the SX1 suggest a harsh, angular handset, but the phone's curves are smoother than that and images don't reveal the tactile band that runs up each side of the handset and over its top. Kitted out in a blue-grey metallic hue and with crisp, clear plastic buttons and chrome joystick below the 176 x 220 16-bit colour display, itself mounted underneath a speaker with a stylish chrome mesh, the SX1 looks every bit the executive-oriented handset in a way the its arch-rival just fails to do. The buttons light up blue.
On the reverse, the lens of the 640 x 480 digicam is mounted at the top of the handset, well away from obscuring fingers. Below it sits the usual battery compartment hatch, which is much easier to remove than most Nokia equivalents, let alone the 6600's. Inside you'll find the 1000mAh battery and a simple slot into which a SIM easily slides, but is rather harder to remove.
The base of the phone features a proprietary connector that doubles as both power and data port. On the right-hand side are buttons to call up the camera application and activate the handset's speakerphone. The buttons are flush with the case to prevent them from being activated inadvertently, but I managed to do so on several occasions.
Over on the left-hand side is the MMC card slot. While it's certainly disappointing that the slot doesn't support the more up-to-date SD Card format, Siemens wins points for the spring-loaded access hatch that securely locks an expansion card in place, and makes it easy to remove. And unlike other handsets I could mention, there's no need to remove the battery to do so.
The SX1 runs the Symbian OS and uses Nokia's Series 60 user interface. I found Siemens' implementation of the UI sharper, less flouncy than the Nokia 6600's version, with the applets that provide the sort of functions previously provided by menu options more sensibly corralled into folders, such as Setup, Games, Extras, Organiser - which contains all the phone's PIM applications - Camera and Music, home of the phone's Radio and MP3 apps. The SX1 also includes the usual SMS/MMS/email tools and an xHTML web browser.
Both of these make use of the handset's GPRS functionality, backed by a tri-band (900/1800/1900) GSM radio. The SX1 also features Bluetooth to support hands free kit, and data transfer. There's an infrared port and a bundled USB data cable if your PC doesn't have a Bluetooth adaptor installed.
Siemens also bundles an earpiece set, which doubles up as the FM radio receiver's antenna. It provides both manual and automatic tuning, but the latter only appears to list the first six stations it detects, so if your best-loved station is in the middle of the FM band or toward the top, you'll have to find it yourself. At least there are six pre-sets for you to store your favourite frequencies. And the signal strength indicator is cute, too.