Review In the early days of Windows Mobile smart phones Orange was the UK's leading light, launching the first UK device way back at the tail end of 2002. Since then Orange has been joined by other operators and by operator-agnostic vendors, but the company has kept its own line flowing with a steady range of new entrants. The latest of these is the SPV C550, a blatant attempt to jump on the music bandwagon, but with a few other nice plus points too, writes Sandra Vogel.
In some ways this is a strange device for Orange to have launched. It runs Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition, but Windows Mobile 5.0 is due to make its first appearance in a smart phone before much longer. It's already made its PDA debut in the O2 XDA Exec, for which Orange has a dead ringer, the SPV M5000, coming soon. Smart-phone variants can't be far behind.
On the other hand, the C550 deals with a number of issues its predecessor, the C500, suffered from, and updates some core specifications. In so doing it helps maintain Orange's position as arguably the UK's premier Windows smart-phone provider.
The C550 gives away its music playing pretensions immediately, thanks to four comparatively large buttons that sit above the number pad. From left to right these are marked with icons for back, pause/play, forward and a musical note. Pressing the last of these launches Orange's Music Player, designed to help you download tunes from Orange's online service. You can change the setting so that this button launches Windows Media Player instead, by going to the Settings area, choosing Button Settings and making your tweak. I mention this in detail as Orange doesn't explain the 'how to' in its device manual.
Above this quartet of buttons sit another four, this time very tiny yet surprisingly easy to hit. Two are softmenu keys, one a back button and one a Home key that takes you from whatever you are doing directly back to Orange's Home screen. Beneath the music buttons is the number pad, complete with Start Call and End Call keys and a joystick for navigating around the screen.
The whole button arrangement is a lot neater than it was on the C500, and the loss of the long, narrow navigation bar that provided directional movement on that earlier handset will please many. The joystick is certainly both more responsive and intuitively easier to use.
The C550 is remarkably similar in size and weight to the C500 (its 107g and 10.8 x 4.6 x 1.8cm compare to the C500's 106g and 10.8 x 4.6 x 1.6cm) and in most respects the two share the same arrangement of side-buttons. So, on the left edge there is a volume rocker, on the top infrared port and power button, and on the right edge a button that launches the built in camera. It's all pretty familiar stuff.
There is one newbie button not seen in the C500, though. Above the volume rocker sits a key for Internet Explorer. As a keen mobile Web user I found this very handy indeed.
On the bottom edge sit two connectors, under a single rubber cover. One is the mini USB slot you'll need to use to make a wired link to your PC for data synchronisation. The other is a 2.5mm headphone jack. Putting this jack on the bottom of the handset may make sense from an engineering point of view, but for users it's a real niggle, and having to expose the USB connector to get to it is doubly painful.