The first step is admitting that you have a problem. I have a problem: I'm addicted to cell phones. I can't get enough. As soon as I hear about a new phone or accessory that is coming out, I turn into a kid the night before Christmas. I read the gadget blogs, hang out in the phone forums, contribute to some open source pocket pc apps, and anything else I can do to stay involved with the community. Anyway, since I came across this phone weeks before it is released in Europe or North America, I though I'd take the opportunity to publish a review.
First, the summary for the folks skimming this entry:
- Style: 5/5
- Functionality: 5/5
- Performance: 4/5
- Battery Life: 3/5
- Reception: 5/5
- Email: 4/5
- Music Player: 3/5
- Overall: 5/5
This phone looks like a RAZR, but improves on the RAZR's shortcomings. A better keypad, better camera, better reception, and better operating system (Windows Mobile 5 Smartphone). Another nice feature for me is that the phone is slightly longer than a RAZR when it's opened, and since I have a huge head, it better positions the microphone near my mouth, rather than the side of my head. Color wise, black is in. Apple has made all of their products available in black. Computers come in black. Hip cell phones come in black.
The other cool feature is the external display. It's customizable to have a few different styles of analog or digital clocks, but it also shows notifications of new email messages, missed calls, appointment reminders. If you press the camera button with the phone closed, the camera is fully accessible from the outer display. And the music player shows current track status, volume, running time, and paused / playing / stopped state.
This phone has it all. It runs Windows Mobile 5 Smartphone, and that basically opens it up to all types of applications. I use the phone to synchronize my calendar and contacts. I also use the features in the Windows Mobile 5 MSFP (Microsoft Feature Pack) that adds real-time push email, similar to a blackberry. In the tests I've run, the email arrives on my phone within 15 seconds of arriving at the Exchange server. It also supports address checking against the server, so you don't need to have everyone added to your local address book. The phone also has the standard collection of Windows Mobile apps like Windows Media Player, Internet Explorer, Pocket MSN, MSN Messenger, and the rest of the normal applications.
Operation while using the phone is a breeze. I was even listening to music while I received a phone call. The music paused, I received my ringtone through the wired headset (not sure if this works over Bluetooth yet), answered the call, and when I hung up, the music resumed where it had left off. This may not sound like a big deal, but it is definitely a small feature / big win piece of functionality.
Dopod included a few custom applications that I found interesting, but ended up uninstalling them to save space. They packaged a custom 3D menu, that looks cool for a demo, but ultimately is slow and doesn't expand for new menu items. there was also a custom MP3 player, but again, Windows Media Player works fine for me.
The once feature that was very important to me when selecting the phone, but one that I haven't had a chance to test out yet is the wireless stereo over Bluetooth (A2DP). This technology allows you to listen to music (MP3 or online streams) through Bluetooth headphones. My dream headset is the Sony Ericsson HBH-DS970 (Link) that I already have on order, but it's not released yet.
My last phone before this one was an I-Mate KJAM (also know as a Qtek 9100 / HTC Wizard / T-Mobile MDA / Cingular 8125 / etc...), and that ran Windows Mobile 5 Pocket PC Edition. While the operating system was richer in functionality, the phone had the exact same processor as the S300 does, the 195MHz OMAP processor. I always thought the KJAM was OK in performance, but was certainly not a speed demon. My opinion is very different with the S300. Menus are snappy, IE opens quickly, messaging opens quickly, I can have several applications open at once without much trouble. I can even switch between the camera application and IE back and forth without much lag.
The only performance issue that I've had is when I had IE, Messaging, File Explorer, and Media Player open. Then, I went to MIDLet manager and launched Google Maps mobile. This seemed to be too much for the phone to handle. I was eventually able to switch to the task manager and kill a few tasks, but I ended up rebooting the phone since it was sluggish after that. This could be a knock on the phone, but I think it is more likely a sign of an OS instability that will be ironed out in future ROM versions.
Of my short list of my disappointments with this phone, this is top of that list. Granted, i use my phone a ton. Email synchronizing all day long, contacts and calendar sync'ing too, 2 - 3 hours of talk time per day, a fair amount of web surfing from the phone, listening to music, and a few other things. Should I expect more than 1 day of battery life with this usage? I'm not sure, but I'd like to. I'll try to keep my talk time down one day, maybe this weekend, and see if I can get more than a day of battery life. I think this might be a downfall, but at the same time, the battery life isn't any worse than my RAZR, which I used only for talking, and still only managed about 1 day of use.
Simple answer. The reception is unbelievable. Better than my RAZR. Better than my KJAM. Better than my SMT5600. Even better than my old Nokia 6610, up until now, the phone with the best reception I've ever had.
Real time push email is a life changer. I didn't invent the term crack-berry, but it is very fitting. The great news is that I have instant access to my email. The trouble for my personal life is that I have instant access to my email. My only complaint, and this is really just trouble with any non-QWERTY device, is that responding is a little painful. On my KJAM, I would write 15 - 20 emails a day. On this phone, that count is down to 5 or less. The T9 is great, and works surprisingly well, but it's still hunt and peck, instead of typing.
By the way, my phone is from Asia, so it has the Extra characters. Trust me, the entire phone operates in English. Without that, I've be very, very lost.
I know the form factor has been out there for a little while, but this is my first "music phone" that I've owned, and I must say, I'm using it much more than I ever thought I would. My iPod Nano is now sitting in my drawer. I have 1GB of music loaded onto a memory card, and when I head to the gym, I only need to bring my phone with me. One device, light weight, one I always have with me, and there's my music. Another nice feature is that if I get bored with my MP3 collection, I just start streaming Sirius radio (Link), something my iPod definitely can't do.
I did notice one small issue, but this is definitely a software bug more than anything else. If you wake up the external display with the track forward or track backwards button, it doesn't always change the track. Sometimes you need to hit the play / pause button first, and then the track skips work fine. A minor issue, but a bug none the less. Another thing that got me the first time I used the music player is that when you pause the playback, that is not the same as stopping the playback. Lesson learned when my phone was battery dead at Noon. It seems that pause still chews up a ton of battery life, and you have to hold the play / pause button for a few seconds to get the playback to stop. Of course, I'm sure I'd have known this if I actually read the manual, but I'm in software, and RTFM is an acronym for users, not for technically savvy people ;).
In summary, I can't give this phone enough praise. I know it will be a big hit with the enthusiast market, and I can't image how well this will move once Cingular / T-Mobile / (Major GSM Operator) releases the phones. It has every bit of functionality that power users have been waiting for in the form factor that the RAZR proved was possible and the most convenient. I'd recommend to anyone that they NEED to pick up this phone. For any fellow / future owners, enjoy the new toy.
Here are some other published previews / reviews
- MSMobiles.com (Most comprehensive so far
- the::unwired #2
- the::unwired - Comparison photos with other phones
- Mobile Whack
- CNet Asia
- Smartphone Reviews
- Phone manual in English - Thanks YW