Tools Of The Trade: The new Orange smart phone

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The Independent Online

The mobile phone industry may have its sights on 3G networks. But plenty of life is left in the slower GPRS standard for data over mobiles, as operators continue to launch smart phones.

The mobile phone industry may have its sights on 3G networks. But plenty of life is left in the slower GPRS standard for data over mobiles, as operators continue to launch smart phones.

It does little to affect the usefulness of Orange's new model that it is based on GPRS rather than 3G. The SPV M1000 has the same design as the XDA II, available from O 2, but it has been optimised to work with the Orange network and, like other Orange smart phones, carries the SPV label (for sound, picture and video).

The M1000 runs on a Microsoft Windows operating system, in this case Pocket PC 2003. At heart, though, it has more in common with a Pocket PC-based handheld computer than a Windows-powered smart phone.

Powering up the M1000 reveals an exceptionally sharp and clear screen. On the side are buttons for voice recording and to activate the phone's VGA camera. This takes pictures of good enough quality to allow at least some business users to leave their digital cameras at home, although it does not support flash.

The M1000's organiser functions, including contacts list, notepad and calendar, are standard-issue Pocket PC and will be familiar to anyone who uses Microsoft software in the office. Email and web browsing, though, are configured to work directly with the M1000's internal GPRS modem, so going online takes just seconds. Surfing the internet is relatively expensive, though, as GPRS use is charged for in addition to voice calls. You pay for GPRS by the megabyte, so visiting graphics-heavy websites can be costly.

However, the M1000 does have a built-in email application that can pick up messages from both free services, such as Hotmail, and company email accounts. To cut connection costs, you can download just the headers of messages or set a data-size limit.

Either way, this will be considerably cheaper than using web mail, and it also works better with a small screen than a web browser interface. M1000 owners whose office mail systems are not compatible with the phone can sign up for a free Orange mail account, and forward messages to that instead.

Connecting the M1000 to the Orange GPRS network was relatively easy, although the network itself appeared to be less comprehensive than we'd expected, with a number of coverage "blackspots" including south-west London and around Heathrow airport.

In part, this is because offering good voice coverage does not guarantee the network has comparable GPRS performance. Unfortunately, the only way to put this to the test is to try it out, even if you plan to stay with your voice network for GPRS too. This caveat applies to all networks.

The M1000 is a good piece of kit. But it is hobbled without its GPRS connection, so insist on the right to a refund if coverage is not up to scratch.

THE VERDICT

Orange M1000

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Pros: good screen and functions, good wireless support.

Cons: larger, heavier and poorer battery life than rivals.

Price: £375 with contract.

Contact: www.orange.co.uk

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