Tools Of The Trade: The Orange C500 smart phone

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The Independent Online

The smart phone market is one of the fastest-growing parts of the mobile industry, and after a few false starts, models based on Microsoft's Windows Mobile operating system are beginning to sell in volumes.

The smart phone market is one of the fastest-growing parts of the mobile industry, and after a few false starts, models based on Microsoft's Windows Mobile operating system are beginning to sell in volumes.

The latest - and Orange claims, smallest - of these is the network's C500, marketed under Orange's SPV brand.

The C500 is one of a number of phones that operators are now selling, but which do not carry a "big name" manufacturer's brand.

The advantage of this to the network operator is greater customisation. The advantage to the subscriber is a hi-tech phone without the financial premium associated with a branded device. The C500 is free on some Orange tariffs.

This phone is indeed neat and compact but also has a good, solid feel to it and a decent-sized screen. The C500 does have a few more buttons than a basic handset, in order to support its smart phone functions, but the keypad is good to the touch and easy to use, even for writing relatively long text messages and emails.

This is just as well, because Orange is positioning the C500 as a way to send email on the move, as well as use services such as instant messaging and web browsing. The phone supports Microsoft's ActiveSync, so connect it to a computer and it should behave in a similar manner to a Windows-based PDA (personal digital assistant).

Picking up email, from either an Imap-based or Outlook email account, is easy enough once the accounts are configured. The phone's screen displays both text and HTML-based mails well enough, and it is possible to scroll through even quite long documents on the handset.

Replying is another matter. With just a numeric keypad, phones such as the C500 will always struggle to compete with bigger machines - such as the SonyEricsson P900 or the XDA, which can use handwriting recognition - or devices such as the PalmOne Treo or the Blackberry, with their alpha-numeric keypads.

Writing long messages on these devices is something of an art, but it can be done. On a phone such as the C500, anything much beyond the length of a text message will challenge even the most dexterous fingers.

Navigating one's way around the C500 can also be challenging for anyone more used to the type of interface found on Nokia phones. Adding a home and back button is great for browsing websites, but the combination of function keys, a four-way navigation pad and the phone controls quickly becomes confusing.

Nor is the way menus work on the phone entirely intuitive. Although there is a "Start" menu, just as there is on a Windows PC, finding functions on the C500 is sometimes more a question of luck than a product of logical layout.

The C500 is a powerful phone with a good set of features It is not quite flexible enough to replace a PDA but remains a good option for email on the move. The latest designs from continental European manufacturers such as Nokia and Siemens may be more elegant, but phones like the C500 are quickly closing the gap.

THE VERDICT

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pros: good screen, flexible email support.

Cons: keypad-only input, confusing menus.

Price: from free, depending on contract.

Contact: www.orange.co.uk

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