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The handset currently available with BT Total Broadband Anywhere is HTC's S620 (or Excalibur of you prefer) - though that could change in the future. As a Windows Mobile handset, the S620 is prone to the various problems of that OS, such as Pocket Internet Explorer and its apparently inability to actually render any webpage not tailored for mobile devices. Although of course, there's the benefits too, such as easy syncing of contacts and email with Outlook, which on a device intended for portable Internet access is important.
BT does use its own custom skin to try and mask some of Windows Mobile's less consumer-friendly aspects, some of which are pretty good. The home screen contains quick access to functions such as BT Broadband Talk, toggling of Wi-Fi, BT Yahoo Mail (which all BT customers are signed up to) and the phone's web browser.
BT Yahoo mail is added by default to the handset as part of the setup process. These details are what allows the handset quick and easy access to OpenZone hotspots. BT's skin also enables quick setup of other accounts though and both my Gmail and personal POP3 accounts were handled faultlessly by the auto-config mode, requiring me only to enter my email address and password.
As usual with HTC devices, while the OS may leave some things to be desired, the hardware is good. The casing has a lovely ThinkPad-style rubberised finish which adds a real air of class to the handset and the QWERTY keypad is surprisingly easy to type on, although I still maintain nothing compares to the virtual keyboard on the iPhone.
Of particular note is the inclusion of two batteries, one of which is a high capacity unit. To cater for both batteries you also get two different backs for the handset. One of these sits flush with the back of the device, while the other is larger and protrudes outwards. It looks a little silly, but the extra usage time afforded by the larger battery will doubtless be compensation enough for those using it.
The problem, then, with BT Total Broadband Anywhere isn't the handset but the service itself. It's difficult to see exactly what BT's target market is. If you want a mobile phone you'll probably have one, and while BT OpenZone access is good when available, if you don't live in London, Wi-Fi hotspots are, for the most part, still something of a rarity. And if you wanted to use this handset as your main mobile you'd definitely need more minutes and texts thrown in.
The value of BT Total Broadband Anywhere is hard to gauge. For £5 a month on top of a fairly decent broadband package, it's not bad value. However while the BT OpenZone access offered is good, it isn't quite good enough for me to agree with its claim of being "broadband anywhere." Throw in more than a paltry 10MB of mobile data and you'll have a much more worthwhile offering, BT.
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