In the early days of Windows Mobile Smartphones 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 phone bandwagon, but with a few other nice plus points too.
In some ways this is a strange device for Orange to have launched. It runs Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition, but Windows Mobile 5 is surely due to make its first appearance in a smartphone before too much longer. It’s already made its PDA debut in the O2 Xda Exec, for which Orange has a dead ringer - the SPV M5000 (expect a full review of this soon) slated as coming soon, and smartphone variants can’t be far behind.
On the other hand, the SPV C550 deals with a number of issues its predecessor, the SPV C500 suffered from and updates some core specifications. In so doing it helps maintain Orange’s position as arguably the premier Windows Smartphone provider in the UK.
The SPV 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 notes symbol. By default pressing the last of these launches Orange’s Music Player, designed to help you download tunes from Orange’s online service and then play them on the C550.
You can change the setting so that this button launches the 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 numberpad, 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 SPV 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.