The SPV C550 is remarkably similar in size and weight to the C500 (its 107g and 108 x 46 x 17.5mm compare to the C500’s 106g and 108 x 46 x 16.3mm) and in most respects the two share the same arrangement of side-buttons. So, on the left edge there is a volume rocker, on the top infrared port and power button, and on the right edge a button that launches the built in camera. It’s all pretty familiar stuff.
There is one newbie button not seen in the SPV C500, though. Above the volume rocker sits a quicklaunch key for Internet Explorer. As a keen mobile Web user I found this very handy indeed.
On the bottom edge sit two connectors, under a single rubber cover. One is the Mini USB slot you’ll need to use to make a wired link to your PC for data synchronisation. The other is a 2.5mm headphone jack. Putting this jack on the bottom of the handset may make sense from an engineering point of view, but for end users it is a real niggle, and having to expose the USB connector to get to it is doubly painful.
There’s more to note about the music playing pretensions of the SPV C550, much of it paradoxical. With 64MB of built in memory there isn’t going to be enough space for you to store too many tracks so Orange supplies a miniSD card to bump this up. But it’s only a 128MB card, which isn’t anywhere near enough for a music-playing phone, especially one packing Windows Media Player 10 with its ability to synchronise with its desktop version. Also, horror of horrors, as with the SPV C500 the memory card this lives under the battery, so that you need to power the handset down to swap cards – doubly irritating as our SPV C550 took a full 65 seconds to boot to the Orange Home screen.
Sound quality from the provided stereo headset is pretty good, though, and there is more volume than we could comfortably handle through the earbuds, though at the very highest there was some distortion. The handset’s speaker is pretty good too. If only someone would include an FM radio in a Windows Mobile Smartphone I’d be happy to listen for as long as the battery would allow. Orange’s other software addition for musicians, FirePlayer, lets you mix downloaded tracks and produce ringtones. I found several potentially mixable tracks, but at £3.50 each I wasn’t greatly tempted.