Actually all this music capability is not the best thing about this handset. The screen takes the prize here. It’s just 2.2in diagonal, but packs in 240 x 320 pixels whereas the SPV C500 managed a more usual 176 x 220. These extra pixels mean a little more information can be delivered in the screen space - there are now, for example, 10 application options listed at once when you press the Start button instead of the previous nine, but more importantly the screen is a lot clearer. It’s still only capable of 65 thousand colours, though, and so left behind by the increasing number of handsets that offer 262 thousand.
There is, of course, a camera – I’ve already mentioned the button that starts it running. Its lens sits on the back of the casing next to a self-portrait mirror. It captures stills at 1,280 x 1,024, 640 x 480, 320 x 240 and 160 x 120 and video at 176 x 144 and 128 x 96. There is a special mode for shooting MMS video, another for PhotoID shots and another for ‘Picture Theme’ shot which shove a frame round a 160 x 120 still.
There is a maximum of 4x digital zoom available and shooting modes for daylight, incandescent, fluorescent and night time, as well as greyscale, sepia and cool filters. None of this is particularly fancy though, and even the ability to manually adjust the brightness, gamma, hue and saturation settings using the joystick is something I’ve seen before. What the camera lacks is an LED flash, which would help with short range indoor snaps in gloomy conditions.
With tri-band GSM and class 10 GPRS the SPV C550 should see you through your worldwide travels pretty effectively, and it is a definite improvement on its predecessor in terms of having a better screen, more memory, and a joystick instead of the loathed lozenge for navigation.
But don’t be drawn in by its pretensions as a music player. Good sound output and dedicated buttons are not all that a music playing handset needs. Lots of internal memory and easily swappable flash memory are also important. And how about this for an annoyance? Tunes downloaded with Orange’s Music Player are not listed in Windows Media Player, so you can’t play from one unified spot, or make playlists incorporating both ripped and downloaded music. Daft.