The SL500i follows the pattern previously set. At just £24.99, this is a mobile phone for those on a budget. It is available on a Virgin Mobile PAYG deal, and comes from high street box-shifter Argos.
The first thing to say is that none of this turns me against a mobile phone. Low cost mobiles that do a good job are fine with me. The other two Fly models I’ve seen have definitely fallen into the average category, but then they don’t pretend to be anything else. And if you want a very short version of this review, the SL500i does the same.
The tri-band SL500i slider is pink, and my, what a candy-pink it is. With its silver flashes down the left and right edges of the front fascia, as well as other dotted silver highlights and a purpley-bluey backlight to the front buttons, it looks like something that is aimed at a 12 year old girl whose parents should know better than to give in to the pink stereotype. This is further reinforced when you open the slide and are confronted by a number pad whose pale lavender keys are backlit the same blue/purple as the front keys.
Still, go beyond the colour and this is a dinky slider handset whose physical design is really appealing. Measuring just 80mm tall, 44mm wide and 16.2mm thick when closed, it grows to about 117mm tall when opened. It weighs just 90g.
I’m a fan of the front keys which are fairly large given the constrained space in which they have to fit. The navigation button in particular is big – proportionately larger than that found on many, more sizeable phones.
The general design of this phone is something the big guns can learn from. I’d like to see one of them take the SL500i’s footprint, slim it down and in general make a pocket and hand-friendly high-end slider mobile.
Given Fly’s need to meet its price point some elements of this handset’s build do suffer. The front buttons are a case in point with the Call, End and softmenu keys feeling a little flimsy under the fingertips, despite my fondness for their large size. The slide is spring-loaded though, and clunks into position nicely, which shows good attention to detail.
The screen is necessarily small, measuring just 1.8in. Nothing larger would have fitted into the available space and there isn’t much by way of software to challenge its 176 x 220 pixels with no Web browser screaming out for more display area or finer grained pixilation – though there is a WAP browser.
The camera gubbins is on the back of the phone and manages to run to a tiny LED flash unit that sits above the lens as well as a small self-portrait mirror. These are nice features to find on a budget handset, and while the flash doesn’t do much for subjects that are more than a few feet from the lens, it could be handy.
The maximum resolution of 1.3-megapixels is nothing to write home about, and image quality suffers as a consequence. This is no surprise, really, and what I found more annoying was the difficulty of framing a scene. The SL500i suffers from the same problem as the SX200 and SLT100, where Fly doesn’t seem to understand that what you see on the screen when framing a photo should be close to what you get from the resulting image. That just isn’t how it works here.
The coloured dish, photographed under normal household lighting conditions was framed with its two ends in opposite corners of the screen, but the resulting photo delivered a lot of extra image. You can’t hope to frame a photo well under these conditions.
Look at the flowers for example. The one in the bottom right of the photo wasn’t in the shot at all when it was framed. And the white chair has been cropped to stop it looking totally lost against a sea of wall behind it.
Like almost every mobile phone these days the SL500i plays music. It has 60MB of internal memory and a microSD card slot for adding more. Unfortunately the slot is in a hard-to-get-at location under the battery cover.
The phone can only find music stored on the microSD card if you put it in a specific folder. This is a bit irritating, and I expect phones these days to be able to scan a memory card for compatible file types and offer them up for import into the player’s playlist or for immediate playback.
The phone played tunes from a microSD card for a total of seven hours and four minutes from a fully charged battery. This isn’t wonderful by any means, but should be enough for most people on a daily charge. The charger shares the headset connector’s proprietary port.
The SL500i has Bluetooth and there’s a fair bit of software here. Calendar, to do list, three alarms, world clock, calculator, units converter, stopwatch, no less than five games and something called ‘health’ that works out your body mass index. I’m not entirely sure this is suitable for younger users who might be obsessed with their weight and size, actually Fly.
So, the pinkness of this handset is not great, but the general styling is good. The camera is a let-down, but the battery life is reasonable. There are a lot of low cost handsets vying for your £25, and this one sits neatly in the pack.
Score in detail
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