Windows Mobile Smartphones all share a similar user interface, with a home screen providing quick access to contacts, call history, messaging, calendar, the camera and the Internet via a set of icons through which you scroll, in this case using the joystick. The left softkey is marked Start, and selecting it scrolls you through the full gamut of the built-in applications and settings tools.
The SPV C550 has a 240x320-pixel screen where other Windows Mobile Smartphones to date have coped with 220x176. The extra pixels make this handset's display very sharp and bright, and the fact that its 65K colours are a bit behind the times is a secondary consideration.
Without the ability to change the order of applications in the scrollable listing, it can take a while to get to what you want -- even without any third-party software installed, the listing extends to two-and-a-half screens' worth of options. It is handy for music fans that one of the four dedicated buttons starts the music software. By default, this runs Orange's own Music Player, designed to manage music you've downloaded, but hidden away in the settings area is an option to set it to launch the Windows Media Player instead.
The music-playing feature has good and bad points. Tunes cut out and resume automatically for voice calls, and the shortcut buttons on the front of the SPV C550 are very good for managing sound -- it is great to be able to easily stop and start songs at will. Sound output through the provided headset is pretty good, and inline volume control means you don't have to fiddle with the handset too much.
But the 2.5mm headset connector means you can't switch to a better alternative without a converter to 3.5mm, and there isn't much memory for your tunes. The 128MB miniSD card Orange provides adds considerably to the available memory on the handset, but if you find yourself needing more and investing in additional cards, swapping them may become irritating as they live under the battery, requiring a power-down.
The camera shoots snaps at resolutions up to 1,280x1,024, and the quality is fine for sharing via email. As it lacks a flash, close-up night-time shots are out of the question, but there are several ambiance settings and manual adjustment for brightness, gamma, hue and saturation to play with. Video can also be shot, with a separate setting for MMS video.
With both Bluetooth and infrared on board you can use the SPV C550 as a modem with a PDA or notebook computer.
One of the things you need from a music-playing handset is good battery life. We decided to run an MP3 test, and looped music for as long as the SPV C550 would allow. We forced the screen to stay on, to really push it to the limit, and got more than six hours of music. On a real-world test, we managed a weekend without charging, with some voice calls, some Web browsing and some music listening.
Call quality was good, and it is easy to adjust volume with the side-mounted rocker.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Nick Hide