Well, I can’t resist new toys, and I can’t resist a bargain. I’d heard that Orange had brought out a new version of their SPV Smartphone, dubbed the C500, running the latest version of Windows Mobile for Smartphones. In fact, I’d had a brief play with a pre-release model at an Orange seminar a few months ago. I was quite impressed with the feel of the sample I’d played with, which was a huge advance on the original SPV model I’d had a couple of years ago, but I didn’t think I was going to bother getting one…
That was until last Saturday. I had a look at the Orange website and started looking at upgrade options. I was interested to note that I could have the new SPV C500 for precisely nothing. No charge. Oh, and free delivery, too. On that basis, I decided I might as well get one. After all, if I tried it and didn’t like it, I wouldn’t have lost anything. I filled in the form on the website on the Saturday, and the phone was delivered at work on the following Tuesday, which isn’t bad for a freebie.
Once I’d got the phone activated, I was quite impressed. The latest version of the Smartphone software is much more friendly and well-behaved than the original, which is of course good. But the main changes over the original SPV and the interim models is in the design and build of the phone itself. For a start, it’s much smaller. It’s advertised as being the “world’s smallest smartphone”, and it is definitely smaller than any other smartphone I’ve seen, despite having a nicely large screen. It’s quite slim (thinner than the Nokia 5140 I’ve been using lately) and feels quite robust. I was impressed to see that the SIM card holder and the memory card holder were robust metal components rather than the more usual flimsy plastic clips. Memory expansion is through the fairly new Mini SD format, which offers very large capacity in a ludicrously small format. There is a 16MB card supplied, which comes with trial versions of some not all that useful software. I’ve ordered a 512MB card, which cost a not unreasonable £42.95. One good thing about the Smartphone OS is that additional programs can be installed to the memory card, not just to internal memory, making the whole package rather more flexible.
Some time ago, I acquired a free Bluetooth headset. I’d tried this with my Sony Ericsson P900, where it mostly worked. The C500 is a different animal altogether. Once I’d got the headset and phone bonded (which worked almost immediately), everything worked perfectly. As soon as I open the boom on the headset, the “headest” icon appears on the phone display and the headest is operational. Close the boom on the headset and the phone reverts to normal use.
There’s loads of software available for Windows Smartphones, including utilites, games and other stuff. There’s even a fair amount of free stuff (I’ve got a nice free Tetris clone, which is a Good Thing).
For those who like to personalise their phones, the SPV is good fun. Loads of options for changing the display, and it can use any WAV or WMA file as a ringtone. 
Web browsing works remarkably well. I can check work email thanks to OWA PDA and I can check my bank account. Not only that, but Losing it is quite legible on the small screeen.
Overall, I’m impressed with the phone. It’s made for Orange by HTC of Tawain, who made the original SPV and also at least some of Compaq/HP’s iPaq PDA models. An equivalent model is available under other names from other suppliers….
One final thing that makes this my favourite phone so far: the connector. Up till now, every phone has had its own proprietary connector for both power and data connection. This can be a problem if you need a spare charger or data connector. This little beastie creates a precedent. It has a single connector for power and data, which would be a pleasant enough simplification on its own, but what really makes me happy is that the connector is a standard mini USB connector. While a mains charger is provided with the phone, I doubt I’ll ever need it, as it will happily charge by taking power over a USB2 connection. As it uses the same connector as my Sony digital camera and my Archos MP3 player, this is all very convenient indeed. Working with the latest version of Microsoft ActiveSync, Windows XP recognises the phone immediately.
 Good concept, but a bit clunky in use. Clip on camera, bulky phone, had to be rebooted regularly..
 Well, it’s been out a few months, but it’s new enough
 Usual Microsoft plan: first version is dire, second is good but flawed, third is actually good..
 While it is no doubt possible to make memory cards even smaller than Mini SD, it will be a bit silly, as most people will find the things too damn small to find….
 All I had to do was fill in a few surveys..
 Bluetooth can be a bit flaky…
 USB chargers have been a popular accessory for most phones for a while now, but this is the first phone I’ve seen where it’s standard equipment
 Depending on who’s calling, I either hear the into to U2’s “New Year’s Day” or Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart”. Not bleepy MIDI versions, the actual songs :grin