During the summer, I was offered the chance to review one of the, then, new breed of smart-phones with slide-out QWERTY keyboards, the Orange SPV M3100. Now, normally we take a phone out into the real world for a few weeks, and get to know it and its quirks during that time, but with a phone like this, more time was needed. So 6 months later, what did we really think?
Continued after the break…
The device itself looks fairly chunky when viewed next to a standard phone, but comparing it to another smart-phone, it is in the same league as most professional units (roughly the same dimensions as a Palm Treo 680 that we had laying about the office).
When you slide the large screen to the right it reveals the main talking point of this phone; the keyboard, or more accurately, the thumb-board. The keys are of a good size, with slight raises in them to allow your thumbs to recognize when a new button has been reached, something subtle, but very, very useful on a phone that you will, most probably, want to be touch typing with.
When in its normal position, the phone is in portrait mode, but when slid across, it assumes you are using the phone from the side, and therefore changes to landscape.
It is easier to use than the aforementioned Treo, and after only a few weeks with the unit as my primary phone, I was able to type out my text message quicker than ever before. The text messaging side of this phone is not something to be overlooked. You may assume that the thumb-board is there for enterprising email users, however, with this phone free on Orange’s Dolphin contract (unlimited text messages a month), this means that it will be used in short correspondence more often, and harder than most other phones on the market.
This brings us on to the messaging side. It sports a hardware button on the top of the unit so that you can go straight to your SMS Inbox to check, read and scroll through messages using the scroll wheel on the left side of the phone (although this position means that it is located at the bottom of the device when the keyboard is open, making it slightly difficult to use). The menu system is a regular Windows Mobile affair, so is intuitive, clear and is easy to navigate.
The large touchscreen is a breeze to use with the extending stylus the is kept in the unit’s bottom-right corner, and a light but forceful stroke all that is required to get accurate results from it. When making a phonecall on the unit though, it is commonly more convenient to use your thumb on the screen, and this is ok, as long as you have average sized thumbs. People with larger than average digits may find it a problem to be accurate at the kind of sizes the numbers come up at.
The call quality was impeccable, and kept a decent level of signal (using a standard Orange, non-3G SIM) in all manner of places.
This connectivity is aided by the presence of not only Bluetooth, but also Wi-Fi, and the ease of connection made browsing the normal-web, on a large screen an absolute pleasure. It certainly makes quick emailing checking around the house simpler than lugging a laptop around!
In all, I love this phone. It may look like a corporate bore from the outside, and is fairly hefty by consumer standards, but it has everything that most gadget lovers desire, as well as making the simple stuff easy for the novice. Why do you think I insisted on keeping a hold of it for 6 months?
Model: SPV M3100