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Review GSM-phone Philips 650
Philips has proved itself as a manufacturer of the phones with rather a long battery life, thus for Xenium it was a record in its class. The company couldn't support its reputation and represented model 650 equipped with a color screen in a clamshell form-factor. De facto it is a continuation of Xenium series that was waited for so long. The specifications of the battery life announced for the model are so high that one gets amazed. The declared time of the standby mode is about one month, in spite of two displays and the large inner one. It would seem that power saving technologies by the company have won and a technological hitch was made but in reality everything is not so cheerful and unambiguous. Taking into consideration the fact that the model is technologically a complete analog of the current devices by Philips without a camera, let's start with the design.
The dimensions are comparable with ones of Sony Ericsson Z600 (88x46x24,5 mm), the clamshell is not thin. As the experience of Z600 shows this form-factor rouse no tearing away and is acceptable. The weight is almost not felt (93 g) you expect a bigger mass and when you take it in your hand, you understand that you were not right.
On the front panel you can see a glossy plastic that hides an OLED-screen. Analog clock or information about the number of the caller is displayed on the screen. The absence of a color screen (a full color one) seems reasonable in this model, information is well visible in the sunny conditions and energy consumption is less.
There is an insertion of plastic on the front panel, when touching it you have got a feeling like it is a rubber, it is a bit rough and that provides excellent look and feeling when you touch it. Different colors of the model are the result of such insertions and the rest of the body is silvery (there is also an insertion on the back side of the device). Also you can see a loud speaker hole on the front panel. I will point out that despite the loud speaker hole its volume level is twice lower in a closed mode than in the opened one. It is a pity because when the volume is maximum, the call signal is not very loud but distinguishable. That leads to the fact that you miss a call. The low power of the loud speaker showed an attempt of the company to decrease energy consumption. Further we will often speak about different contrivances to lower energy consumption in the device.
There is a joined button of the volume level control on the left side surface and a charger connector may be seen on the bottom part of the device . Also you can see an IrDA on the right side surface. There is a handsfree headset connector on the bottom, it is closed with a rubber curtain.
The device may be opened with one hand and it makes no troubles. Inside you will see a large TFT 65K screen (128x160 pixels, 32x38 mm). The screen can display up to 7 text lines (for looking through short messages) and up to two service lines.
The quality of the screen is not so high as in devices made by Samsung, Motorola, but is enough to compete with other manufacturers. The picture is not oversaturated with a colour but is clear and contrasting. This makes a good combination of style and functionality, the interface is standard for the device and made rather well. It seems that the manufacturers decided on making worse a capability of displaying pictures knowingly. They got a better view of everyday menu this way. And also they managed to lower energy consumption by means of comparatively low contrast and not very bright backlighting.
The screen behaves not very well in the sun, it fades much in a sunny summer day.
The keypad is made of plastic, the keys are large and comfortable to work with. By means of the body size, the developers managed to make the keys comfortable though they are sunk in the body too much, the motion is not very big. Nevertheless it is a classic keypad that doesn't rouse any negative feelings when working with it. The backlighting is white and is seen in the complete darkness very well, in other conditions the characters may merge.
The back cover has one fixing mechanism and protects the battery compartment. The advantage of the construction is that the cover has no backlashes. The battery is Li-Ion, 1100 mAh. According to the manufacturers it works about 8 hours in the standby mode and up to 850 hours in the talk mode. We were testing the device in Moscow, and it worked for 8 days with 1 hour 45 minutes spent for talks and up to 2 hours spent for other functions daily. In general it is possible to say that if speaking about the battery life the device is the best among the devices with color screens in the market. It can work for during 10-11 days in case of using less functions and it will be unexampledly long time. Full charging takes about 2.5 hours.
SIM-card holder is standard and of no interest.
The organization of the menu has undergone some changes, thus the developes finally refused from the "carusel" menu view, it appeared with a JogDial but outlasted it much. The menu here is more standard and icons are displayed in rows. Many of the icons for different functions (volume, profiles and etc) are made better than in previous models.
Any image may be set as a wallpaper and it will be displayed not only in the standby mode but in all the menu items. That may cause some troubles: when choosing an unsuitable picture some of the icons and tips for them may merge and get indistinguishable. The same problem is experienced in Nokia 6230, but it is not so urgent there because of a higher resolution of the screen, icons and tips.
Other improvements are referred to pleasant trifles that are very pleasant while working with the phone. A possibility to see what will happen if to choose any of the menu items appeared. Thus when choosing a clock (analog, digital and mixed) you can see how they look like in the beginning. The same for a list of other items.
The numbers are large and distinguishable when you dial a number. But there is a weak point also. The traditional problems remained, some menu items are not clear and it is hard to access them. The absence of quick navigation with the help of shorcut numbers is not an advantage either. An unprepared user will refer the navi button constantly, it is nice that it is so comfortable. In general I would like to point out that the ergonomics of the menu and its comprehension got better than in teh previous models. Let us consider all the functions in order.
Using a navi button you can move along the menu. Getting on the upper level is possible only by pressing letter C. If you try to quit with the help of Off button like on the phones made by other manufacturers nothing will happen. There is no quick navigation along the menu using shorcut number navigations. It is partly replaced by a possibility to assign tags and menu items to 8 buttons. Thus if to press 5 in the standby mode you will call the calculator. One should remember that the more menu items they assign to the buttons the less numbers they can use for fast dialing, these possibilities are united in the phone.
Almost all the submenus are represented as icons. If you use the functions hidden deep inside the menu frequently, you will have to work with the navi button much or assign voice tags to these items. There is a possibility to keep up to 40 voice tags in the internal memory, they can be used to access the most frequently used items in the menu. Then a deep nesting of the menu matters nothing and it is necessary only to get used to this option.
Phone book. Up to 499 numbers may be kept in the internal memory and there is a possibility to fill in such fields as Name, Surname, Note, up to 5 numbers and one e-mail address. Switching to the phone book from the standby mode is possible if to move the navi button down. Only phone book in the internal memory or SIM-card memory may be viewed at once. Only names and surnames are displayed in the list; if an entry can't be placed on the screen, it is scrolled automatically. For a selected entry a phone type icon is shown to the right and moving to any side allows to choose other numbers for the name. Even if there are no any other entries for the name the arrows near the icon will be active. The first number you entered in the memory will be displayed the first in the list that allows not to set numbers by default specially. To dial the selected number it is enough to press Call button. If you need to know what number is entered for this or that name you willl have to look through the menu. The same is necessary if you want to assign a voice tag (up to 40) to some numbers. Speech recognition works well excluding the case when you use the same word for different numbers. In this case the phone will always call the last saved tag, another one will be stored in the memory but never used.
There is a search only by the first one letter in the general list, not by the first three ones.
There is a possibility to choose not only own melody but own pictures (PhotoCall) for 50 groups, then they will be displayed during an incoming call with the name of the calling user. There is no a possibility to assign a photo to a name, the way out is to assign the name to a separate group.
Messages. The incoming messages are read and new ones are created in this menu. When looking through the list of messages, each selected one is shown automatically (a creeping line) and when opening a certain message it is also scrolled automatically but in a full screen mode. This is rather interesting and attractive. There are 10 templates in English, that is traditional. One of the icons or a simple melody (EMS) may be sent with a message. Pictures for EMS are very interesting, they are various and drawn with humor.
The device allows to save messages to an SMS archive and move entered messages into the folder with saved ones automatically.
Integrated mail client can work with usual mail boxes (up to 2), POP3 and SMTP. There is a possibility to receive e-mails via GPRS connection. In general it is attractive but attachments are not supported (excluding JPG), besides the phone doesn't understand Russian coding excluding ISO. The maximum size of a message is 10 KB.
Settings. Everything is simple, there is a possibility to set a security level (a traditional list), set one of 5 themes that changes the design of the windows, set a working period for backlighting (up to 1 minute), adjust a screen saver and etc.
All the call settings, vibrating alert, mixed signal are also here. It is interesting that there are settings of an equalizer that work during the conversation, there are 5 of them. They appeared thanks to AMR-code. The problem is that an operator has to support the function, my attempts to change the settings and hear the difference were not successful, the sound in the loud speaker remained the same.
There are profiles and all the values are not variable there, they may be changed in Personal profile. That doesn't add any flexibility to the phone settings and thus there is only one profile in this model.
Multimedia. This menu contains several functions at the same time, let us consider them in order.
Picture Album. There is a list of pictures preset in the phone, there are many of them and these are pictures of animals and children mainly. All the images are stored as JPG. You may view the current picture, choose one of the images as a headband (background) for the standby mode. A screen saver may be created from a picture or their series. The last two tasks are implemented in the settings menu. Also icons that are used for EMS may be viewed in this list.
Sound Album. Album of sounds, here melodies and dictaphone records are stored, the last ones may be used as call melodies or reminders.
Dictaphone. There is a possibility to store a number of records in the internal memory (up to 20), the dictaphone works both in the standby mode and in the talk mode (records both users). The length of the record depends on the free memory but can nott be longer that one minute. The remained time is not displayed during recording, that is a minus.
Memory counter. It shows the size of used and free memory. This option is convenient because you can view the distribution of memory between all the applications in percentage terms. Also if to choose an application it is possible to see the number of entries and their total capacity. This representation in details is useful for those who want to know exactly what and where is stored. The total memory size is 6045 KB and 450Kb of them are used from the beginning.
Business. This is a new menu item where organizer and extras moved to. Thus an alarm clock is also there. It may be set as once, everyday and only for working days. The calculator is rather simple, no any peculiarities.
Organizer. The calendar may be shown in month, week view. When using month view, all the days with the kept events are marked out and in the week view there is a division on days and an icon of the event is set opposite to a day. There are three types of events - meeting, holiday and business. The start and finish date are set for each event, they may be recurrent (day, week, month and year). Also an alert may be set for an event. The one bad thing is that when an event snaps into action it demands confirmation and it irritates sometimes. There is a possibility to erase all the old events at once. In general the organizer is acceptable but not more. The memory of the organizer and the phone book are shared dynamically. The surprise is that keeping 499 entries in the phone book is possible only when there are no any notes in the organizer. A common number of entries for the phone book and organizer is 499.
Call list. Call list is general, that means that it contains missed, incoming and dialed numbers and date and time are specified for each if it is necessary. The list may contain 30 entries and is called with moving the navi button up. The numbers from the list may be used the same way as from the phone book (messages, view details and etc). Calls with the same number are not summed up and displayed one after another and it may not be convenient for the majority of users.
Operator Services. From here you may access the WAP-browser. There are no any peculiarities and with supporting GPRS (4+2) everything works properly.
Games. Besides the standard game - "Breaks", there is a support for three more Java games (MIDP 2.0). Java support is present here from the beginning, so a user will be able to load new applications, but I failed to find such ones.
As for the quality of the connection the device is rather good. The shortcoming is that constant small noises are present during the conversation. The same noises are in some models produced by Samsung and that is why this feature seems not so critical for users. Nevertheless before buying the phone one should get to know it better and call to another phone from it. In the moment of connecting and for some seconds while the backlighting of the inner screen works, the level of noises is rather high and that tells of a weak shielding of the loud speaker. Almost all the users of Philips Xenium++ came across these questions.
The volume of the polyphonic signal is average and the device can't be called too loud. At the same time the selection of melodies is rather good. As a rule the device is heard in the street but if you put it into an inner pocket you should activate vibrating alert. The device is felt because of little trembling. The power of the vibra can't be called considerable but it is felt well.
The model will appear in the market in the middle of September and will cost about $250-265. Due to the lack of a camera and having a standard list of functions the device doesn't seem very attractive. Long battery life is smoothed by the noises in the loud speaker and average quality of the inner display. On the other hand the model has an interesting design. The device will be attractive for those who use phones made by Philips, are looking for minimum functionality and long life and feel the necessity of the colour screen. It may seem strange but alternative demands will provide stable but not high sales. And unfortunately, users do pay attention not only to the working time but other specifications too.
Sony Ericsson Z600 may be considered an alternative, these phones are straight rivals with a comparable price. The strong point of the product produced by Sony Ericsson is an integrated camera, bluetooth, better screen and changeable panels. The weakness is less battery life but I will not judge how critical it is.
Published 31 August 2004
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