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Review Philips 550/755/759
Three different phones are to be overlooked in one review here. The fact that all of them are based on the same platform and have similar features makes this concise review logical. Except for the lack of IrDA and a camera in the “younger” model, all other features are akin. It goes without saying that the phones also differ in their design, but that is a matter of taste. The zest of the phone (from now on, I will refer to one phone while talking of three) is the touchscreen. Not taking smart phones into account, this is the first phone of such technology. The phone’s advantages, which manufacturers use for the advertising purposes, have to do with the MMS-messages. You can sign the picture by hand at once or else add something to it and send it. The technology was called Taglt and it is very easy to use.
The touchscreen is not the mere device for the messages’ embellishment; it is also a perfect way for the speedy data entering. The phone’s menu is now equipped with the function of on-screen keyborad that shows up on the screen automatically in most cases. You can enter all the information using the stylus, which will take a lot less time than when you are using the usual keypad. In my point of view, the touchscreen greatly expends the phone’s possibilities; the data entering becomes quick and not troublesome at all. The menu navigation can be done both with the display usage or, traditionally, with the help of joystick.
Another advantage of the touchscreen is a pretty “smart” image editor, which allows you to write by hand; choose the colors and the line thickness. All the files are then saved in the JPEG format and you can send them to the PC or just store them in the phone.
I would not speak a lot about touchscreens-thanks to the smartphones and PDAs we are familiar with them. I will just note, that it would be unjust to underestimate the new technology of sensor displays. Having put aside all my sarcasm I started using this technology for the messages particularly with these phones (Sony Ericsson P900 is the second exception).
Let us overview the design of the phones and their ergonomics. This is an example of Philips 550.
The IrDA is located on the right side of the phone; the headset connector, the connector for the battery charger and the camera button are located here as well (there is no IrDA nor camera in the 550 model).
The stylus is located on the backside of the 550 model; the phone cannot lay in the entirely horizontal position, it then touches the surface with the “feather” only.
In the older models the stylus is kept within the frame case just like it is done with the PDA. In any case the stylus is light and is made out of plastic. In some way the stylus does not look as impressive as the phone itself and even breaks the impression of the overall style a little.
On the upper butt-end there is a strap hole; on the lower part of the phone you can see a mechanical latch (with the spring located inside)-you just have to shift it and move towards you to open the phone.
You will see the lithium-ionic battery of the 720 capacity mAh inside. At the producer’s request it is capable of providing up to 250 working hours at the stand-by mode and up to 4.5 working hours at the talking mode. The phone worked in the Moscow MTS network for approximately three days. During this time a number of calls of about thirty minutes of total length were made and somewhat twenty messages with the display data entering were sent. The total time of using the other functions was more or less twenty minutes. The time of the full charge of the phone is a bit more than 1.5 hours.
The screen can reflect up to 65000 colors and is made according to the TFT technology (128x160 pixels, 32x38 mm). The screen quality is not as high as in the Samsung or Motorola phones, however the display can compete with the displays from other manufacturers. The picture is not overwhelmingly colorful, although it is clear and the contrasting colors are nice. The screen can read up to seven text lines (when viewing the SMS) and up to two information bars. When exposed to the sun, the screen strongly fades out and then you have to look at it very closely.
The alphanumerical keypad is designed as a single block in all the models. It is moderately handy and there is not a lot to say about it. The joystick is very convenient in all the phones, although the sensor screen allows you to almost completely avoid the usage of the keyboard (with the exception for the numbers dialing-it is easier to dial the number using the keypad).
The VGA-camera is located on the backside in the older models and is covered by the movable shutter.
The sizes of the models are acceptable for their class; the phones fit the hand palm well. Philips 550 left the best impression although the older models are of good quality too. I will take in here that the design experiments that were introduced by the company in the last years are very interesting-the phones have a style of their own, which is quite rare today. The sizes, the weight and the color solutions can be found for each model in the Speicification section.
The phones are similar to the latest models of the company technically wise; the difference is in the touchscreen and in the rejection of the round array of the menu. Since there is no forward key, the round menu array would look obsolete, so its rejection was justified. Just like in Philips 855, the rows of icons altered, they became better and actually the whole interface of the phone was greatly ameliorated. Due to the functions’ and menu arrays’ similarities, we will post here the pictures from the Review of Philips 855, just like the text below.
When in the stand-by mode, there is a speedy applications’ switch on with the scroll key (similarly to the Motorola phones). The main difference here is that while activating this function, the functions assigned to the scroll key constantly hang on the screen and you cannot get rid of them. Another disadvantage is that you cannot assign your own functions; you would always have there the creation of the MMS-messages, the phone book entry and entry the last calls entry and the delivery of the SMS. Well, we may say, however, that the new possibility is just the first step and we can surely anticipate the amelioration of the interface, which will also be a significant change.
You can use any image for the wallpaper that will show up not only in the stand-by mode, but in all the menus as well. This causes certain inconveniences, however-if you accidentally choose a bad picture some of the menu icons and the captions for them will look like a mess and will be barely legible. The same problem was detected with Nokia 6230 although it was not that harsh there due to the bigger screen resolution and the bigger size of icons and captions for them.
As for the other ameliorations, they mainly refer to the lovely details that are surprisingly cute to see when working with the phone. The menu is now equipped with the function that allows you to see what this or that command will result in. Thus, if you choose a clock for the display (digital, analogous, miscellaneous), you will see right away in the list what it looks like. The same is true for several other functions.
While dialing, the numbers are legible and clear. However, I will not omit a justified reproach here. The phone still suffers from the old traditional problems: there is no shortcut number navigation. The inexperienced user will be constantly reaching for the scroll key, which is at least very handy. Overall, I have to acknowledge that the menu ergonomics and its reactions became better than in the previous models. Let us review all the phone’s functions in order.
The main menu is arranged as a row on animated icons assembled in rows; you can move around the menu using the scroll key. To move to the upper level you have to press the C key. Nothing will occur if you try to exist using the switch off function key like in all the phones from other manufacturers. There is no shortcut number navigation. Its partial substitute is the possibility to assign to eight keys the labels for the menu functions. For example, if you press five (“5”) in the stand-by mode, the calculator will show up. You have to keep in mind, that more functions you assign to the keys, fewer numbers for the dial up in one touch can you choose-these options are bonded in the phone.
If you use a lot the functions hidden within the menu, you will have to work a lot with the scroll key or to assign the voice tags to these functions. You can save up to 40 voice tags in the phone’s memory and use them for the access to the menu functions mostly in use. Then the multiple menu layers do not matter any longer and you just have to learn to switch for using the voice tags option.
Phone book. You can save up to 499 names in the phone book and such fields as first and last name, memo, up to five numbers and an e-mail address for each. To access the phone book from the stand-by mode, you have to tilt the scroll key downwards. You can see either the phone book from the phone’s memory or from the SIM-card at once. You will see the first and the last names only in the list; if the file does not fit the screen, it is automatically forwarded. For the backlighted file on the right side you will see an icon looking like a phone; using the side movements you can choose other phones for the selected name. Even if there are none of these “phones”, the arrows next to the icon will always be activated. The number entered first into the memory will be displayed first; this frees you from an effort to separately assign numbers by default. To call the selected number, you just have to press the send key. If you sometimes have to make sure what exactly is the number put under this or that name, you will have to go through the menu. You have to do the same if you wish to assign a voice tag (up to forty) to some selected numbers. The voice recognition works well except for the fact that you may allot the same word to different numbers. In this case, the phone will always call for the voice tag recorded last, another one will be saved in the phone book, but will never be activated.
The total list offers a search by the first letter of the name; the search by the three letters that was previously used in the Philips phones, was rejected in this model.
You can select special melodies and pictures (PhotoCall) for fifty groups of phone subscribers; the pictures will then be displayed at the subscriber’s incoming call along with his/her name.
Messages. That is where the received messages are read and the new ones are created. When looking through the list of messages, each selected one is automatically and fully displayed (caption); the opened message is also automatically forwarded although on the full screen now. This is pretty nice and interesting. There are ten samples in English; everything is very traditional. You can send one of the numerous icons or a simple melody (EMS) along with the messages. The pictures for the EMS-messages are cute, funny and large in variety.
In this phone you can save messages in the SMS-archive or else automatically put the created messages into the folder with the messages saved.
The in-built mail-client can read up to two standard inboxes and work with POP3 as well as with SMTP. You can arrange the mail’s receipt through the GPRS-connection, which is overall nice although the attachments (with the exception of jpg) are not supported and the Russian encoding with the exception of ISO is not read. The messages of more than 10 Kb cannot be received.
Settings. Everything is simple here: you can set the safety levels (a traditional set), one of the five themes for the display that substitute the windows’ design, the working time of the backlight (up to one minute), the screen saver etc.
All the ring tones such as vibrator and the miscellaneous mode are hidden here as well. The five setting of the equalizer operating during the talk are noteworthy here. These settings appeared due to the ARM-Kodak. The problem here is that the operator has to support this function; I did not succeed in my attempts to alter the settings and to hear the difference-the sound remained the same in the speaker.
All the profiles of the phone have the firmly distinguished implications for every one of the parameters and they can be freely changed only in the Personal profile. This means that there is only one profile in the phone since there is no flexibility of its settings.
Multimedia. There are several functions in this menu; we shall look at them in order.
Picture Album. This is the pictures’ list, there are quiet a few of them, they are primarily of children and animals. All the pictures are in the jpg format, which is supported by the phone. You can vision the activated picture; choose one of the images for the wallpaper at the stand by mode. It is easy enough to design the screen saver out of one picture or a sequence of them. The two latter operations can be completed using the services’ menu. In the same list, you can look for the icons used to create the EMS messages.
Sound Album. The various melodies and the type recorder footages are kept here. The latter ones can be used as the ring tones or the memos.
Sound recorder. You can save a different number of recordings in the phone’s memory (up to twenty); the type recorder works in the stand-by mode as well as during the talk (recording both subscribers). The length of the recording depends on the phone’s memory available, although it cannot exceed one minute.
Memory counter. The available memory capacity is displayed by the memory counter in a very convenient way of percentage memory distribution between different commands. Besides, if you choose an attachment you can view the number of files and their overall quantity. This detailed information is very valuable for those who like keeping the track of what is kept and where it is hiding. The overall memory capacity in the phone is 7605 Kb. The originally offered files take approximately 450Kb.
Games and attachments. A range of practical functions is kept in this menu, for example, an alarm clock. You can set it for a single, an everyday or a “business days” only tone.
The calculator is rather simple, without any particularities.
The “Brick game”, is very simple and is the only not Java-game in the phone.
The phone recognizes Java-attachments (MIDP 1.0) that offer a number of games, for example the helicopter battle and a very cute logical game in which you have to make a line out of three similar pictures.
Organiser. As it is derived from the title, the organizer is hiding here. You can check out the calendar for a month or for a week here. When you look up for a month calendar, all the days marked for the events are highlighted. Similarly, in the week calendar every day is separate with the icon of the event clipped at the side. An appointment, a fun and a business event are the three types of the events you can choose from. You can set the starting and the ending time of the event, the events can be repetitive (in days, weeks, months, and years). The alarm for the event is also set then. The only disturbing factor is that once the alarm goes off, the confirmation is necessary, which might bother you at times. You can then delete the old events at once. Taken as a whole, the organizer is satisfactory, but no more than that. The organizer and the phone book dynamically share the phone’s memory capacity. The unexpected surprise is the limited up to 499 files phone book and only in case when there are no files at all in the organizer. The overall number of files for both the phone book and the organizer is restricted to 499.
Call list. The track of all the calls-the missed, the received or the tried on ones is kept here. Moreover, you can obtain the date and the time of each if needed. The list is available for up to thirty files, you can access it from the stand by mode by tilting the joystick up. You can use the names from this list the same way you use them in the phone book (messages, the preview of the details, etc.). The outgoing calls for the same number do not sum up, they line up one after another, which some of the users do not find convenient.
Operator Services. You can access the wap-browser from this menu. With the GPRS (4+2) support there are no particularities here; everything works well.
Camera (for the 755 and 759 models only). The phone is equipped with the integrated VGA camera (that is similar to the one in Philips 855); the interface of this camera has gone through a number of alteration and several new possibilities were added. The supported camera resolutions are called VGA, Wallpaper, CLIP, Fotocall. A certain advantage of these titles is that now the user can immediately see how he/she can use the obtained picture. As usual, three different dimension types of the JPEG files and the qualities of the pictures respectively are available (low, middle and high). While shooting, you may first set this or that frame, although you can do it later with the help of the built-in image editor. The image editor does not only allow you to apply the frame, but to also add to the image the simple pictures out of the set and to conduct different operations with separate parts of the picture. The image editor function would be appealing for the younger users of this model.
The user may also apply various effects to the pictures (Grey, Sepia, Digital, Embossed, Negative, Edge, Edge2).
There is also a night mode; when using it the picture does not always come out fine. The shooting should be done in the automatic mode that normally stands for the better quality. There traditionally is a timer for the self-pictures; here it can also work if the phone is closed.
There is no function of video making in this phone, however there is some intermediate solution. You can take a picture and immediately record up to thirty seconds of a sound and then send it all together along with the messages. It is not very clear how necessary this function is.
When the connection is concerned, the phone works well and there are no problems with it; it provides a stable connection. The “but” here is that during talk there is always some alien minor noise in the speaker. The similar noises are common for many of the Samsung models, so it should not be concluded that this side of the story is that crucial. However, before purchasing the phone, you should study it thoroughly and try to call to some other phone from it
The volume of the polyphonic ring is moderate. On the other hand, the range of different melodies is nice. You would normally hear the phone outdoors, although if you put it into the inside pocket of your jeans or coat, you should turn on the vibrator. The profile of the vibrator here is such that you can recognize it by the minor pounding. I would not say that the vibrator’s power is outstandingly high, but you can easily feel it.
When judging the main features, these models do not greatly vary from the Philips phones; they are all typical for their class. The touchscreen renders the phones unique for the market and they become much more functional. This is the first time in my practice when the Philips company made such technological move and offered something entirely new and, most of all, interesting, to the market. We should not foretell the ultimate success for the phones since in some way the decision to equip the phone with the sensor display is minor and will mostly attract younger people. However, this is exactly the segment the company is working on. By the way, Philips was the first manufacturer to realize that the younger ones will make the generation in the nearest future to incite the major sales in the dominant countries.
The touchscreen naturally raises the value of the phone. Thus, the price for the “younger” model would start at 230 dollars in the fall, while the “older” one would cost starting 300. We should anticipate the appearance of these phones no sooner than in September. The lack of the similar phones taken into account, we can say for sure that these models will acquaint a decent number of fans and will become pretty popular. The only truth is, however, that these phones will not prevail on the market entirely due to the overall situation of the Philips Company on the market of the mobile phones-it is not as widely known as some other manufacturers. However, everything might change with the appearance of these models…who knows?
Published 07 July 2004
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