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Last Updated: Friday, 22 October, 2004, 11:23 GMT 12:23 UK
Handy smartphone packs a punch
By Alfred Hermida
BBC News Online technology editor

Smartphones, which are more like pocket-sized computers than phones, have a reputation for being on the chunky side.

Orange SPV C500
The C500 is the size of an average mobile phone
They have tended to stand out not so much because of their wealth of functions, but because of their size.

Initial devices were bulky and suffered from poor battery life.

But the latest incarnation of the SPV from Orange, the C500, challenges these preconceptions.

The mobile phone network operator is touting the devices as the world's smallest smartphone.

The C500 is far smaller than previous devices, looking more like your average mobile phone.

The design may not win awards for style, but its boxy look packs a handheld computer in a handset that fits in the palm of the hand.

Bundled software

The C500 has much to offer. It comes with a big, bright screen and anyone familiar with Windows will feel at home with the Microsoft operating system.

This is an advantage if you regularly use a Windows PC, as it is easy to sync the phone with Outlook and transfer your contacts, e-mails and appointments.

Orange SPV C500 screen
The smartphone has a big and bright colour screen
You can also use it as a digital music player as the phone will play both MP3 and Windows media files.

The bundled software also includes some goodies such as a file manager and programs to stop tasks running in the background or clear some space.

The phone comes with trial versions of programs designed to show off the functions of the handset.

One program called ClearVue Suite lets you view Powerpoint presentation or Excel spreadsheets on the handset's screen.

Another is an interactive London underground map, which offers a complete map of the Tube, as well as a way to plan the quickest route to and from any station.

Sluggish feel

Finding your way around the C500 is much more straightforward than tackling the Tube.

The menu works much like on a Windows PC. Essentially you get a list of the programs available and move up or down using a middle scroll button, instead of the joystick used in earlier SPV models.

Orange SPV C500
Size: 108 x 46 x 16mm
Weight: 100g
Triband: 900, 1800, 1900
Memory: 65Mb
Battery: Four days standby time, eight hours talktime
Screen: 65,000 TFT display
Windows Mobile 2003 operating system
Bluetooth and infrared
It is an ingenious solution to the problem of moving around the screen, but it is also one of the weaker aspects of the phone.

The control button can at times be sluggish and takes some time to get used to.

It is just one of the compromises due to the size of the device

Earlier SPVs had a side slot for a MMC or SD memory card. On the C500, the format of the card has changed to mini-SD cards.

But more importantly, the slot lies behind the battery, which means you have to turn off the phone to swap cards.

The result is an awkward design that lets down the C500.

But this is a minor gripe. With improved battery life and call quality, the C500 could be the smartphone that persuades many to switch.

What sets it apart is not so much its looks, but rather the power of a mobile this small.

The shape disguises a handheld computer and reflects how far researchers have come in shrinking computer technology.

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