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★★★★☆

“The Orange SPV E200 is a good phone to have if you...”

Written on: 06/07/2005 by Sony Fan (32 reviews written)

Good Points
Synchronises with Outlook
Plays MP3 and WMA audio files
Easy to use

Bad Points
Screen too small
Keys & joystick unreliable
Software crashes

General Comments
The Orange SPV E200 is a good phone to have if you like to do more than talk'n'text. It's got a whole host of features that would have been unimaginable on a phone a few years ago and it has a user interface which makes them all easy to utilise.



I chose this phone primarily because I had long wanted a PDA but was never prepared to carry one around as well as a phone. The E200 runs Windows Mobile Smartphone Edition with cut-down versions of Outlook and Windows Media Player. The main benefit of this is that you can connect the phone to a Windows PC and with the help of MS Active Sync software, synchronise data between the two and treat the Smartphone as portable storage. All the contacts I had laboriously set-up in MS Outlook on my home and work PCs were copied over automatically and every time I change a detail on my PC copy of Outlook it automatically updates the phone. This is so much easier than entering numbers, names, addresses, e-mail addresses using the phone that this feature alone makes me never want to go back to a non-Windows phone again! Secondary benefits include the fact that you have all your contact details with you, all of the time and have a back-up if your PC hard disk goes down, as mine did last year. Also, whilst you are connected to the PC's USB port the phone is charging which means having to plug it into the dedicated charger less often.



Another nice Windows feature is the Media Player which plays WMA files, as well as MP3. WMA is better at low bit rates than MP3 so you can cram more songs onto the E200's SD memory card, and since I have backed-up most of my CD collection in WMA it saved me a lot of re-ripping to get my songs onto my phone. Later Smartphones, I'm told, support WMA files with DRM and I would like to have this on the E200 but this is quite a minor niggle as there are ways around that problem.



As a personal music player it's OK, but no IPod rival. The user interface on the player is quite basic and you can't plug normal headphones into the jack. Battery life is quite short anyway so using it as a media player for more than a couple of hours is also out of the question.



Another feature that I had not seen on any other phone is the 'flight mode' which allows you to switch off the transmit and receive capabilities of the phone whilst still using it as a media player, games device, personal organiser etc. This is a good feature now, and in couple of years, when flight attendants have become familiar with it, it will be a great feature. I tried using my E200 as a media player last year on a long haul flight but actually spent more time explaining 'flight mode' to each of the 10 flight attendants (in succession) than I did listening to music so I gave up! Technology ahead of its time



The camera on the phone is easy to operate with a dedicated button on side of the phone, but most outdoor shots tend to be over-exposed and sometimes come out completely white. Video capture is better outdoors but completely useless indoors or in low light.



Sharing photos via MMS is very easy but unfortunately the screen is too small to make viewing easy. Being able to copy JPGs onto the phone with active Sync however can be very useful. On more than one occasion, before travelling I've copied over downloaded location maps of my hotel to show to non-English speaking taxi drivers and it's worked a treat!



The major gripe I have about the E200 and the reason that I'm now looking to change mine is the keypad. From day one it's annoyed me because its hard to lock and has lead to me making hundreds of spurious phone calls from my trouser pocket but more recently its become a nightmare to use because one key has become very un-responsive. On most phones this wouldn't be a problem but on this one there is a soft key next to the screen which is used by every application and is also the one which locks and unlocks the keypad. And being the most frequently used key, it is of course the most prone to wear induced failure!



The joystick too has worn out and now doesn't respond to 'up' commands. This is a shame because it makes the screen impossible to navigate so I have now stopped using many of the features and applications that make the E200 special.



Other criticisms include the time it takes to boot-up and the frequency with which the phone crashes and needs a full reset. But hey, that's Windows for you!



In summary I would say that this is a very good phone which could have been a great one if it had been better built or more thoughtfully designed. I'm absolutely sold on the smartphone concept however and I am now looking to replace it with something like the SPV M500 which has a bigger, touch-sensitive screen instead of buttons and a joystick. But the E200 will still be a tough act to follow!