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“While shopping for a new phone, I came across the...”

Written on: 16/11/2002 by richx. (1 review written)

Good Points
Rounded design that doesn't get stuck in your pockets, Large LCD screen, Fast GPRS, English to Chinese dictionary, Powerful organizer with lunar dates, General purpose memory, User-updateable firmware, MIDI ringtunes

Bad Points
Stiff keypad, Easily scratched screen, Few accessories available, No polyphony ring tunes

General Comments
While shopping for a new phone, I came across the Ericsson T65, Siemens ME45, Siemens S45, and Siemens M50 after narrowing down my requirements to GPRS-enabled handsets for under US$ 184.
Between these units I ended up with the S45 because it offered the most feature for that price range, as well as the best ergonomics between the phones mentioned above.
The software user-interface (UI) is neither better nor worse than Nokia's benchmark usability with some good additions. For starts, the keypad numbers (0~9) can be assigned to commonly-used functions like compose new SMS, GPRS, SMS inbox, organizer, dictionary, WAP bookmarks, etc, instead of just quickdial numbers. If the number pad isn't enough, you can cram more shortcuts into a Favourites list. The key usage throughout the UI is consistent (Ericsson's T65 had redundant keys) with some differences in the WAP browser which I assumed was unavoidable since the browser is licensed from OpenWave.
Other than GPRS, the S45 featured a calender/organizer, alarm clock, stopwatch, countdown timer, english to chinese dictionary with both simplified and traditional chinese text, lunar to gregorian date conversion (and backwards too), games (battlemail kungfu, stack attack and baloon shooter), voice recorder, voice commands for both phone functions and phone numbers, infra-red interface, and file browser for the built-in memory complete with file viewer for bitmaps and MIDIs.
My unit being an asian unit (also know as Siemens 6618), it featured impressive support for chinese language. The menus can be viewed in traditional and simplified Chinese as well as English, and four available input methods for Chinese text (Pinyin, Bopomofo, Stroke-T, Stroke-S), as well as an impressive English to Chinese dictionary which I have yet to come across a word that I cannot find in the dictionary. The calender also offers lunar dates by pressing the asterisk* key. Gregorian to Lunar date conversion is also present, complete with the animal associated with that lunar year.
WAP over GPRS was effortless, with a time and data volume counter to help keep track of charges incurred. Multiple GPRS profiles also allows for easy switch between using the WAP browser, or downloading information to the computer thru the infra-red interface. GPRS was noticibly faster than dial-up WAP.
The most innovative part of the phone was the general memory available for use by the phone book, voice recorder, ring tunes, bitmaps, and offline SMSes. I used the software from Siemens and a USB IrDA adaptor, which allowed me to browse and manage the files on the phone through the computer easily. Automatic file format conversion was natural and intuitive, but the voice recorder to WAV conversion took a rather long time. MIDI files from the computer can be sent to the phone and used directly as a ring tune.
Total available memory is 384KB. In additional to the 10 SMS storage, you can also archive SMSes to the general purpose memory, limited only by the amount of free space you have.
The phonebook (Siemens calls it addressbook) features fields for name, company, e-mail, address, three phone numbers and a fax number. The phonebook also utilizes the general purpose memory to store up to 500 entries. However, the fact that the phone manages the SIM phonebook seperately is rather annoying because I have to look through both books to find a number sometimes.
The profiles features was rather useless, because holding down the asterisk* key also mutes the ringer (which is what I used Nokia's profiles for mostly). But I did like the call filtering feature, selectable between phonebook numbers or VIP numbers. This way only people in my phonebook or VIP list will cause the ringer/vibrator to react when they call.
The side scroll buttons were rather useless too, with their functions being replicated by the other keys. The side scroll buttons felt rather low-quality as well compared to the rest of the phone. For SMSes, the phone supports EMS, allowing maximum of 760 characters and attachment of pictures and sounds. SMSes can also be sent through GPRS (not supported by my operator, so I didn't get to test it).
Cosmetically, the rounded shape appeals to me, with no sharp edges to get caught in my pocket with. The orange illumination looked really classy against the silver casing, with a fade-out. Battery life is good, with a full charge lasting an average of 5 days. The SIM holder is a bit of a pain because it was difficult to get the SIM card out. The keypad is rather stiff, and it hurts my thumb when writing SMSes longer than 100 characters, especially when I've grown some nail. However, the keypad buttons are large enough to be pressed quickly without having to use my nails, which is more than I have to say for the Ericsson T65 and Nokia 88xx series.
Even the bundled travel charger was good. I can safely say it is the smallest charger I have seen. I have a few gripes however. The screen area is too flat and unprotected leading to it being easily scratched. When my unit received it's first scratch, I set out to find a belt case for it, which was rather hard to come by I found out. In the end I paid dearly for the original belt case for the SL45, which fits the S45 rather well too.
Overall, the S45 is a very usable and powerful phone given its pricetag that gives the Nokia 6510 and 3510 a run for their money.

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