Spice Telecom recently launched around 15 new mobile phones in the city, ranging from ultra low end, black-and-white phones to high-end touch-screen smartphones. We'll be taking a look at some of the interesting phones they've launched, starting with the Spice Edge S-1000.
The Spice Edge S-1000 is the highest end, most expensive model that Spice Mobile has in its range. It is a touch screen smartphone running Windows Mobile 5.0. Ironically, the Spice Edge doesn't support EDGE network technology (Enhanced Data rate for GSM Evolution, 2.75G), the successor to GPRS (2.5G). It only does quad-band GSM and GPRS. We asked them why the Spice Edge doesn't support EDGE, and they said it's not about that specific technology, but rather it's meant to imply the 'cutting-edge' features of the phone. Almost all new phones launched recently at 3GSM support HSDPA (3.5G), while several phones in the local market are already UMTS/3G ready. After this you bring an EDGE-less phone to the market and call it 'cutting-edge'? I would shoot my marketing department if they even suggested such a branding campaign for a product like this!
Anyway, let's move on to the review.
The phone does appear a bit bulky and heavy, but it won't stick out like a sore thumb in the hands of a businessman dressed in a suit, who would otherwise typically be carrying a BlackBerry. The phone is pretty smart looking, and though the shape won't win it any merit, the choice of using a brushed metal finish on the surface of the phone gives it that elevated status.
The phone has a large, 2.8-inch, 65k color QVGA display that's quite bright and doesn't go blank when you take it out in sunlight. The screen is touch sensitive and the phone also comes with a stylus placed on the rear. The screen was calibrated perfectly out of the box and it was effortlessly usable both with the stylus as well as the fingers.
Below the screen is a numeric keypad with a few oddities. First of all, some of the buttons are too small, making them difficult to click considering the size and weight of the phone. Then, the 5-way navigation joystick is set into the middle of the 2 and 5 keys, which is one thing that will take a lot of getting used to. Not to simply use the joystick, but to NOT use it when you're in the middle of writing a text message. The click of the joystick is also quite sensitive, so it's guaranteed that you WILL end up clicking the stick at least once during an SMS. The keypad has the normal set of keys and also a 'modus' key that lets you cycle through a list of 'favorite' applications. It's like a shortcut key, with an Alt-Tab like interface. The phone doesn't have a QWERTY keypad, so the only input methods available are touch-screen/stylus and T9 using the numeric keypad.
On the right side, you'll find an unusual 'Hold' key that looks the keypad, which is more common among portable media players and Walkmans. But it's an interesting idea because it is so much more effective than a combination to lock the keypad. Just a flick of the key and the keypad is locked. A lot easier than struggling with keys placed far away from each other to activate the lock.
On the rear of the phone, you can see the camera lens, an LED flash, a loudspeaker and a 'Powered by ASUS' logo next to it. The Spice Edge S-1000 is actually a re-branded Asus P525 smartphone. Nothing has been changed in the phone - when you start it up, you get the Asus logo splash screen and the interface also has Asus Today and other specific stuff.
Below the phone, you get a standard mini-USB slot and a standard 2.5mm stereo headphone/headset jack.
The S-1000 sports a 416MHz Xscale CPU with the usual 128MB ROM and 64MB RAM combination. The phone also supports miniSD cards for expansion of memory.
As mentioned before, the phone runs Windows Mobile 5.0 with it's standard set of applications (mobile versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Internet Explorer, Windows Media Player etc.) along with Skype and Asus-specific stuff such as Asus Status, which is a hardware monitoring/tweaking application that let's you throttle CPU speeds to maximise performance or battery life, letting you choose between turbo, standard and power-saving options. Performance of the device was mostly snappy when not too many applications are running, but when that count goes up, expect to see the multi-colored circle a lot more often.
The phone only supports quad-band GSM and GPRS support with no sign of EDGE connectivity, let alone 3G/UMTS. I've voiced my concern quite articulately in the first paragraph, so I won't talk much about it here.
The mini-USB slot on the phone is useful not only to recharge the phone without a mains charger, but also to use the phone as a standard mass storage device into which you can drag and drop your files without requiring ActiveSync. Of course, ActiveSync is also available to perform PIM synchronisation with the PC. The only problem here is that USB is limited to slow 1.1.
The phone comes with Bluetooth 2.0, along with A2DP support. There's also WiFi 802.11b/g support. Some online sources have stated that this phone also supports 802.11n, which would actually live up to the whole 'cutting-edge' theory of the phone, but we seriously doubt that we're holding in our hands a mobile phone that supports the latest, unreleased, draft specification of WiFi 802.11n. Seriously.
The phone also supports Infrared.
Very little to talk about here, being a standard Windows Mobile phone with Windows Media Player provided. MP3s and WMAs work. MP3s can be set as ringtones. 3GP videos can be played back, but they don't playback in full screen mode, not unless you use some third party apps. The speaker on the rear is fairly loud, but not as loud as some of the other Nokia phones out there. Considering this is a business phone, the ability to play videos in full screen mode with adequate volume of the speaker is important. What if the projector doesn't work and you need to show a video presentation?
As mentioned before, the phone has a standard 2.5mm stereo jack. With a 2.5mm to 3.5mm converter/adapter, you can plug in any headphones you want. Since A2DP support is present, you can also use wireless stereo headphones with it.
There is no FM radio tuner in the phone.
The camera on the S-1000 is a 2 megapixel sensor with auto-focus support. The quality of the pictures is not really good. There's some decent focussing around the center of the picture, but the rest of the picture is entirely out of focus and blurred.
All pictures tend to have a blueish tinge. Even the green looks blueish.
The phone has a macro mode, but it just wasn't able to focus right on our cruiser bike.
The phone also includes a business card scanning feature. You can take photos of a business card and run the recognition app on it. If it's a normal business card, the app gets the bulk of the details from the card into the phone's contact list including name, email address, phone, address and even designation. It's quite cool, though you will need to edit it and remove some special characters that creep in.
With WiFi and Bluetooth off when not in use, the phone lasts around 3 days with a moderate amount of calls (around half an hour a day). With a good amount of WiFi activity, the phone was out in just a little over a day, or at maximum, 2. The phone supports recharging via USB, so you can recharge the phone anywhere you can find a computer or a laptop. Three days is fair enough for a smartphone with these features. The only problem here is that the phone takes too long to recharge. Even an hour after recharging a fully drained battery, unplugging the USB cord will give you the "Main battery low" message.
The Spice Edge S-1000 is a capable smartphone with almost all features in place, but the fact that it doesn't support EDGE will lead to slow web browsing speeds and the lack of a full QWERTY keypad will lead to frustrating messaging and email sessions for business users who would prefer a keyboard to T9. But if these things don't bother you too much, why would you want to spend Rs. 30,000 on a phone?
On the other hand, the S-1000 is the only Windows Mobile phone with a large touch-screen and a numeric keypad. The other offerings from O2, i-mate and Dopod are cheap (and some of them have EDGE also, snicker) but they are fully touch screen phones with no keypad. If you don't mind direct screen entry using the on-screen keyboard and numeric keypad, look at the O2 XDA Atom, the i-mate JAM/JAMin or the Dopod D600.
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