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Siemens SX1 Mobile Phone

Posted July 27, 2004 by Jayvee Fernandez

In a largely Nokia dominated market, the SX1 is unique because it's the first phone not manufactured by Nokia to run the Symbian Series 60 OS in the Asian scene. It is also unique because it's the first phone to have an eccentric side keypad with the only function buttons located on the phone's front face. The Siemens SX1 has a candy bar design and is a GSM triband device that works on 900/1800/1900 bands. Thus it should work in any country that supports GSM, though it won't take advantage of AT&T Wireless' added 850MHz band in the US (the phone will work on their 1900MHz band).

As a PDA, the handset is equipped with basic PIM functions such as contacts, to-do list, calendar, notes application, and built in voice recorder. Internet browsing through GPRS supports WAP 2.0/xHTML. The email client supports POP3, IMAP and SMTP.

As a multimedia device, the SX1 delivers much with a 640 x 480 integrated VGA camera. Video recording at 15 fps is also supported at 176 x 144 pixels (QCIF). The handset is also capable of sending multimedia messages (MMS) in pictures and video or through the image editor which comes bundled with the handset.

The SX1's direct competitors are other Symbian Series 60 phones such as the Nokia 7650, 6600 and the 3650, the latter sporting an eccentric circular keypad layout which is also found in Panasonic fashion phones. The SX1 is roughly the size and weight of the 6600 and they share a similar wide form factor. The power of the Series 60 platform is further enhanced by the SX1, bundling several proprietary multimedia and PIM apps which usually have to be purchased from third party developers.

Siemens SX1 and Nokia 6600

Above: the SX1 and the Nokia 6600

 

What does it look like?

Consumers will definitely look twice at the SX1 due to its novel design. The seven function keys (menu, two soft keys, two dedicated call buttons, shift and cancel) are located on the front face of the phone together with the 5-way d-pad. The twelve number keys are spread out evenly on the left and right sides of the phone. The prominent loudspeaker grill is located above the 176 x 220 pixel screen.

Siemens SX1
Siemens SX1

 

Flipping the phone to its right side, you'll find two dedicated buttons for taking snapshots with the 0.3 megapixel digital camera and for activating the voice recorder. The voice recorder button also doubles as the hands free activation when in a call. The MMC slot is located on the left side. SD cards are not supported, but you can hot-swap MMC cards.

The 0.3 megapixel camera lens is located on the back, on the upper left side. The IR port is located opposite the camera on the top side of the phone.

Inside the Box

Upon opening the box, I was greeted by the SX1 handset, a Lithium Polymer battery, standard wall charger, user guide, marketing photos, and the CD with product demo, interactive help guide and additional applications.

 

 

 

 

 

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Bundled Applications

It is important to note that all Symbian Series 60 phones have the standard set of applications bundled with the OS. The calendar, to-do list, contacts, video recorder, and BT, IrDA and connectivity functions are all found in the Nokia 3650/7650 and 6600. The same applications are found in the Siemens SX1, with slight modifications and additions:

PIM Apps

Today - A summary of the list of tasks, messages and appointments is given on screen. It is very similar to the Today screen on Windows Mobile devices. You can customize the main function buttons to display the Today screen. From there you can view the day's summary of appointments and tasks as well as compose messages.

World Clock - Very similar to the 'world time' of the popular World Mate application for Palm, Pocket PC and Symbian which displays four different time zones apart from home time.

File Manager - A file directory browser which usually has to be bought separately for the Symbian OS. This proprietary version allows users to move files, create directories and transfer specific items via Bluetooth, IrDA or through E-mail via GPRS.

Multimedia Apps

MP3 Jukebox - The MP3 jukebox searches for MP3 files stored in internal memory and in the removable MMC card. Playing MP3 files using the phone's natural loudspeaker delivers a powerful audio experience. Bitrates of 64kbps play satisfactory especially with the headset. Siemens has their own proprietary connector for the headset which is sold separately. This means you can't use universal headsets sold elsewhere.

Radio - The FM radio can be configured manually or for frequency auto search. The frequency range is from 87.5 - 108 MHz with six customizable station keys. The radio will only work with the handsfree provided by Siemens which also doubles as an antenna. This accessory is sold separately.

Snap Shot - This is the camera application which allows for standard shots, small portrait shots and landscape view. Images can be saved to an MMC card or to the phone's internal memory, and can be edited using the Image Fun application. The quality of images is a lot better than early Nokia counterparts since the bluish haze has been fixed. These Images aren't very crisp but are colorful. The built-in camera can take shots at resolutions from 160x120 to 640x480 in standard mode. The camera has a light sensitivity of > 30 lux and focuses from 30 cm to infinity. It has a 24 bit color depth.

Image Fun - After taking photos with the built in camera, you can use the Image Fun application to edit photos to add distortion, haze as well as borders and text which can be sent wirelessly through Bluetooth, MMS and IrDA. Edited images are saved as separate files so users can always go back to the original pictures if they wish to edit them again.

Other Applications - The SX1 comes with several games and the ability to run J2ME applications. The most innovative game bundled with the SX1 makes use of the camera function: it uses the camera viewfinder window as the gaming screen, and animated mosquitoes fly around. The objective is to move the camera about and shoot the insects when you position them on the target reticule.

Wireless Voice, Data and Connectivity

The SX1 is a tri-band world phone, supporting 900/1800/1900MHz bands. It is compatible with the US, Europe and Asia (except Japan). The natural loudspeaker delivers a powerful and clear audio which can be adjusted to fit the desired hearing volume.

For data connectivity, the SX1 has an internal modem capable of speeds up to 53.6 kbps. It sports GPRS class 10 and class 2 fax services.

The SX1 has both Bluetooth and IrDA, and sending files is a breeze thanks to the simplicity of the Symbian Series 60 platform. In addition you can use Bluetooth headsets with the Siemens.

Power and Expansion

The SX1 is powered by an OMAP processor at 130MHz. This is the fastest Series 60 smartphone with a 0.3MP VGA camera. It is good to note that the Nokia smartphones on the other side of the fence are powered by ARM processors, albeit with 109MHz of processing power. The volatile 4MB of internal memory can be increased through MMC expansion and be used to save images, video, contacts, multimedia messages and short messages.

With a Lithium Polymer 1000mAh user replaceable battery, charging time from empty to full takes less than three hours. Talk time with the standard battery is less than four hours and standby time less than 200 hours. I found that with moderate usage, the battery lasts a day and a half. Heavy usage however drains the battery in eight to twelve hours.

The SX1 is the first Symbian phone to support hot swapping of memory cards (a standard feature for Palm OS and Pocket PC devices). The slot is only compatible with MMC cards, and SD cards won't work (the same can be said for Nokia Series 60 phones). The OS gives a warning message when you swap cards saying that to prevent data loss, you must first stop running applications that are accessing the card. The phone stops running apps for you when you choose this option from the settings menu.

Below, sample photos shot at 640 x 480.

sample

 

sample2

Click on an image to see the full size image.

Synchronization

After connecting the SX1 to my desktop computer and installing PC Suite, I noticed that synchronization of contacts and appointments was rather slow despite the USB connection. An alternative is to try to synchronize using Bluetooth which I did via the Billionton BT USB Adapter.

What's great about the sync software is that it allows you to easily organize multimedia files, which was a pain to do in the older versions of the desktop software.

What's good about the SX1

Bundled software is always a plus for me. For the record, all Nokia Series 60 phone models do not come with a file explorer, mp3 jukebox, radio application and an enhanced organizer with Today screen. The front speaker is also very audible and the camera set at 640x480 still delivers colorful images, unlike the 3650 whose photos have a bluish haze. The hot-swap MMC slot also adds a tinge of convenience since you don't need to open the unit and remove the battery to get to the expansion card, as with Series 60 Nokias (other than the N-Gage QD).

What needs to be improved

Obviously the overall design turns me off. Having the keypads on both sides of the phone doesn't allow you to make use of it with one hand. Battery life need some work. Even though it has a 1000mAh battery, it doesn't compare well with the Nokias. The camera has no night mode. It is also a bit overpriced, and is more expensive than the Nokia 6600. It is only available in one color, "Ice Blue."

Conclusion

If you are looking for a phone that runs on the Series 60 platform that is packed with features and don't care much about the design, then this is the phone for you. Though battery life is on the weak side, Siemens compensates with a rich multimedia experience, booming audio and a good camera that rivals other smartphones on the market.

Web site: www.my-siemens.com/sx1

Price: ~$500 US unlocked. Available from importers and phone retailers such as www.expansys.com and www.just-talk.com.

 

Specs:

Display: Hi Res 16 Bit 64k Colors at 176 x 220 pixels.

Battery: Lithium Ion rechargeable user replaceable at 1000 mAh.

Performance: TI OMAP 310 at 130MHz with 4MB of volatile memory (RAM).

Size: 109 x 56 x 19 mm, 116 grams.

Audio: Built in speaker with digital voice recorder. Music player supports MP3 format. FM Radio built in with frequency range from 20Hz - 20 kHz. Power output at 2 x 7.5 mW.

Networking: Bluetooth 1.1, IrDA.

Camera: Camera resolution at VGA 0.3 megapixels at 640 x 480 and 160 x 120 resolution with 24bit color depth. Video: Real Player bundled with phone. Formats supported are MPEG4, H.263, Real Audio, Real Video and AMR. Video capture resolution at 176 x 144 at 15 fps

Software: Symbian Series 60 OS. Java support. WAP browsers, Messaging application for email, Organizer functions with Today screen, Synchronization with MS Outlook 97, 98, 2000. Synchronization with PC via Bluetooth, IrDA and SyncML 1.0.1.

Expansion: 1 MMC (MultiMedia Card) slot (doesn't support SD cards).

Mobile Phone Network: GSM triband world phone (900/1800/1900MHz). GPRS class 10 for data.

 

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