Riding high on the success of the SL45i and with green eyes cast at the Sony Ericsson P900 and the Nokia 6600, German phone manufacturer Siemens wades into the next round of the ‘super-phone' fray with their new SX1.
Never one to boast, Siemens breathlessly announced that the SX1 has the most powerful suite of features for a device of its size in today's market and it's easy to see why. The device combines about every feature imaginable short of browning muffins and getting the kids to school.
The sleek handset contains not just FM-radio but also MP3 playback, and stills and video camera option, the latter shooting at a respectable 15 FPS. These come with an impressive collection of daft applications to manipulate the images once captured or recorded. Naturally you can send both types of images to compatible handsets via MMS and there's even an expansion slot for the MultiMedia card in the side to increase the internal 4MB memory if you want to become the mobile Cecil B. DeMille. A nice point to note for those who like to share their noise, is the newly created ‘Natural Speaker' system that will let you play music and audio from video clips at a audible volume without the encumbrance of the headset.
The screen is 176x220 pixels in size and uses the new generation of bright TFT 65,000 colours displays bringing clarity to the once benighted menus that would dog the user in bright light. Siemens are the first to admit though that this big screen does drain the 200-hour standby time if the battery if used excessively. The antenna is internal as not to spoil the shape and in what can only be described as a moment of Nokia-style lunacy the keyboard had been divided and spread into two columns down either side of the screen.
This design revolution might make the phone look futuristic but whether it's a combination of the bevel on the keys, the blue back light to the numbers or just that an old dog really cannot learn where the letter ‘T' has moved to, it's a bugger to use. A handset that boasts this many applications and is still reliant ton getting text into the phone via the keyboard, unlike the P900, is surely making a rod for it's own back. That said the SX1 does support ‘Mobile Accessibility' software created by Swiss company SVOX (www.mobileaccessibility.com) that will let the visually impaired enjoy the phones functions so it's not all bad.
When not tilting the handset from left to right and wondering where familiar letters have vanished to, the connectivity is excellent. For the traditionalists who want to simply make phone calls, remember those, there SX1 support the standard 3 network frequencies. You also get Bluetooth and sync capabilities, both via cable and wirelessly. The phones technology platform is the open-source Symbian system and the applications and interface uses a customised version of Nokia's Series 60 (JAVA J2ME). It's refreshing to see European phone manufactures sharing technology so the market is spared yet another proprietary mobile technology which will go the way of the Dodo before this country gets to win another international sporting event. The real advantages with development of this nature is that you're spoilt by loads of different developers creating applications and products to go onto your phone without the stranglehold of a software multinational spoiling everyone's fun. Will Mr Gates please take a bow!
Overall it's a nice phone, it looks good, the functions are well thought out and the applications are second to none. Which begs the question, why the unusual keyboard construction. All I can say is that give me 5 minutes with the chief designer in a darkened room and this would be the last time such silliness would get to spoil what is otherwise a fantastic product.