T-Mobile SDA mobile phone review

The SDA from T-Mobile is one of three smartphones on the network, all running on the Microsoft Windows Mobile operating system. The music version (with dedicated MP3 buttons) and the MDA (a mini version) are the other two models.

Before you start getting elements of deja vu this model is by no means a new phone - it’s basically a repackaged version of the Orange SPV, made by HTC.

So why should you pick this phone over any other smart phone? I have to say, unfortunately I can’t think of a single reason.

The Windows Mobile environment is, in essence, a scaled down version of the PC system, with all the various hiccups and bugs that can be associated with it. In the one week I had the phone it froze twice and rebooted of its own accord once - hardly a promising start.

Navigating through the myriad menus and options was a bit daunting at first as some menus have as many as three different screens full of options to scroll through. They do provide keypad shortcuts for many of them though, so with the familiarity that comes with time and practice you can find your way round a bit quicker.

There’s so much here than I feel Microsoft have tried to cram in as much as they can - there’s countless ways you can personalise your phone but this comes at the expense of actual performance. A truly awful selection of “musical” ringtones is just one example.

Aimed at the business user, the phone offers pocket versions of Microsoft's most popular software like Word and Excel. Pocket Outlook was fine, however the GRPS connection speed compared to 3G is so slow it’s like going back to dial-up once you’re used to broadband.

Setting up a new email account and navigating your way through the messaging suite was infuriating. Hitting the back button more often that not had me running in circles and switching from SMS to email or MMS was far from straightforward. There’s no elegance to the whole package and to be honest it left me cold.

One redeeming feature was the Microsoft Activesync software. This made synchronising with my PC a doddle, and in no time all my contacts and appointments were installed. It also loaded onto the phone all my Outlook email folders (including archives). You can select how far back you want Activesync to go in order to save disk space on the phone. The Bluetooth connection was also better than I’ve experienced with other phones.

In the age of megapixel camera phones the SDA is left seriously lacking in the imaging department. The various different shooting modes and digital effects would be much better suited to a higher quality camera. Although if all you want is phone-based snaps then it’s more than up to the job.

As a media player I found it lacking, although 64mb of internal memory is a step in the right direction and one that other manufacturers would benefit from following. I’m hoping that the music version of the phone is better in this area.

Handling the phone was a little on the fiddly side: the buttons are small and shiny, so any speed-texters out there might find them selves slipping and sliding about and keying in even more unintelligible nonsense than usual. One odd thing is that there’s a whole button, all to itself, dedicated to the T-mobile website. On a keypad this limited for space I think this is a little self-indulgent.

Verdict

There's nothing really wrong with the SDA (minor software grumbles aside). However, quite frankly it's a small, slightly outdated fish in an ever-expanding pond full of sharks. The overall shininess of the phone looked great when it came out of the box, but once it had been manhandled a bit it started to look a little grubby and for us this tardiness sums up our feelings. Disappointing.