Audiovox
Great screen, terrific features all come a standard on SMT5600
By Columnist
msnbc.com
updated 1/28/2005 2:16:21 PM ET 2005-01-28T19:16:21

I’ve become kind of bored with handheld computers and PDAs recently. Office software integration is nice, but if I need to do real work, I can carry a small laptop, like the IBM X40. What I want in a handheld device is different: a world phone that I can load with my calendar and phone contacts, that lets me surf the Web, send instant messages and even play music and video clips.

I think I’ve found what I’m looking for in the Audiovox SMT5600. This is one terrific smartphone, a nearly perfect device.

This tri-band GSM world phone (850, 1800, 1900 MHz) handles data via GPRS and has a built-in VGA camera with 4x digital zoom which takes stills and videos. The SMT5600 comes with a voice recorder and speakerphone and has built-in Bluetooth wireless as well as an infrared port.

All these features are jammed into a tiny 3.6 ounce package, only 4.24 by 1.82 by 0.69 inches. What that means in real terms is that the phone can nearly be hidden in a small pocket or even your hand. Try that with any other smartphone and if you can do it, you're probably actually holding the same phone. The Audiovox phone is being marketed under different names in other countries.

The SMT5600 handles PDA functions via its Microsoft Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition for Smartphones operating system (what a horrible name) and the included Microsoft Office suite.  That’s good if you use a Windows PC or can simulate Windows on another operating system.  Not so good if that doesn’t describe you.

The rechargeable lithium battery seemed to last me nearly two days per charge, and it can be recharged using the included AC brick or while it's attached to your computer for synching via USB. My test phone came with an optional small postage stamp-sized 256 MB mini-SD card for storage of music, etc. It sits just beneath the battery, right next to the phone's SIM card.

Flawless streaming, synching
Two features really stood out on this device. For the first time, a Microsoft smartphone is capable of nearly flawless streaming of video. That’s in large part due to the software upgrade to a portable version of Media Player 10.  Instead of being able to watch only 20 to 30 seconds at a time, this new phone is capable of providing a pretty solid video stream.

Plus, the Audiovox is the fastest synching smartphone I’ve ever dealt with.  Attaching the SMT5600 to my computer for the first time, it took less than 60 seconds to download all of my contact, e-mail and calendar information to the phone. I seem to remember previous phones/PDAs taking a lot longer than that. It’s an amazing achievement, especially over a slowish, USB 1.1 connection

Everything else worked as promised too. Lately, I’ve found that voice quality has been overlooked in cell phones. A number of new phones, whether tiny or large, feature-laden or not, don’t let you hear the person on the other end clearly. And some people have complained about not being able to hear what I’m saying.  I’m happy to report that the Audiovox provides great-sounding conversations in both directions.

Of course, with a handset this tiny, it’s only natural that the keys are small and placed close together. Despite that, I found the keys weren’t too small for my fingers. I was able to navigate through all the menus with ease and made few mistakes while trying to dial numbers.  You should try to play with this handset in person to see if it works for you.

I’ve just found the SMT5600 available on Amazon.com for the bargain price of $149.99 when you sign-up for service via a company called Next Generation (AT&T). It’s also available for $349.99 without the service.  At those prices, the Audiovox smartphone should be at the top of your short list if you’re in the market. 

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