Bottom line: the SMT5600 is a great device, but it's not exactly a replacement for a full-function PDA, so I'm sending it back.
There are already lots of reviews of what the phone looks like and how it works, so this won't necessarily be a complete review of every aspect of the SMT5600. Instead, it'll hit what I think are the high and low points. Microsoft has been positioning Windows Mobile smartphones as "phone-plus" devices that combine solid phone functionality with mobile messaging and the ability to run various applications (both productivity apps like Outlook and line-of-business applications).
First, the gross physical attributes. The case feels solid, with no flex. The phone is relatively small and light (I'll post a picture of it next to the Treo 650 and my trusty Kyocera 7135), and it fits comfortably in a shirt or trousers pocket. One of the first things people say when they see the 5600 for the first time is "wow, what a great screen!" The screen is large, clear, and very sharp. The keypad has a nice crisp feel. I never really got used to the 5-way rocker pad; I found it too easy to accidentally press it to the left when I was trying to click it down.
Phone: the SMT5600 worked very well as a phone. Audio was clear and crisp, and the speakerphone had adequate volume for use around my (noisy, child-filled) house. Address book/phone integration is good; the 5600 includes a Photo Contacts app that lets you take or import pictures and add them to the contact so they'll be displayed for incoming calls. This was a nice touch. One useful feature: as you dial, the phone app will display contacts whose phone numbers match what you're typing-- if you type "800 325" it'll jump to the first contact with those numbers (in my case, Delta Airlines). While you're in a call, you can easily switch to other apps, and there are dedicated buttons for viewing your calendar or the contact data for the person you're talking to.
Windows Mobile: this was my first real experience with a Windows Mobile device. I was very impressed; it was stable and easy to use (not to mention being very familiar-looking). The bundled applications all worked well, and I found Windows Media 10 Mobile Edition to be a very nice addition. If I didn't already use an iPod, this would be a neat way to listen to music, and with WMP10 on the desktop you can transcode video to watch on the phone. This is a great app for commuters and others who have disposable time to watch mobile video.
Messaging: what can I say? I had no trouble using OMA or Exchange ActiveSync with this phone, and this was one of its best features. When Always-Up-To-Date is properly configured, you have essentially always-on email in what looks like an ordinary cell phone. The included MSN Messenger client was also very useful, although pecking in a complex Passport password on the keypad gets old pretty fast. In fact, I quickly found that the utility of always having my mail was diminished by having to use a 0-9 keypad to answer it. The SMT5600 includes the Tegic T9 text input system, which worked pretty well, but it's no substitute for either a QWERTY keyboard or pen text input.
Synchronization: I had a few minor problems with ActiveSync on the desktop, but those were easy to resolve. Over-the-air sync with EAS worked well, and I like the ability to choose what gets synced over the air and what gets synced over the wire-- the Treo 650 forces you to sync mail and calendar data or nothing at all. I also tried using PocketMac Phone Edition to sync the 5600 to my Mac OS X desktop running Entourage. BIG mistake. PocketMac is unstable and buggy; their technical support is slow (when they respond at all), and the software doesn't do what it claims. Avoid.
Bluetooth: I used a Jabra FreeSpeak 250 headset, which I quickly grew to love. The SMT5600 paired with it immediately, and I could initiate and answer calls with it (although I never got voice tag recording to work properly). I didn't test using the phone as a laptop modem via Bluetooth, nor did I test other Bluetooth devices like the Pharos GPS module that i use with Streets and Trips. (I did put Pocket Streets and Trips on it-- pretty darn cool!)
Other: the included camera is nothing to write home about; it does a serviceable job, and the included camcorder app works well enough for casual use. Battery life has been excellent, although I haven't spent that much time talking on it.
Bugs and annoyances: sure, there were a few, but nothing major. Frequently, the SMT5600 would decide that an appointment was an all-day event, so it would start alarming me at 0830. If you use the keylock function (which you really need, since this isn't a clamshell phone), you can't answer or make calls with a Bluetooth headset. For some reason, the phone wouldn't auto-set the time from the AT&T network. The phone app doesn't like dialing numbers with slashes (425/818-0484 would only dial "425"), so I had to go through and reformat most of my phone numbers. These are all minor problems, though; overall, the device was as stable and reliable as other phone-only devices I've used.
One odd note: several other people I know who have the SMT5600 complained about radio interference. My old Motorola GSM phone would buzz my desktop speakers whenever it communicated with the cell, and its successor did the same thing in the car. However, the SMT5600 sits right between my desktop speakers and hasn't generated a grain of noise since I got it, and it's been silent in the car, too. Maybe I got a newer rev or something. (The 650, OTOH, buzzes the baby monitor all the time-- I can always predict incoming calls!)
In all, this is a very impressive device that delivers on its promises of high functionality in a small package. You can only get it for AT&T's network in the US, although if you unlock it it will work fine on T-Mobile. Cingular doesn't sell the phone in its retail stores, but Amazon still has it for a net price of $-25 for new subscribers.
Update: added some notes on the SMT5600's phone functionality that I forgot in the first draft.Posted by Paul at December 10, 2004 06:48 AM
Great review. I've had mine for about a month and love it. Don't carry my Tungsten T at all any more. The best part is having your address book in lockstep with Outlook. Couldn't get OMA to work...but I think that's a problem with out Exchange install. Overall best Windows Mobile device I've used.
Posted by: WolfeWLU at December 9, 2004 06:16 PM
Have deployed 30 plus of these units with integration to our Exchange 2003 server. All synchronizations for Outlook Email, Contacts, and calendars are working perfectly. It has had a huge impact on timely communications and plannning. Occassionally have to utitlize the resource manager to free up memory (maybe once a week). Audio quality is a little less than desireable in a noisy environment. Its definatley not Nokia audio quality. But the rest of the phones capabilities and reliabilities far outweigh the small negatives. I am battling the time advance/retard for my road warriors. The phone does not automatically adjust time based on the new timezone they enter. Looking to Audiovox for answers. Oh yea, we got the compact blue tooth qwerty keyboards working with the phones and the users love it. The need for traveling laptops will no longer be if I can come up with a solution to open attachments (word, Excel). We might be reaching to high. The SMT5600 rocks! A good solid home run.
Posted by: Darrin O'Bannon at March 15, 2005 09:47 PM