Symbian and Windows Mobile champions head to head

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Steve Litchfield takes the opportunity to directly compare two champions from the smartphone world....

Spending time locked away in the world of Symbian, it's very easy to lose track of how things are progressing in the wider world of mobile computing. In the past two years, we've seen Palm OS stagnate and eventually get bought up, with Palm themselves bringing out a Windows device, based on the (mainly) new Windows Mobile 5, a definite improvement on what went before. But how does a current top-of-the-range Windows Mobile smartphone compare to one from the familiar Symbian world? Having both Nokia N70 and Orange SPV C600 on long term loan for work on my Smartphones Show, I thought it would be instructive to put them directly head-to-head. It's always tricky pitching devices from different operating system worlds against each other, but these two are as closely matched in terms of form factor, purpose and price, as you're likely to find anywhere.

So here we go then, aspect by aspect, with comments. Is the Symbian-powered N70 superior, or have we all had our heads stuck in the sand for the last couple of years?


Nokia N70

Orange SPV C600

  N70 C600
Form factor

126g, slightly wider in the hand

105g, slightly narrower and definitely smaller in the hand


Plenty of RAM (for once, on a S60 device), typically at least 20MB free

Plenty of RAM (as always on Windows Mobile devices)


Simple and effective, via pressing and holding the main Menu button

Good, though there's no keyboard shortcut to the built-in Task Manager utility

Office software

Quickoffice (viewers, i.e. read only)

None, you'd have to add ClearVue Office, at $25

PIM sync

Full PIM sync from Outlook, although no category support in any application

PIM sync, with categories, but no Notes application for entering new text or seeing Outlook text info

Still image capture

High quality 2 megapixel camera

Lower quality 1.3 megapixel camera

Video capture

352 by 288 pixel, 15fps video ('near VHS'), looks jittery but acceptable on a PC or TV

176 by 144 pixel video, MMS-quality only

Web browsing

Clunky Web application, though Opera and Opera Mini are also available.

Pocket Internet Explorer is actually very good, I've been impressed, with three sensible browsing modes (One column/Default/Desktop) and good handling of even complex pages.


3G voice and data, with front VGA cam for video calls

No 3G

Today screen

Active standby shows static shortcuts plus upcoming Calendar appointments

Microsoft's pioneering Today screen shows dynamic summary of last used applications, plus appointments


Pop-port for USB connectvity plus stereo audio out

Standard mini-USB port, plus semi-standard 2.5mm jack



Infrared port on top, handy for beaming and receiving stuff from older PDAs and phones


Symbian OS very stable, although network operator additions and third party software can cause problems sometimes

Also stable, with the same third party software caveat. Not crashed in two months of occasional use.


Marginally quicker, although I'll concede that I'm more used to finding my way around a S60 device

Most operations pretty quick, although the application launching system is more inflexible. Interface seems generally less mature than S60 v2 FP3, used in the N70

Text input and editing

Much better text editing keys/usability (e.g. Copy/Paste/Cut available almost everywhere)

More limited text entry, although the T9 system has full word prediction and acceptance

Expansion card

Hot swappable MMC Mobile, just take out the card and pop a new one in (e.g. for more music or movies)

Mini-SD card buried underneath the battery, have to power down, swap card and then boot up from scratch. Major, major hassle.

Music formats supported

MP3/AAC, fine for occasional use. No support for the more efficient Ogg or WMA formats

MP3/WMA, the latter being a real boon as it's very efficient and also syncs well with Media Player on the desktop

Third party software

Good selection, most (but not all) S60 software runs fine

Similar third party software scene in terms of applications and games available


From Free with a £20 a month contract

From Free with a £20 a month contract

My verdict? Maybe the WMA and PIM category support, better web browsing and infrared are clinchers for you, in going for the SPV C600? For me, the Nokia N70 definitely has the edge overall, with its far higher spec camera, text editing benefits and hot swap expansion card. No doubt you'll have been making up your own mind as you've read down the table. Comments welcome!