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?
Orange SPV C600
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
Quickoffice (viewers, i.e. read only)
None, you'd have to add ClearVue Office, at $25
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
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
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
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
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!