Previewing the Sendo X2 Music Phone

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It's not big (but it is clever). Sendo start pushing the form factor and the price point with their second Symbian OS device, the X2 Music Phone. Ewan takes a look at where in the market it fits, and the design behind the tiny smartphone.

Sendo X2Let’s sit back in take stock of the Sendo X2 Music Phone. For all the flashiness of the press releases, and the strong competition of other Series 60 devices, I think the X2 is going to win the short-term summer battle

Firstly it’s got a strong message. This isn’t just another Series 60 phone, this one is a Music Phone. Now the purists in us all will realise that this isn’t the first Series 60 phone to play music, the N-Gage Classic made a good job of this as well (and also had a built in FM tuner), but it’s the first to be promoted this way.

Secondly, Sendo have listened to the criticism of the delays in getting the X to market, so as well as the traditional route through the Operators, the X2 will be available for purchase through the Sendo website when it’s ready. They won’t wait for an Operator to release it first. Come the summer, we’ll be able to buy it for under £150. That price point is pretty jaw dropping, and a lot of the industry watchers (and companies) took a double take at 3GSM when they heard this price.

It’s a given that it’s going to be very close to the final build cost of the unit. So why do it? Well firstly I’m guessing that even if the unit ships with a mini-SD card, you’ll have the chance to buy a high capacity one at the same time, which is where Sendo may be able to make some profit. But maybe it’s not about profit. The bottom line is going to be well catered for by the networks. What Sendo need is mind share. They’ve got a name from themselves mainly due to the legal shenanigans with Microsoft, what they need is some traction with their mobile phones.

The N-Gage classic is still a very well respected phone in hacking circles. Not because it’s a gaming phone, but because it has a huge amount of memory, it’s a USB mass storage device, and it’s generally overpowered for its low price point. Someone in Sendo has decided that now the N-Gage classic is getting really hard to find that the Sendo X2 is going to fill that gap. And once you get a certain amount of power users on board and spreading the word, the increased profile is worth much more than selling the unit with little margin.

The phone itself is remarkable in the fact that it’s unremarkable. The X had this as well when I had it with me on a trip to the USA. You can spot a Nokia smartphone from miles away, but the X was always mistaken for the SE T610. The X2 again just looks like a phone. Nothing special, it’s what’s under the hood that counts.

My biggest complaint about the X has been corrected in the X2, and that’s the cursor/enter pad. The X had a nice design that just didn’t really sit well with my thumb. Well the X2 has replaced this with a square pad, raised in the four main directions. It’s feels pretty strange, but is actually a lot more suable than the original X two ring cursor affair.

The main buttons have a touch more shape to them, and it’s easier to get to the green and red call buttons, apps and delete key. The side keys for the music player are easy to find while the phone is in your pocket. Keeping these as dedicated buttons will help the user experience (another 3GSM buzzword). Interestingly, the music player is configured to stop on an incoming call, and will only restart if you hit the play button, even after the call is dropped.

The screen on the Sendo X2 is worth talking about as well, for two reasons. First, physically the screen is much nicer than the X. It is brighter, and easier to read from an angle other than looking at it straight ahead. That’s a big plus point because with the heavy use of dark colours on the original X, there were times it was hard to make out. Sendo’s Now! Screen is still present – one of the reasons the X2 is staying with Series 60 v1.2, and not updating to 2.0. A lot of the power users are going to complain about that, but given that Sendo have a huge investment in time and money on the build of 1.2 they have, with their extra support in Themes and the Now! Screen it’s probably a sensible choice for the Birmingham company given their limited resources.

The sheer size and weight of the unit is probably the most amazing thing. We’re taking a weight that’s close to the basic ‘teen’ handsets that manufacturers have, but now they’ve squeezed all the smartphone bits into the handset, as well as a hot swappable mini-SD card for extra storage. 2 gigabytes of music in your phone? Yes please! That mini-SD, using a standard format, is probably worth more of a mention than it is going to get. Unlike Nokia’s rush to RS-MMC, the Mini-SD is a well recognised format, and easily purchasable from any of the media stores. The fact you don’t need to remove the battery or restart your phone is something that, thankfully, we can now take for granted in a Sendo Series 60 phone.

Once we get into August and September, the X2 is going to be measured against a huge number of new Series 60 devices, mostly second-generation devices such as the Panasonic X800 and the Nokia 6680. But I don’t think that’s the point of the X2. It’s been labelled as a music phone, and you can be sure that this request is something that’s been backed up by a network order before the X2 was made public. And you can be sure that an operator has already requested the X3 as well.