Don't Walk, Sprint: A Pocket PC Phone That's Worth the Price

By Troy Dreier | Posted January 19, 2006

Windows Mobile users don't need to feel Treo envy anymore, now that the Sprint PCS PPC-6700 is out. Okay, it doesn't have the Treo's shapely good looks, but it's a powerhouse in every other way, and it's the first Pocket PC Phone to run on Microsoft's new Windows Mobile 5 operating system.

The phone combines all the communications methods that a serious customer demands, plus a novel slider-design that opens to reveal a generously sized QWERTY thumb-keyboard. It's a no-compromise Windows Smartphone that's a pleasure to use. (Verizon Wireless also offers a version of this Smartphone, the UTStarcom XV6700.)

Design
The 6700 seems heavier than it is due to a chunky soap-bar shape. At 4.2-x-2.3-x-1.0-inches and just 6.1-ounces, the handset is actually slightly lighter than the 6.3-ounce Palm Treo 650.

Of the 6700's many positives, the biggest is its QWERTY thumb-keyboard, which slides out sideways to give you far more typing space than most Smartphones. The keys are all slightly curved outward for a nice feel that makes them easy to use. They also make a satisfying click when pushed.

Keys perform double duty, but the alternate function of each is printed smaller and in red, so the keys are always easy to read.

The 6700's 320-x-240-pixel vivid display (with 65,536 colors) offers plenty of room to see your work no matter the viewing angle. And it automatically switches to landscape mode when the keyboard is exposed.

The front of the 6700 is nicely uncluttered, with only a teeny joystick and six buttons on the bottom. These buttons operate the most common tasks: opening the calendar, launching the Windows menu, verifying an on-screen command, accessing contacts, and starting or ending a phone call. You can also customize the buttons if there are applications you use more frequently.

On the left of the Smartphone you'll find two quick access buttons for the voice note recorder and Internet Explorer, and you might also find yourself hitting these accidentally as you get used to the phone. Between them is a clever slider button for turning the phone on and off and setting the volume. You can even use it to set the phone to vibrate.

Given how often cell phone users need to turn their phones down or off, we appreciate any phone that makes the controls easy to access. This side also holds the IR transmitter.

On top of the 6700 is the power button and a mini-SD slot. Since the 6700 only has 43.5 MB available for storage — and since you probably don't have a spare mini-SD card lying around — factor the cost of one into the total price. The stylus is built into the antenna, so it's always sticking up and easy to reach.

The bottom of the 6700 contains a standard mini-USB port and a non-standard headphone jack. It's nice that the Smartphone offers a mini-USB port, since you can connect it directly to your PC without the dock and easily replace the cable if needed.

But since the 6700 uses a non-standard 2.5mm audio port, you won't be able to plug in your favorite headphones. Fortunately, the box includes a decent stereo headset that can do the job.


Sprint PPC 6700

The right side of the Pocket PC Phone holds only the camera button, oddly placed on the lower corner. You'll need to press it for three seconds to activate the camera, so hitting it by accident isn't that likely (although we did it once during testing).

On the back is the lens for the 6700's 1.3 megapixel camera, which delivered pictures that we found better than most cell phones. A clever switch next to the lens lets you alternate between regular and macro modes for extreme close-ups.

The software settings make it extra versatile: you can use is as a camcorder (recording AVI or MPEG-4 video) or set it for panorama shots (stitching three photos together), contact mode (taking pictures for your contact entries), burst mode, plus sport and macro modes for extreme close-ups.

There's also a tiny silver mirror for self-portraits and a door to remove the replaceable lithium ion battery. Battery life is quite strong, providing nearly five hours of talk time and much more in casual use. Light users can go an entire week between battery charges.

Features and Performance
The 6700's range of communications options makes staying in touch a breeze. It offers Bluetooth for connecting to headsets, printers, car kits, etc. without wires; Wi-Fi for hooking into WLANs; and EV-DO — a high-speed 3G cellular technology supported by Sprint.

While Sprint rates EV-DO top download speeds at a top rate of 2Mbps, you'll typically get less than half of that in sustained use. We connected to Sprint's EV-DO network in the New York City area without a problem, but the network is young and it only covers major metropolitan areas for now. Verizon version of the 6700 can access a much larger and mature EV-DO network. Check Sprint's EV-DO coverage to see if you can expect high-speed EV-DO in your area.

With Windows Mobile 5.0 and a 416-MHz Intel PXA 270 XScale processor, the 6700 looks great on paper, although we didn't find it as responsive as we would have liked in testing. It seemed a little sluggish when opening a new application or a large Office document.

Included e-mail applications make staying connected simple. Good Technology's GoodLink walks you through the steps of creating an account, and then delivers push e-mail. You'll also like the Sprint PCS Business Connection, which keeps you completely in touch with your office by providing push e-mail, and access to networked calendar and contact information.

Surprisingly, the 6700 always worked well as a phone in our testing: we say "surprisingly" because we rarely got more than one bar on the service indicator. Calls sometimes sounded a little grainy — this wasn't always the clearest phone we've tested — but they came through consistently and never dropped.

The 6700 offers most of the high-level phone functions you'd expect, the one exception being voice dialing. For that, you'll need to spend $40 to get Microsoft's Voice Command program. Also, while the 6700 has a speakerphone, the volume on it is quite weak.

The 6700 scores big points for the extras that come in the box. You'll get an extra stylus and a snap-close belt clip that actually protects the Smartphone and looks attractive enough to wear on your belt. We give kudos to Sprint for not making customers pay extra for a decent case. You also receive a docking station that can charge the phone, a USB cable, and the stereo headset.

Mobile workers who prefer a Windows Smartphone finally have a solid option with the Sprint PPC-6700. The $449 price tag is steep, but the 6700 is well worth it.

Adapted from smartphonetoday.com.

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