In this article, I will be reviewing the AudioVox XV6700 from Verizon Wireless. 95% of this (Aside from the facts) is going to be based solely on my experience as a user.
I know that when I am reading review articles about devices, I would want to know about the person reviewing it. This way I can determine how to interpret this review, and to what extent to trust it.
So here’s a little bit about my background, I am currently a Systems Engineer, and have been in the IT field for about 6 years now. I love gadgets, and I buy a lot of them. I have always been a fan of PDAs, and always had an issue with having to carry both a cell phone and a PDA. Up until now, I had own a Palm m505, m515, Tungsten C, Toshiba Zaurus, and one of the older iPaqs.
In general, when I purchase an electronic gadget I go pretty deep into it, and try to stretch it to its limits. so, please keep in mind, that the shortcomings that I am seeing with the device I’m about to review might actually be caused by the high level of customization that I did on the device, and might not necessarily mean that you will experience the same exact problems.
If I remember correctly, since I got the device (about 2 weeks ago), I think I HARD reset it about 6 times, mostly to explore different options. you don’t have to do that, and hopefully in this review, I will provide information that will allow you to avoid hard resetting too often.
Part 1: Physical Design
I went to my local Verizon Wireless store to check out the different Smartphones. the 2 other ones that I was looking at are the Treo 700w, and the Samsung i730. at first glance, or pick up.. you can immediately feel that the XV6700 is lighter than the other two, in general, I thought it was less bulky than the other ones. By phone standard, I think it’s slightly thicker tha the rest of them, but for good reason. the XV6700 has a sleek pull out full Qwerty keyboard. (almost full.. i’ll tell you why later).
The device itself looked pretty sweet to. it has a black front and back, with the middle part, and the keyboard being silver. The device is mostly plastic, but surprisingly doesn’t feel flimsy. Putting the headset on my ear was a little bit awkward, but that was mostly because I’ve always used a flip phone (the LG VX4500). I think any PDA phone that you will acquire will feel a little awkward on the ear… (honestly, it kinda felt like I was holding a plate on my head! ). I quickly got over that though… also, there are a lot of ways to avoid actually having to hold the device to your ear. so no worries there… you can either use the speaker phone in it, or get a headset, or better yet, a bluetooth headset.
The keys on the device were pretty easily accessible. one thing I thought was a little bit odd was the volume control switch on the side of the device. in general, I’m used to 2 up/down buttons, or a wheel that controls the volume. the XV6700 has a slide/toggle switch for the volume. I guess If you dig a little more into it, you can possibly find a good custom use for this switch. (i haven’t yet, but you can let me know if you do)
The slide out keyboard is very sweet. it feels pretty sturdy, and I don’t think it’s going to break anytime soon. I really loved the way the keyboard feels. the downside of it would probably be that you can’t really do too much one handed typing, as the keyboard will require both hands to use the shift key or the special function (special chars) key. that’s no big deal though, because in most cases, since you bought a PDA phone you’re going to have your full attention on the thing when you’re writing a document or whatnot. In addition, there are 4 other options for the keyboard. I will get into that later as well.
Moving on from the keyboard. the USB port is pretty cool for us mobile users who use a lot of the PDA features on the phone. Obviously, this is going to drain your battery more than if you just had your phone on standby. here’s the good news.. you ready?… you can charge the phone both through the cradle as well as through the USB cable connected to your laptop … yup .. you don’t need an external charger… while you’re syncing, you’re charging… and if you have both the cradle and the USB cable at the same time, you can always plug the USB cable in the cradle, and put your device in the cradle, now you’re also charging and syncing. I thought that was very convenient.
The screen brightness on the phone is pretty good overall, despite what you read in other reviews, in some ways it has some truth to it, but it’s not completely useless. I’m talking about the point where everybody mentions that the screen brightness really sucks in direct sunlight. well, yeah, it does.. but that’s only if you’re literally in direct sunlight. In mid day, in the car, I can see the screen perfectly without any problems. The color on the screen, by the way, is very nice, bright and crisp. the brightness adjustment has about 10 levels, so you can go from dim to pretty bright. Even with that though, the full brightness still does not remedy the problem with lack of visibility in direct sunlight.
The speaker on the phone is mediocre, you will read in other reviews that it’s useless. I personally don’t think it’s useless, it’s not like some of the Motorola (Nextel) speakerphones… but I think it’s pretty decent. After all, it is a phone and PDA, not a stereo system. if you want great sound, go buy a BOSE sound system or something . I thought the speaker was very acceptable, if you’re in a loud environment, or on the freeway with your windows open, the speaker, even at its highest volume will be a a little bit hard to hear, but when you’re driving, you should be wearing your Bluetooth headset anyway, and at the club, you shouldn’t be talking on the phone
The Camera is a 1.3MegaPixel cam with Video cam (with sound). Honestly, I don’t think it’s the best cam (by phone standards). I’ve definitely seen better, the 1.3MP is a little bit deceiving, BUT it does the job. a couple of quirks with it, but once you figure it out it’s pretty cool. read below for some of the camera features.
Part 2: Software Windows Mobile 5.0 Functionality
Moving on, as you already probably know, the phone is smart… uh. umm.. a smartphone.. yeah that’s it. so it has a phone module, sitting inside the Windows Mobile 5.0 operating system. Ok, so it’s Microsoft, and if you’ve ever worked with Microsoft products, you will know that it’s not always the most stable of OS’s. (i’d beg to differ with XP SP2 I guess), but in general that’s the reputation.
Reviews in general seem to be ok about the Operating Systems. here are the top reasons that you will find complaints about in the OS:
1- The OS lags a lot, and the device turns off.
2- The brightness changes by itself, or turns off the screen
3- The OS crashes, or freezes.
Obviously, some of those are also a combination of the limitation and/or bug in the phone firmware, nonetheless, they are still annoying things to have in a phone. Unfortunately, I can agree with all of those, and they will happen at one point or another… (I personally haven’t experienced #1 yet, #2 happened a couple of times, and #3, several times). This really largly depends on how you setup/treat/customize your device. Obviously, like any Windos OS, the Operating System stability largely depends on how much software you have installed on your device. this also holds true on the XV6700. The architecture of windows is the same, and therefore follows almost all the same rules, you have explorer, registry, and the works.
If anything, I would say the OS instability would probably be the most annoying point in this phone. I know, it’s major, but fear not, there are ways around a bunch of things, they require some registry hacks and whatnot, but all is fixable, with the right tools, and right information, you’d be there in no time.
Having said all that, I think that the OS is well made in the sense that one application crashing, doesn’t crash your whole device (most of the time). whenever an application is thinking (you get the “Mac” wheel of death), but unlike Macs, this one doesn’t lock up every other process on the device. so while the application is thinking (or crashing), you can still go to the start menu, open the “Task Manager” (really, it’s Memory -> Running Programs). and terminate that application. Voila, you just forced the application to exit. In most cases that works. in rare instances, you’re forced to soft reset your device.
A. Built In Software:
I want to mention some of the software that comes on the device, and how I personally rated it. so here we go:
So after reading this, you might discouraged because of the low ratings of some of the software that is on the device. well 2 things to note:
1- This is only my opinion, and I am a power user, so for you, some of the downsides that I saw in this software might not even be an issue for you
2- The fact that there is a piece of software that can replace almost every built in component makes it all worthwhile. of course, these will have to be considered carefully, as, for one, they cost $$$, and if using the wrong version, or too many of them, might render your OS unstable at times.
so my advice is, if you’re a safe person, need the PocketPC for basic day to day use, the built in software is more than adequate. if you’re slightly more than a regular user, you might want to look into some tweaks, and additional software.
Speaking of additional software:
B. Optional (Recommended Software):
Alright, so now we’re getting to the fun stuff. In this section, I’ll be listing some of, what I think is pretty good software to install on your XV6700 to get it all souped up.
There’s some essential stuff that I think you need to install, and some, not so essential stuff, that is good to have. I will try to put the version number of the software I’m using, because a lot of stuff is still not cerified for Windows Mobile 5, and can literally crash your system. so, I can tell you that the version that is listed here has been working for me without any problems.
a. Essential Software:
b. Cool stuff to have
Part 3: Hacks and Fixes
I’m still working on this part. It’s coming soon though. Meanwhile, you can check the forums at http://www.phonescoop.com, or http://pdaphonehome.com . they are both pretty good resources for getting some more information about this device. in this section. I’ll be listing most of the hacks and registry edits that I did to my device for it to work like I want it.
Well, if you’re reading this, I would guess that you took the time to actually read the stuff before. and what good is this whole article if there’s really no decision on how this puppy does in the rating world
so, here’s how I rate it:
Hardware, sleekness: 9/10
Functionality, button placement, reachability, comfort: 8/10
Phone Reception: 7/10 (I’ve seen better, but it’s not bad nonetheless)
Bluetooth: Unrated, haven’t tried it yet.
Speakerphone: 6/10 (in noisy environments it can be a little bit too quiet)
Screen brightness: 8/10 (a little hard to see in direct sunlight)
Screen resolution: 9/10 (very sharp!)
Camera: 7/10 (quality a little deceiving for a 1.3MP, but acceptable nonetheless, it’s a phone after all!)
Keyboard: 8/10 (It’s very comfortable to type on, although it lacks an escape key!! no VI editing )
PDA Performance: 8/10 (after tweaks, it seems like it’s one of the slower PPC devices I’ve used … out of the box)
Here’s a list of pros and cons that I can think of:
Overall, I think that the XV6700 is an awesome device. I haven’t tried other devices to compare them with (other than in the Verizon store). but from my experience, I think that the XV6700 is worth every penny. It’s by no means perfect. I think that some firemware updates, and a faster OS will make it pretty close to perfect.
I hope that this guide will help you get over your last fears of making the decision of buying a smartphone. this is not meant to convince you to buy it, in fact, a lot of the information in this, is related to software, and not that specific device, so it might be useful, even if you own another WM5 smartphone.
Please feel free to post comments, or if you have any questions / comments.
I will post another article with some of the tweaks that I did on my device that I thought were pretty essential.