Sagem’s leap from pure market-entry handsets to something much more (for the Australian market) may just change a few dynamics in the choice for a good mobile phone. Although the Sagem myX-5 is the French manufacturer’s first colour screen model, its list of unique offerings doesn’t just stop there.
It is also the first time that I’ve had the chance to review a Sagem handset. So far (for the duration of the review), it has definitely impressed me more than disappointed - as no one product is ever perfect, but possibly coming close to it.
There are, in fact, two major selling points of the myX-5 - with the first of these (of course) being the 256-colour screen. The second “wow” factor of this phone is the hi-fi ringing tones, which is an alternate marketing expression for a polyphonic- and WAV-compatible ringtone system. In other words, with the appropriate software you can connect up to the myX-5/myX-5d and upload such ringing tones plus pictures too!
Since the release of the myX-5, a “d” version of the product has been made available supporting the additional GPRS data connectivity option. The myX-5d can also act as a data modem for external PC devices, such as a laptop/notebook computer or handheld PC device.
Other neat features include screen saver/wallpaper support, handsfree speakerphone feature, downloadable In-Fusio games, and exchangeable front and back covers. Although they may not look all that “neat” by themselves, it’s the packaging of these features together into this phone that I found to be great!
The design of the myX-5 is quite stereotypical to most other mobile phones on the market - rectangular in shape, but sized comfortably for use by the average person. Its curves are not too overly used, but only in places where it would be contrasted and visually felt (the elliptical shape of each keypad button and rounded edges of the case are two good examples).
I also found that the ergonomics of the myX-5 to be excellent - whether it be making or receiving calls, typing a text message or simply holding it in the palm of your hands. For most people, I believe that the myX-5 should cause the least discomfort when compared to many other phones that aim to provide just a good-looking design but minimal consideration of comfort and usability.
Getting back to the myX-5’s casing, they can actually be removed and replaced with another set should you want to have it looking different from time to time. Unalike some covers that can cause pain to your hands or break a few nails in the process of removal, the ones on the myX-5 are comparatively easy to remove and replace. A little latch on the back cover makes this process of removal and replacement so much easier!
But when doing so, make sure you have the phone off - because in the process, I found the battery to come off quite easily once you have the back cover removed.
User Interface & display
My first astounding experience with the myX-5 was to turn it on. For most phones (except Nokia), the power on/off button is the END button usually requiring a longer-than-usual depress - while on Sagem phones, both the ANSWER and END buttons are used, for ON and OFF respectively. Although unique, the question here would be “is this really necessary?”
Oh, before I forget, the ANSWER and END buttons on the myX-5 (and most other Sagem phones) are inversely placed. In other words, on the left is the END button and ANSWER being on the right instead - similar to how Motorola has it on their GSM-based phones now.
The colour screen of the myX-5 gives phone menus a new leash in life! Aided by the use of icons for first- and most second-level menus, navigating around the phone becomes a much easier task since humans are more receptive to pictures than the bombardment of words indicating a particular phone feature or function. The menu map and phone feature/function groupings were all very easy to contemplate, which should minimise the common scenario of “where is that function!”
Also, the use of white boxes for soft key labels (at the base of the screen) and the cursor (current selection) clearly shows these important areas on a typical menu screen.
Another thing that makes the user experience quite positive is the good design of the myX-5’s keypad, which includes the set of 12 buttons, answer/end keys, 4-way navigational key and two soft keys right below the LCD screen. Again, Sagem seems to have gotten the ergonomics right, which makes the phone physically comfortable to use at all times.
Making and receiving calls
You might actually find some fun in having a play around with the built-in ringing tones of the myX-5. These include the basic harmonic tones (similar to those used on the Panasonic GD90/GD92), some polyphonic ones and special effects (for example - the mooing of a cow, the screeching of a cat). There are several tone settings available - including those used for alarms, voice and fax calls, and messages. Furthermore, different tones can be set for different caller groups too!
Once you get sick of what’s on the phone, you can always go download ringtones for the myX-5 from web sites supporting this phone, or simply upload your own polyphonic or a portion of a particular WAV music file instead. This WAV file can be a small section of a particular piece of music found on an audio CD.
And will you be able to hear the ringing tones? I’m pretty sure that you will be able to - even when you are in the next room. At a maximum volume setting, the myX-5 may just give you an unexpected surprise!
The myX-5 offers both the ability to conduct conversations using the phone’s earpiece, or via the handsfree speakerphone function which can be enabled by a further press of the ANSWER button whilst a call is in progress. An icon indicator on the top left-hand side of the screen indicates its current mode of operation.
Voice quality using either method was good, while the loudspeaker function provided more-than-sufficient volume levels at a median setting.
Typing messages on the myX-5 is once again helped by the well-designed and tactile keypad. However, there were several issues that I had with the text input system on the phone.
The myX-5 uses a very similar key assignment layout as a Nokia phone - where “0” (zero) is used for the space character and “1” used for punctuation. But when the T9 function is used, the right soft key is used for scrolling through the possible word matches, instead of the “star” key on the left of the zero. I believe that such important buttons should be located close to the other keys, and not all the way up in the top right-hand corner.
Another thing that bothered me was the impracticality of the T9 predictive text function. It does all the basic things correctly, like accepting single keystrokes into the phone and providing a list of possibilities for its user to scroll through. But in situations where you enter a word that is not found in the dictionary, you may experience problems with either adding the intended word into the custom T9 dictionary, or possibly be misled to think that the word you want to add or complete isn’t possible (see “Problem/issues” on page 3 of this review for more details).
The core phone unit itself was quite sturdy, which is probably most important. However, although the front and back covers had a snug fit around the myX-5’s phone unit, I did find the case to squeak slightly while handling it on the sides. This squeaking is more apparent when you press down on the area where the front and back cover joins up. But the squeaking became more apparent after the back latch was engaged, where I suspect this to be a possible design drawback that should have been rectified.
Energy consumption on the myX-5 was kept down to a minimum thanks to the use of the “eco. mode” screen saver option, which turns off the LCD screen after the preset timeout period. In this mode, the phone will not be responsive to any user actions via the keypad, except when the ANSWER button is pressed which brings the phone out of its sleep. Of course, the myX-5 will still receive calls and messages should they come in - basically, this is a low-power mode that the phone enters to maximise battery life.
Should you choose to use another screen saver (for example, graphical and/or animated ones), you will find overall battery times to be somewhat shorter because of the LCD screen’s full-time usage.
On average use, I was able to obtain approximately 2-3 hours talk time and around 3-4 days standby.