When first announced around CeBIT 2003, the Siemens SX1 caused a bit of hype in the mobile telecommunications world. Being similar in looks to some of the Series 60 phones that Nokia have released, the question was asked if the SX1 could live up to other phones in the same price range running the same operating system. Multimedia capabilities only seen on personal computer have made their way to the mobile scene with a bang, and the SX1 only proves this.
With an inbuilt camera, a Symbian 6.1 Operating System based on the Series 60 interface, e-mail compatibility, MMS messages, a Cam-Corder and more, only good things can come from the SX1. Oh yeah, thereís also a radical new design approach with the keypad, which moves the keys from under the display to the left and right sides, which as Iíll say throughout this review takes a while to get used to.
The most outstanding Ďfeatureí of the Siemens SX1 would have to be the new keypad design. A quick look at the SX1 and you may not notice, because some keys are still underneath the display, but go back for another look and youíll see it. The numerical and most important (in my view) keys to use are around the display on the left and right side in two vertically aligned columns. They light up with the rest of the keys, so you can still use them in the dark ;). This unique approach at making a phone more fashionable and as Siemens say keeping the size down of the phone does, I repeat doe take a lot of getting used to. Two hands is the only way to go when writing a message with the SX1, and the Ďcí key is all the way at the bottom of the handset, so a stretchy finger will have to be used to reach it.
MMC card support enables the user of the SX1 to boost the memory up to a combined maximum total of about 516mB, including the 4mB of internal memory.
A large TFT LCD display at 176 x 220 pixels and 65,536 colours is another main attraction of the SX1. Itís clearer and brighter than some other Series 60 phones, and comes to life a little slower than many people would have liked, but is still a great feature. When taking a picture in full screen mode you really get an idea of what the picture is going to look like.
A Symbian 6.1 Operating System controls the SX1, just like for example Windows or Mac OS operates home systems. Hundreds of add-on programs can clamp onto the Symbian Operating System to boost the features of your SX1, have a look around on the internet, there are calendars, log books, information safes, e-wallets, and almost anything you could dream of to make life that little bit easier. Games and applications from the Java range are also supported, so you can upload whichever you want.
Bluetooth is another feature of the SX1, for all your wireless connectivity fun! Infrared and USB data-cable (supplied) are also supported to connect your new SX1 to any PC! =)
There is more, like the inbuilt camera! Using VGA technology the camera can take great looking photos and even record video clips. These clips and images can then be whizzed around the world using MMS or even sending them from a POP3/IMAP e-mail account using the Mailbox application on the SX1.
The Siemens SX1 has the general overall size of other phones like the Nokia 6600 and Sony Ericsson P800/900. Rounded edges at the top of the SX1 and a flat bottom all pull of a great overall look. In a statement from Siemens they said that they keypad has been moved aside the display to make it more central without compromising shape, however when you look at the SX1 you can see that the display is very much at the top of the handset. Central horizontally maybe, but not vertically. =)
The SX1 is larger than many phones, but this largeness doesnít massively increase the weight of the phone. Just under 116 grams, itís comfortable to use and operate. Measurements of the SX1 come in at 109 x 56 x 19 mm, and for your comparison the Nokia 6600 measures 108 x 58 x 23 mm. A tiny bit smaller than the 6600, it can fit in your pocket without bulkiness if thatís one thing youíre worried about.
The colour theme of the external of the SX1 has been named Ice Blue, and for good reason. Blueís and silvers engulf the handset, and clear plastic buttons on a blue backdrop compliment the sparkly blue plastic that coats the rest of the handset. I really liked the soft rubberish material that is used on the sides of the SX1, all the way up to the top and around the bottom connector. The MMC card insert is also coated in this blue material, and is very inconspicuous to the naked eye. Push the insert in, and the slot is sprung out ready for MMC card insert.
On the back of the SX1 the silver part of the Ice Blue theme takes over, the whole back being sparkly silver. The camera lens is at the top of the SX1, and a rubber stopper protects the car-kit adapter. Sprawled across the removable back plate is the word ďSiemens,Ē exactly the same as the battery. One thing that started to happen when I was using the SX1 was that the coating started to chip away near the button to release the back panel. This was probably due to my excessive SIM card changing, but it was still evident.
The backlight of the SX1 is a bright blue, once again going along with the Ice Blue theme. When you start up the phone the theme pre-installed completes the design. The display when lit up is very bright, and can be seen in day light clearly or in the darkest situations.
A wrist strap insert is just to the right of the handset at the very top, and the infrared panel is in the same position on the left side. Two external buttons on the right side of the phone are for voice recording and voice tags, and the other for the camera application of the SX1. Holding down the voice recording button for a few seconds will start up the voice tag function, so you can say a name and call a contact. Pressing the camera button will start up the camera application (you would have never guessed! ;)) and then pressing it again when using the viewfinder will take a photo.
User Interface & display
The user interface is just like that of the SX1 as youíll see in some of the photos in this article. Based on the Series 60 interface that the Nokia 6600 uses, the SX1 uses Symbian 6 as itís operating system, which has customizable user interfaces, a wide range of supported software, connectivity options and a whole lot more. Itís a system soon to be the standard operating system for mobile multimedia terminals. Most phones with a Symbian interface run the same and have the same kind of menus, so if youíre not new to Symbian itíll be easy to adapt to things in respect to the UI. The Symbian system is very user friendly and easier to use than many that have come before it.
The huge 176 x 220 pixel TFT LCD display enables the phone to come to life in the best way possible. At 65 thousand colours, nothing looks dull on this brightly lit display from Siemens, which acts as a viewfinder for the camera.
Holding down the hang-up button to start up the Siemens SX1 you will be shown an opening spread, and then possibly asked for your PIN code if applicable. Then, then phone will start up and four icons will fade into the background. By default, the two selection keys are linked to the radio or snapshot program which takes photos using the inbuilt camera.
The five-way directional joystick aids in the overall use of the phone, itís located just under the display in between the two selection keys. It can move left, right, down, up, and be pushed in which usually selects or changes the thing highlighted on the display. The two soft selection keys are otherwise used in menus as back and options. Underneath the two selection keys is the hang up or pick up button, and in between those two is the menu key that has three cascading squares. The button with the upward pointing arrow will bring up the input menu in any other text-based menu. Here you can select T9, numerical, whichever you like. Next to this is the Ďcí key, which acts as a backspace.
When the phone is idle and not locked, you can just directly to your contacts by pressing in the joystick. The two selection keys can be changed by going to the menu, which is opened by pressing the dedicated menu key underneath the 5-way direction joystick. If you need to get out of something quickly just press the hang up button to return to the idle display.
Making and receiving calls
Now onto what phones were made for, making and receiving calls. The audio quality coming from the SX1 is great, and the audio being received is loud and clear, without crackles.
The microphone of the SX1 may be in an odd position, which I thought would compromise audio quality but didnít have any major effects. For those who donít know the microphone is on the back of the handset, just next to the release catch for the back part shielding the battery. You may get a little extra background noise, but nothing major like Iíve said.
When a call comes through, your groovy polyphonic ring tone will play, or if youíve taken the time to convert an MP3 to WAV you might even get a song start playing. You can answer the call by pressing the green button, and the call is on! Nothing else needs to be done, and if you need to increase audio volume use the joystick by moving it to the right or left. When youíre done, press the red button to hang up. Options that are available during a call can be selected by pressing one of the selection keys.
You can change your ring tone from a special menu in the Setup folder from the main menu, called Audio. It has all the ring tone and audio related settings youíd want to change, including volume, tone, message alert tone, vibrating alert, keypad tones, and everything else that comes under audio.
To make a call from the SX1, find a contact in the phone book and then press the green call button; or type in a number and do the same. Itís a pretty simple operation and Iím sure everyone is getting sick of me telling you how!
The SX1 has an easy-to-use message menu, which is highlighted first when you open the menu. From there you can go and start typing a new message, read inbox messages, send drafted messages, and everything else to do with messaging. The SX1 supports MMS messages, SMS/EMS messages, and e-mail sending and receiving from POP3/IMAP e-mail servers. This means that the e-mails that you receive at home can also be read and send out and about from your mobile.
The message window were you type in your messages is much the same as the typical Series 60 window, with a box for the number/name of the recipient(s), and then a lined section for the text. T9 dictionary support is also available along with the old multi-tap system. The MMS window enables you to easily add images, sound clips recorded onto the SX1 or ring tones, video files, and text in a matter of seconds. From here you can then send the message to a handset with MMS or an e-mail address anywhere in the world. Directly from the MMS window you can capture a picture or sound file, so say hello in real time!
Connecting the SX1 to a PC is easy, so is connecting to another phone or other device. For connecting to a PC, you could use one of the following; Bluetooth, Infrared, or the supplied USB data-cable. Connecting to another device can also be done with Bluetooth and Infrared. When you want to connect to an online source, GPRS is the way to go. GPRS class 10 is explained more in the Major Features section of this SX1 article.
Bluetooth and Infrared are both wireless technology, Bluetooth being the newest and fastest. It works on a digital two-way radio, in short distances. You can also read more about Bluetooth in the Major Features section of this article. In the Main Menu you can go to the Setup menu and there is a icon for Infrared, Bluetooth, and a Modem icon if you wish to use the SX1 as a modem for a PC itís connected to.
From the Bluetooth menu you can activate or deactivate Bluetooth, pair devices, change the name of the phone and visibility to other devices. From the Infrared menu you can turn it on and off, and even activate a timer so itíll turn off after a set time. Infrared is good to connect to PCís where Bluetooth dongles arenít as common but are creeping up in popularity. Infrared is a line-of-sight feature, two devices but be aligned properly for a connection to be established.
Bluetooth however is able to connect to devices that can be up to 30 feet away, without even being in view. You can also connect a headset using Bluetooth, and then have the SX1 in your pocket and the headset on your ear, no wires. It removes clutters with everything do to with connections, so therefore keeps everything neat and tidy; what a busy person needs.
The SX1 comes with a WAP 2.0 browser with extended xHTML support for special pages, and connects over GPRS Class 10.
The build quality of the SX1 was reasonable, except for a bit of chipping from the back removable panel. It was also quite hard to fiddle around with your SIM card to get it in, and very hard to get it out. The battery however fits in neatly but is a bit difficult to remove if you have large fingers and canít quite grab onto it.
The back panel comes off easy, but after that you may be faced with troubles. Other than those few things, the SX1 is a convincingly well built phone being sturdy and tough.
I noticed quite a bit of battery loss with every day use of the SX1, only managing to get about two and a bit days of normal use from the battery until empty. The 200 hours said by Siemens I wouldnít believe, as that turns out to roughly 8.3 days without any usage. However, if you charge the battery every night or for a few hours you shouldnít run into many problems. Battery charge time doesnít take very long so itís not a strenuous exercise.
Siemens state on their website that you will get around 200 hours standby time, and up to 240 minutes of talk time, however I think this is debatable.