Simplicity and practicality usually go hand in hand. This fact is once again proven by Siemensís latest entry-level model, the A55. Being lightweight and a size which can be easily handled by the guy or gal, thereís certainly no excuse for any newbie to overlook such a finely tuned handset for the massesÖ :)
Bells and whistles there are not - but the German manufacturer has included what is most crucial in this phone that I consider to be the best Iíve seen so far!
The A55 takes in many of the design and feature aspects of Siemensís new range of handsets, which I can feel makes a big difference in how I use and ultimately perceive the product (that is, good or bad).
In addition to various physical design alterations (from the A50), the A55 also comes with polyphonic ringtones support, being one of the first entry-level phone to come with such a feature. Although not everyone is all excited about better-sounding ringing tones, the A55 may just set a new base standard for future entry-level models to come - which could ultimately mean no more monophonic tones.
There are several major differences here with the A55 when comparing back to previous Siemens models.
Firstly, the re-tailored keypad was certainly the most welcomed change for me. On the A50, I found the two horizontal buttons below the screen to be quite a pain to use given each physical button had a soft key plus directional control on either side. This keypad design was similarly incorporated on the M50 model as well.
Therefore, the most logical way of redesigning these keys were to go back to the traditional design - having separated soft keys and the up/down navigation key together in a standard vertical orientation. This, in my point of view, was definitely much more practical for every-day use.
Keypad tactility was another major difference that made the A55 much more usable. Being very much similar to the C55 "glow in the dark" model, the reactivity to user keypresses is immediate - straight after you feel the "click" in your fingers. I would consider this to be the most important improvement because good keypad usability means greater ease of use.
Lastly, its lightweight and somewhat conservative design makes the A55 easier to accept by most first-time users, which this phone is targeted towards. Even for me, I quite liked this model because of its "back to basic" design - a mobile phone designed to be a mobile phone, nothing more.
User Interface & display
The A55 retains the traditional Siemens user interface design, and seems to be very similar to that of the C55 model - in terms of both look-and-feel and responsiveness to user keypresses (almost immediate). Its high-resolution black-and-white display with orange backlight isn't any harder to read either. Good enough for texting and games!
But if you may be someone that finds the standard-sized font to be a bit hard to comprehend, the A55 (like most other Siemens models) comes with the "big letters" feature that doubles the normal font size and bolds them for menu items. The result - easier to read menu descriptions displayed on a single screen.
Making and receiving calls
Generally, the A55 does quite an okay job in handling voice calls. No complaints from me in the area of voice quality - was able to hear all calls loud and clear through the provided earpiece. Accessibility to functions such as the phone book and last number redial can be done simply with a single keypress.
Alike most other Siemens models, the A55 does not come with a headset included in the box - but can be purchased separately as an accessory which plugs directly into the base socket of the handset.
But are you looking for an affordable speakerphone-enabled handset? No worries - the very-affordable A55 is probably the first entry-level handset to have this feature built right into the phone. Quality of the handsfree speakerphone feature was only average, and would only work well when you have the phone quite close to you - like if itís in front of you on a table or something. But itís certainly handy to use this feature should you end up having to wait for someone to speak to you - saves having to hold the phone next to your ear minute after minute!
I believe the inclusion of this handsfree functionality will encourage handset manufacturers to include this feature as standard on most future models, irrespective of which group of users a product may be focused upon.
Sending text messages on the A55 is simple and takes a beginner minimal effort to get use to.
By default, the A55 comes with the "new SMS" option set for the left soft key in the standby screen (of course, you can change this soft key to reflect another phone function instead). Choosing this will bring you into the messaging screen, where you can begin typing your message. The "options" function (right soft key) allows its user to send and save the message, as well as inserting objects and formatting the message to his/her liking - which in turn makes it an EMS message.
Furthermore, message composition is made easy with the availability of the T9 predictive text input system. Siemens's implementation makes it quite easy for words to be chosen and added into the custom dictionary (should the word be unrecognised).
Considering the handsetís physical construction and distributed weight, the A55 was undoubtedly very well built and feels extremely solid in the hand. Both the removable covers (front and back) were easily removable when they needed to come off - and theyíll simply click-clack back in place when replaced properly. Most of the inner construction of the A55 handset is made of hard plastic, and there are barely any moving parts except for the little metal slide that locks down the SIM card in its slot.
The A55ís battery provided a sufficient amount of usage and standby time, and should suffice for most people if you are after something that will last you through at least (on average) two days on a single charge. On average use, I was able to attain approximately 2-3 hours talk time and 2-3 days standby.