Upgrading Phones with Orange – SPV M1500 and SPV C550

Update: My review of the SPV M1500 is now available.

We upgraded our handsets through Orange the other day, so I thought I’d share our thoughts on the process. End result (in case you can’t be bothered with reading all this) is that I now have an SPV M1500, and Sam has an SPV C550. If you’re just after knowing what I think of the handsets, skip on down a bit – I’ll start with a bit of background that may be tedious…

Upgrade?

We’ve been with Orange for quite a few years now, so we’ve been through the upgrade process a few times. The idea is simple – they want you to stay with them for another year, so in return for signing another annual contract, they let you have a new phone for free (or for a smallish payment if it’s an expensive phone). Since we’re happy with staying in a monthly contract, it’s always seemed like a good deal for us.

We do what we probably would have done anyway, but we get new toys for free (or nearly free). Orange get our trade guaranteed for another year, and the new toys give us extra incentive to use the services, so we end up spending more on calls and data. Win-win.

TalkShare

We’re on a talkshare plan – we have one handset each, but they’re attached to a single contract. It’s always surprised me that this doesn’t make things horribly difficult when it comes to time for upgrades. All that’s happened each time in the past is that we’ve been given a shiny new phone each for free.

Online or In Store?

In theory it should be easy to do the upgrade online – they’ll deliver the new handsets to you, and you just fill in a few forms. We’ve done it all in a store the last few times, though, as it saves a bit of hassle and gives us the instant gratification of walking out with the new phones. Also, it gives us a chance to actually see the handsets we’re thinking of getting, which can make a difference. We had a few problems last time, when the guy doing the upgrade swapped phones around and sent us away with the wrong handset, but it should be easier done in a store, so we did it this way again.

Plans for Handsets

We both had the SPV C500. I’d been pretty happy with it, with a few exceptions, but Sam hadn’t really liked it much. The navigation controller was difficult to use, and tended to go either up or down when you tried to ‘click’ it in the middle, which made selecting things in menus difficult. It wasn’t too bad if you used one thumb on each end to push it down, but that way it takes two hands (er, obviously), which isn’t too convenient. This same controller also got quite badly worn in normal use.

The syncing with Outlook was reasonably good, but you can certainly tell that the SmartPhone edition of Windows Mobile is only intended for contacts and a little calendaring. The tasks program doesn’t support categories, which makes it pretty near useless to me, and neither files nor Outlook Notes sync at all.

For quite a while, we’d been checking the handsets listing from time to time, and neither of us had found anything too inspiring.

There were plenty of decent enough handsets, but nothing really interesting.

Our iPaq

Some time ago, I bought an iPaq hx4700 – a fantastic machine – but when I got my tablet PC, Sam got the iPaq. I ‘borrowed’ it back for a few days recently, and got a lot of use out of it, but since Sam is out at work three days a week, whilst I just sit around at home, so she needed it more than I did.

The Orange SPV M1500

Then I noticed the SPV M1500. It’s more PDA than phone, which I like. It wasn’t free, but it was only £50, which seemed do-able. That gave us two choices…

  • I get an M1500, and Sam gets a new phone to go with the iPaq. She liked the idea of going back to a Nokia.
  • Sam gets an M1500, and I get the iPaq and a new phone to go with it. I was thinking about the Motorola RAZR, since it’s nice and slim to fit in a pocket along with the iPaq.

Problems

We hit a snag with this plan at the store, though. This year, Orange have changed the way they do upgrades for TalkShare customers. Each handset is now graded separately, so Sam’s handset doesn’t get the same free upgrade options that mine does. The cheapest way of doing what we wanted to do worked out as getting the M1500 for £50 on my line, but the RAZR on Sam’s line would be £150. Too expensive by a long way. The only phone with Bluetooth that was free on Sam’s line was the Orange SPV C550. The C600 is out now, but it’s Windows Mobile 5, which needs ActiveSync 4.0 – the iPaq is Windows Mobile 2003, which ActiveSync 4.0 doesn’t support. So attaching both devices to one PC might be a problem. Might not, but I’d rather not find out by getting a new phone home and finding we couldn’t use it alongside the device we wanted to use it alongside.

The other thing that’s changed is that we now have to sign up for an 18-month contract rather than just 12-month to do the upgrade, but they sweeten the deal with a 10% discount on the line rental. On balance, we don’t get as good a deal out of it as with the old system, but I guess that’s why they’ve changed it ;)

The Result

Anyway, the result is that we left with an SPV M1500 for me and an SPV C550 for Sam. I’ll post more about the M1500 soon, but briefly…

The M1500

It’s more PDA than phone. The ‘phone’ part of it is actually a little Windows Mobile application that runs when you press the green ‘handset up’ button. If you want a device that’s mainly phone, you probably wouldn’t like it. I like having a PDA, and use it a lot, and carrying a phone too is just an extra hassle. Putting the phone in the PDA works well for me.

As a PDA, it’s not bad at all. The screen doesn’t compare well with the iPaq – the hx4700 has a VGA screen, so this one is a quarter of the resolution. It’s very nice and bright, though, and the OS makes good use of the pixels it’s given. It has 128Mb RAM (double the iPaq’s rather tight 64Mb), which means much less fighting to get things to fit than I’m used to. As far as connectivity goes, along with the direct GPRS connection for Internet access, it has Bluetooth (which I’ve set up for ActiveSync so I can sync from anywhere in the house) and WiFi. We don’t have any WiFi at home, but it will come in useful when visiting my parents.

I was a bit surprised that it came with a cradle – I was expecting them to have taken the cheap option of just giving you a cable, but it comes with a cradle with an extra slot for charging a spare battery. Also included is a ‘leather look’ case, with space for credit cards or money and a couple of SD cards. Not great, but certainly better than I expected to be bundled with it.

The C550

I didn’t think this would have improved much over the C500, but it actually feels a lot better. More solid and chunky, and the buttons have a much better ‘click’ to them. The old navigator control that was so bad on the previous model has been replaced with a little stubby joystick thing that is much easier to work with. The only major grumble Sam’s had with it so far is the dedicated music buttons – they seem to be tied to some Orange online service – but this might just be that she’s not had time to investigate it much yet.

Online Toys

See Also

Assorted Online Toys

  • Fax Toy – you send a fax to their number (in the US), and they’ll post it on the site. Visit the site, and you can browse through what other people have sent. Want to send the fax over the Internet – without a fax machine? There’s a page by the same guy that tells you how.

Sam’s List of the Year

Now the main event of Christmas is out of the way and all that’s left to do is eat biscuits and comment on how nice the homemade yorkshire pudding was this year, it’s time to get all retrospective and look back on the highlights of the year. Here, then, are my top people, bands/albums, stuff and suppliers of the year…

People of the Year

Folks who, through one way or another, have been an inspiration to me:

  • Michael Nobbs – for The Beany, for The Drawing Club, and for the few months he acted as my drawing tutor.
  • Blue – for being a groovy spiritual being and a great source of support during the Christmas Market.
  • Jori Lynn Keyser – for the sound advice that has been and the sound advice that’s to come.
  • SARK – for “Make Your Creative Dreams Real”, “Succulent Wild Women” and “Living Juicy”.
  • Douglas Johnston – for getting me into using a planner again.
  • Emma Dicks – for pissing off to Australia for a year. Sorry, for showing that if it feels good, do it!
  • Jacqueline Kilpatrick – for being just about the coolest damn granny on earth.
  • Dean Edwards – for giving me the opportunity to illustrate one of his upcoming stories.
  • Darren Beniston – for being my favourite adopted sibling and also for being the most amusing pervert who ever trundled.
  • Michael Randall – for another wonderful year of love and companionship, and for having the bravery to give up work in pursuit of a better life for both of us.

Bands/Albums of the Year

Music old and new (mostly old) that’s rocked my world.

  • Velvet Revolver – Contraband – I suspected that anything Slash touched would turn to gold, and I was right. Total Guitar magazine described the track “Sucker Train Blues” as “it’s classic G N’R without the annoying ginger one”. Spot on.
  • Slash’s Snakepit – It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere – After enjoying Contraband so much I started digging for other stuff, and although I only got this CD yesterday, I know already it’s going to be a regular on my iPod.
  • Guns N’ Roses – Appetite for Destruction – Yep, the latter half of 2005 has been pretty much occupied with me enjoying the work of a certain top-hatted Les Paul tickler. It’s taken me 15 years to get round to this album, but I got there in the end.
  • 4 Non Blondes – Bigger Better Faster More – Yay! Women with guitars! This CD has been sat in Michael’s collection for years, and although I was familiar with “What’s Up”, it took me a while to become acquainted with the rest of the album, but I love it now. Favourite wail-a-long track? Morphine and Chocolate.
  • Metallica – St. Anger – Not the most popular album they’ve ever made, but I’m very fond of it. Tracks like Frantic and Some Kind of Monster are excellent shout-a-longs at certain times of the month. I’ve been told it’s a good soundtrack for cleaning the oven to.
  • Beatallica – The Milwaukee boys are still doing their thing, but are treading very carefully after the Sony/ATV situation early in the year. I’m just hoping a UK visit is on the cards soon!

Stuff of the Year

Favourite tools and toys

  • System 3 Acrylics – still struggling with this, but did end the year with two decent canvas works that I was rather proud of.
  • Aquafine Watercolours – relaxing and fun, often with quite nice results too.
  • Charcoal – messy, expressive, I come out of it looking like a coalminer, love it to bits.
  • Winsor & Newton’s Artist’ Soft Pastels – creamy soft colours
  • Daler Rowney Textura Paper – perfect with the pastels and charcoals
  • Epiphone Les Paul Special II – a Les Paul for Squier Strat money. OK, I know it’s not as good as anything with the Gibson badge on it, but it’s a fab guitar nonetheless.
  • Danelectro 56-U2 – the 1990 reissue, found in a Darlington guitar shop. Jangly loveliness.
  • GuitarPort – fun, fun, fun
  • GuitarPro – I still couldn’t tell a minor pentatonic from a Phrygian mode, but GitPro helps me out in language I understand (“Put yer finger on this string here!”)

Suppliers of the Year

Props to the Shops

  • Soho Soundhouse – came up with the goods when everyone else couldn’t and got my Epi to me several days earlier than I expected, the week before Christmas. Cheers to them, and jeers to the other fly-by-nighters who just couldn’t come up with the goods.
  • Fox’s Music – for their never-ending patience even though our guitar buying habits have calmed down considerably. Shame they’ve fallen off the Internet, though.
  • Great Art – decent priced art supplies.
  • Patchings Art Centre Supplies Shop – a veritable alladin’s cave. Spent far too much in there this year!

Other lists may come to light before Dec 31st. It’s been one of those years.

Peter Callesen: Paper Sculptures from Single Sheets of A4

Peter Callesen is a sculptor who works in paper. Most of his work seems to be made from single sheets of A4 paper, 80gsm – the sort of paper you probably have lying around for your printer.

That makes it pretty easy to have a go at doing some of these, but I’m guessing you won’t get anywhere close to the results he gets. The pics are quite amazing – I especially love the snow scenes shown at the Korean site listed below…

Fancy having a go? All you should need is a good sharp craft knife, and some paper. Many of the sculptures are glued, so some decent paper glue would probably help. Unfortunately, I think Peter’s talent is a bit harder to come by.

See Also

  • Chris Natrop – another paper artist, using watercolours and tape with sculptures of cut paper.

Quizzes and Stuff

(These quizzes may be aimed a bit towards the UK – especially the Retro Toys one.)

Our guess is by now you’re stuffed with turkey and trimmings, and are grazing the interweb because you’re fed up with expecting the TV to turn out anything decent. No worries, we’ve got you covered with this fine selection of quizzes we’ve accumulated over the past couple of years. Much as we’d love to claim credit for them, they are in fact legendary quizzes that have circulated by email for some time now. Never have spreadsheets been so much fun.

Here are the quizzes (Microsoft Excel files – pretty big but worth the download), can you beat Sam’s turkey-addled feeble attempts?

  • Music Photos (2.86mb) – A music picture quiz. How many bands can you recognise? Can you beat my score of 223 out of 270?
  • MiniPops (135k) – The fantastic Minipops quiz. Pixelly blocks of pop culture goodness. My score was 84 out of 95.
  • Retro Toys (1.2mb) – Retro Toys Quiz. Can your encyclopedic knowledge of the Argos catalogue beat my piffling 70%?

Enjoy, and Merry Christmas. Why yes, I will have another mince pie…