My short trial with the SMT5600

I recently purchased an Audiovox SMT5600 from AT&T Wireless. My experiences with the device were short, and range from sweet to bitter.

First, I love the phone. From a geek-centric perspective, it had tons of features that I would love to have with me all the time. Contacts synced with Outlook, internet access, and the photo/video camera. All of these features wrapped into a tiny package make this phone an awesome integrated device.

On the down-side, AT&T/Cingular coverage in my hometown isn’t up to par. With my Verizon phone, I can pretty much make calls from everywhere I go. I live in a fairly rural area, and the while AT&T has made some decent improvements in recent years, the coverage is still a little sparse.

When I had decent signals (3 bars or more) the phone worked great. When I had only one bar, or no bars, the phone performed miserably. While this is what I would expect, the phone didn’t seem to handle the weak-signal condition gracefully. I would dial, and it would sit there trying to connect for 30 seconds or so. Sometimes it would give up with a short double-beep. Sometimes it would show what looked like the end-of-call screen with a duration of 00:00. It was probably dutifully reporting what was actually happening, but from a user-experience perspective, it undermined my confidence in the device. Later in the evening, my wife tried to make several calls with the phone while we were running some errands. She’s used to our Verizon coverage, and she instinctively blamed the poor performance on the phone. I tried to explain why the phone is really cool, and how it’s really the network that is causing the problems, but in reality, neither the phone, nor the network are any good without the support of the other.

Some other random thoughts:

* My experiences with PocketPCs made me like this phone less. There were many occasions where I found myself longing for the stylus, or for some way to enter text without having to wrap my brain around T9 or multi-tap. The interface was familiar enough that I just felt that I should be able to use this device like a PocketPC.

* It’s hard to convince yourself that the microphone actually works when it’s so far away from your mouth. After several years with clamshell style phones, this is a tough mental block to overcome.

* The built-in storage is way too small. Vendors should consider throwing in a complimentary MiniSD card, at least 32MB, Maybe 64. Maybe SanDisk or someone would be willing to provide them cheap or free, just for the exposure. Preload the MiniSD with some free or trial software for the SmartPhone. Software vendors might even be willing to pay for the placement.

Well, the phone is getting shipped back as soon as I receive the return label from customer service. We’re back to using our trusty Motorola T720 on the Verizon network.

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