Over the years, we've been generally quite pleased with the Samsung handsets we've reviewed at Mobile Tech News. We were excited to get the new Samsung SP-i600 from Sprint, not only to check out the phone but also to become more familiar with the Windows Mobile 2003 operating system. We wanted to look at the Microsoft Mobile platform from the viewpoint of a developer. Mobile Tech News editor, Robert Whitinger, programmer extraordinaire, ran it through its paces and here are his comments.
Q: What did you like about the Windows Mobile 2003 operating system Robert?
A: It integrates really well with Outlook. If you don't have Outlook, there's a licensed copy available on the support CD. After a quick installation, the device synced up using ActiveSync v3.7.1 with my Outlook database and my complete Contacts List was available on the device and ready to use. On the email side of things, it not only supported Microsoft Exchange but supported the industry-standard protocols POP3 and IMAP.
Q: What was the application development environment like?
A: Awesome! To develop on this device you start with Visual Studio.NET 2003. If you don't have it, you can download a 60-day free trial. On top of that you download the "SDK for Windows Mobile 2003-based Smartphones." With that environment,I had a simple "Hello World" app running on the device in 15 minutes. Also, on-device debugging was perfectly integrated. For example, from the development environment full on-device breakpointing and single step was available along with full access to variable states and object browsing.
Q: What happened when you tried to deploy software on the SP-i600?
A: First, I tried to download Microsoft software from the Sprint portal. That worked perfectly.
Next, I downloaded an executable program to the device using the debugging environment. At this point, there's a "HelloWorld.exe" file located in the storage directory and the program can be invoked from "Smart Explorer." It runs just fine. So far so good.
The next thing I wanted to do was make this program readily accessible. I was in the "Smart Explorer" and found an entry to "add this file to Favorites." However, Favorites was nowhere to be seen. Evidently the Favorites feature has been disabled by Sprint.
The second thing I tried to do was download a piece of third party software. During the installation of this software's .cab file, a cryptic error message appeared complaining that the software was not suitable for this device. In reading through the on-line forums, it appears other developers have had difficulties installing third party software on this smartphone also.
The bottom line is there is a security model in place and the carrier can choose which security model to employ. It appears Sprint has chosen to require that all programs installed on the device must be cryptographically signed against a Sprint-approved certificate. This means that third party applications are systematically denied access to the device. Only approved Sprint software will run on the SP-i600.
Basically the OS is closed and wrapped up. I was looking forward to developing some programs in this environment. The development tools are beautiful but they hit a brick wall when they moved from the development environment into the device. Closed systems just aren't fun for developers, what can I say.
Q: Since you struck out in the development area, what did you think about the operating system overall?
A: Basic things like cut, copy and paste in the file system don't work.
Office integration is good, and the Windows Media Player works nicely with the Sprint Vision data service. When you look for other apps, however, there isn't much else on the phone except a place to download more apps through Sprint's on-line store. There is no good way to put your own app on this handset.
Also, data connections are blocked. If you need a wireless modem for your travel PC, this device won't get you there. There's no camera and no Bluetooth.
Q: What are the pluses of this handset?
A: The SP-i600 performs great when integrating with Outlook. If you live your life around your Outlook data base, this device integrates well with that environment.
Music quality is actually quite remarkable for such a small device especially while using a quality headset. I could get used to listening to Internet radio over a wireless Sprint connection.
In general, Samsung has designed another attractive handset. It's smaller than the typical smartphone form factor, but it still sports a nice size main display (176x220 pixels), has 65K color and an external display for caller ID.
Q: What are the minuses?
A: No touch screen. Application frustration due to closed environment. Too few apps available on the handset, missing application favorites list, no Bluetooth and no camera.
The SP-i600 is available through Sprint PCS for $469.99 after a $150.00 instant savings and a $30.00 web special.