Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Sonim XP1 BT review

End user reviews of this phone seem to be scarce or even non-existent so here's my attempt at one.

Recently it was announced here at the office that a bunch of us would get a company SIM and that we could buy a phone for upto 250 euros.

I looked at the current offerings of Nokia, Samsung and Motorola and could find very little there that appealed to me. So I looked elsewhere and found the Sonim Xp1 BT.
Sonim is totally unknown as a maker of handsets, at least here in Europe. Despite that I found that this phone had some very appealing features. It calls, it can be used to send SMS and it's very durable. Since I have a tendency to drop phones the durable appeals to me. Now if you surf around for information and reviews you'll notice that people have tried and failed to break this phone. Sonim itself has links to the various videos on youtube. Have a look and prepare to be amazed.

I work in the IT business so chances that I will drop mine in a cement mixer are slim but I still want a phone that can be dropped and that's loud enough to be heard in a room with 600 servers. (if you've never been in a fair sized server room just imagine an old, noisy pc, add some vacuum cleaner and multiply that mix by 600). I'd pretty much made up my mind to get one so I started looking for a good deal on one. Prices varied from 255 to 329 for the model with bluetooth. Local webshop typhone had the Sonim XP1 with bluetooth (which is what the BT stands for in it's name) for only 255 euros I decided to order one.

The box
A couple of days later it arrived. Neat little box with the phone, battery, charger and a booklet , a very hefty belt clip and nothing else. I did have a problem getting the back lid of the phone which involves unlocking it and inserting your nail firmly in the edge of the lid but after I sorted that out it was happily charging itself. 3 hours later it claimed to be fully charged. That first charge lasted me almost 8 days. Two charges later I'm getting 8 days with BT always on and not too much talking.

But how does it perform?
Reception is absolutely astonishing. I tested this in my mother-in-laws living room which is a notorious black spot. Every phone I've ever used always lost it's signal once I set foot in that room. Not the Sonim! I still got 2 bars reception and a slightly degraded connection to my voicemail.
Call quality is excellent! On default settings it can be a bit too loud but that's easily corrected. Conversations are clear but I do get the impression that high frequencies can sometimes be clipped a bit. When I'm calling from the server room people do think I'm standing very clause to an airco exhaust but I'm still perfectly understandable.
Ringer volume is awesome! Use the factory supplied extremely boring ringtones and even at the lowest settings it's hard to miss a call.

Data transfer
So, as a phone it works well. The trouble starts when you connect it to a PC. Via Bluetooth you see this:

Not very usefull it seems. A comm port to map, dialup networking, and obexpush which seems to be some sort of businesscard exchange. It's not until you happen to google across http://www.gsmarena.com/philips_xenium_9@9g-reviews-1835.php that it makes sense. That links to http://www.p4c.philips.com/files/c/ct9a9hgry_40/ where you can download Philips Phone tools. (162mb) This phone seems to be built on the same platform as the Philips 9@9r. When you install that Phonetools thing (looks exactly like Motorola's) you get this in the about screen:

PHILIPS - NEXPERIA SY.SOL 6120 (21/04/2006)

The Philips connection becomes even more clear when you hook it up via usb. (use any old usb-mini usb cable). Then, after a lot of hunting for drivers you'll see this:

Philips DF2000 GSM and some weird Philips USB lun device. No idea what that is but it can be added as a drive. If you do that you'll get a removable disk. Double click it and it tells you to insert media.

Despite all this the only way I could find to get my custom ringtone onto the Sonim was to transfer it via BT to my Motorola V8 and from there via BT to my sonim. No problems.

Of course I tried to contact Sonim about this. Since I couldn't find a local distributor I contacted Sonim directly. No response whatsoever. As an end user I can be safely ignored it seems.

OK, moving on.

User interface and other annoyances.

Since the feature set is so limited it is an easy phone to master. The manual supplied is adequate but you don't often need it. If I don't mention a function here you can assume it's OK.

Keyboard lock. On Nokia it used to be unlock and *. On the Sonim it's press and hold *. You just have to get used to it and then it is OK. Keypad lock can be set to off, 10s, 30s and 60 seconds.

What is incredibly annoying is that even when it's locked you can still make emergency calls. So without knowing it you could have it in your pocket and you could be dialing 911 or 112 or whatever it's in your location. I haven't found a way to disable this!

Ringer volume has three settings, loud, even louder and really loud. Ringing and vibrating at the same time seems to be a challenge. The option is there but somehow it's not saved. There's only a few profiles available and the default profile is the only one that can be renamed, the rest cannot.

Phone book, select it via the right menu button and you have to select "view list" first before you can see the book. Use the big button on the side instead.

There's T9 support and that works fairly well.

If you're looking for a sturdy, loud phone look no further. If you value communication with your PC, a camera or other features look further. Despite it's design annoyances I'm keeping my Sonim. I just hope the company will soon take end users serious enough to provide at least a basic level of support. I've come across some annoyances that seem to be very sloppy user interface design. Any capable engineer can turn out a software update to fix this in a week or so.


Jan-Willem said...

Nice review, I have got a question though, does the T9 function work in Dutch?

Jeroen said...

It does have T9 and it works reasonably well.

Geir said...

Hi, I also got one one, but not the BT version. And I have not succeded to install any drivers that work for the USB cable. To change ringtones I had to get a program called Ringtone media studio, that has a facility to store the ringtones on the net, and then I could download them through WAP.
I also found some annoyances:
I miss the possibility of making a shortcut menu, and when I try to assign a shortcut key to the alarm clock, I get the ringer selection screen, and why is there a group field in the adress book, but no function to list the members of a group?
I haven't tested its robustness yet.
Where did you get the drivers?


Maurice said...

I have my XP1 BT now for almost 3 months.
I LOVE it, despite of some annoyances:
- sometimes, especially after a lot of SMS-sending, it reboots itself.
- T9 in German does not allow you to start a word with a capital (as it should be),
- the total absence of any customer-support (as I lost the protective cover on the USB-connection). It seems customers are only good for buying the product.

But overall, I do LOVE this device and rate it with 95 out of 100 :-))

I love also the huge memorycapacity for SMS (1000 SMS in phonememory)

Remco said...

I have just got my second XP1 to replace the first one which suffered from the T9 bug, no Dutch T9.

The protection is allso very poor, I don't know where they got the IP54 rating from but even a small splash of water is enough to get the battery compartment filled up with water.

The so called scratch resistant coating doesn't work either. I haven't had a single phone which had scratches on the screen so quickly.

I allso own a Nokia 6250 phone which doesn't have a IP rating but it is waterproof and scratch resistant and has better software. Sonim is basically a marketing department who create an image but don't care if the thing actually deliveres what they promise.

Cornelia said...

hi guys

just a feed back on my Sonim XP1.

Got mine a few weeks ago and was pretty happy with it about 6 days.Then it just switched off and did not react even when connecting it to the power supply.After a few hours it switched on but never off until I took out the battery. That was very frustrating !!I talked to the guy of the shop I bought it and he refused to help me in any way , so I contacted the Central Europe guy you find on the Sonimtech homepage. I was absolutely astonished that he responded my mail in less then 2 minutes.I told him my phone would work again ,but I live in Costa Rica where I defenitely have no support at all and I would like to change it because this problem could occure again at any time.Well - I can't complain about customer service,he asked me for the IMEI number and an address and a few days later I received a new phone.They asked me to send them back the old one and they gave me a RMA number so the shipping was free..

Andy said...

I got a reply from Sonim on my request for Data-Exchange between XP1 bt and PC:
Dear Andy

I am sorry that the Sonim phone does not have the PC sync feature you require.

You might have seen articles regarding future BD partnerships. Thes are in the works and we hope to launch a new model with PC Sync before end of year.

If you would like to discuss more or have more questions please feel free to do so

Best regards,

Albert Costilo
Vice President Sales, Europe
Sonim Technologies, Inc

Ezdomy said...

Hello, firstly i'm not English speaker (and writer). Than, could you explain me what is:
DUN and last SPP profile ?
Do you know is it's possible to connect it to a BT earphone ?


Krzysztof said...


I have Sonim XP1.5 BT works ok, on Linux Ubuntu I was send files mp3 and picutres via bluetooth with no problem but...

I cannot access WAP Internet (i check everything servers proxy and was correct)
When I open WAP I have only white screen - you also??

I have pocket PC Acer n30 and when I wanna connect to Internet via sonic bluetooth modem I got error (maybe sonic dont have modem???)
Acer connect to Sonic with no problem but next when take tel number to connect to internet - Error...

GiGamac said...

Hmmm: Drivers are still a bit of an issue - trying to get my Land Rover S1-E (Sonim XP3 - Quest I reckon) to be visible over USB is not possible - i have clicked your link for Philips mobile phone tools, and will see if that works. No hope for using it on a Mac tho' I am sure - it simply doesn't register...

File transfer via BT is painfully slow, can't develop an iSync plug in, etc etc.

Your review seems to have hit the nail on the head even for the latest model, which shouldn't shock given its is still the Nexperia 5210 OS in use and creaking a bit.

One thing also, I find the USB lead a bit wobbly when I plug it in - I expected a firm connection into the phone.

Minor amusement - BT OPP has become POO in the latest edition of the spec for Bluetooth in the User Docs (lol)

Tony1 said...

I'm on my second XP3 Quest (Landroverphone), having taken the first back because of poor battery life (29 hours on standby). The replacement is a little better but is falling well short of Sonim's specs.
I did try contacting Sonim's support by email but two weeks later have not received a reply.
I'm having a lot of trouble with the supplied pc/phone interface software in that I just can't get a connection.
I like the phone a lot, but the problems, and particularly the lack of response from Sonim, rather spoil the experience.

GiGamac said...

I am a little bothered by this.
Since my previous post I sent the handset back because the phone didn't seem to charge. I tried the charger, but it seemed to have stopped working, so then I tried a solar charger with a capacitor built in, and that now has failed, and finally I was able to get it to charge through my USB port AND INTERMITTENTLY show up the memory card as a connected drive. I think there is a build issue with the USB connection that has been responsible for both the charging failure and the connection failure, and I think it is actually damaging the charging equipment.
Its really annoying because I wanted to be able to promote this device if it was up to it, and with this problem I am not sure...

I will see how the replacement goes. I have to say Sonim customer support got back to me quite quickly, but as I opted for replacing the handset that has been my resolution for now. Maybe the next option is to contact them through the developer site.