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.

Friday, April 11, 2008

What makes people kill children?

And more importantly, what makes me read the news items? I know that when I click one of those links I will be reading a story that breaks my heart.

Take this latest one for example, a mother in the belgian town of Angleur near Liege let's her 21 months old toddler starve to death because she didn't want the child and felt neglected by her partner who was working in another country. She calls emergency services because the child was sitting lifeless in his chair for two hours. Autopsy revealed a 0% fat content in the body. Her three other surviving children have been taken away.

Can anyone imagine the agony and despair that child must have gone trough? I've got two children, I remember that age when they'd sit in their little chairs munching their way trough a bowl of fruit.
It's bad enough that children die in famines but this....

Thursday, April 03, 2008