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REVIEW: E-TEN Glofiish X500+ Windows Mobile 6 Professional Smartphone
Posted by Arne Hess - on Friday, 15.06.07 - 16:58:35 CET under 08 - Reviews - Viewed 63945x
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When E-TEN announced its Glofiish X500+ back in March, it was a kind of sensation - is it one of the few Windows Mobile Pocket PC Phone Editions which comes standard-sized but with a VGA (480x640 pixel) screen. Furthermore, the Glofiish X500+ is an update to the previously introduced Glofiish X500 and sports Microsoft's latest Windows Mobile 6 Professional operating system and the Glofiish X500+ is the first GPS-enabled Windows Mobile 6 smartphone featuring a SiRF Star III chipset with TMC support (thanks to the inbuilt FM radio tuner) while additionally supporting quadband GSM/GPRS/EDGE, WiFi b/g and Bluetooth 2.0+EDR as well. The X500+ is powered by a Samsung SC32442 CPU at 400 MHz and the 128 MB ROM/64 MB SDRAM can be extended though the microSD card slot. For fun and entertainment, the X500+ features a 2 megapixel camera with a photo light.

The sales package contains everything you expect to get from today's available Windows Mobile devices and includes the device, a strong 1530mAh battery, a second stylus, a stereo headset which also acts as the FM radio antenna, an AC charger, a USB to mini USB sync cable and for sure a couple of CDs and a quick start guide:

The X500+ itself looks like its forerunner - the X500 with one notable difference: now the X500+ is also available in black, additionally to the still available "Warm Silver". The black version is a kind of soft-touch and the overall design is pretty reduced to the most important keys. Bellow the screen you get the D-Pad with action key as well and left and right to it the call keys as well as the two softkeys. On the top, the device features on the left a GPS hotkey which activates the GPS receiver and on the right the M-Desk key which launches E-TENs self-developed M-Desk application. Bellow these two keys, the device has two LEDs which are used for W-LAN, Bluetooth and GPS indication as well as for GSM reception and charging information.
On the back, the device is sporting the 2 megapixel camera with photo light and mirror for self portraits as well as a loudspeaker:

On the left side, the device is sporting the volume keys and the Windows Mobile typical record key as well as a 2.5 mm headset jack. On the right, we have the camera button and the on/off switch:

On the bottom (pretty unusual) you have the microsD card slot and a standard mini USB port:

As you might have noticed above, the device neither sports a Start nor OK button which means you can not fully control the device through the keys but you have to touch the screen to open the Start menu or to close/hide an application. On the other hand, and this is useful - especially for a device which is used for navigation - all front keys are illuminated:

As said earlier, the X500+ features a kind of these days pretty popular soft-touch finishing which definitely feels nice and keeps the device safely in the hand as well as it keeps away finger prints:

While it is actually hard to photograph, I can tell you that the screen is, thanks to the VGA resolution, super crispy and perfectly bright. Since the screen measures 2.8" only and all pixels are quadrupled to emulate a kind of QVGA screen resolution, this screen looks way nicer than on VGA screens with larger screens:

If the backlight is set to the brightest level, the device can be even used in the bright sun. For sure this drains the battery but it's good to know that this device, especially because it's a navigation device too, can be used outside as well.

Talking about navigation. As mentioned above, the Glofiish X500+ features the latest SiRF Star III chipset from SiRF Technology. The SiRFstarIII chip is distinguished from earlier SiRF chips due to its faster Time to First Fix (TTFF) and the ability to acquire and maintain a signal lock in urban or densely covered forest environments. This means, the X500+ features the latest and greatest GPS technology you can get today. To improve the Time to Fix even more, E-TEN also added "Offline AGPS" (or "AGPS over the Internet") to the X500+. Instead of downloading the ephemeris data from the satellites, something that takes 30 seconds at best but requires a good signal level (>28 dB-Hz) and needs to be done every 4 hours, you can also download a 50 KB ephemeris file valid for 3, 7 or 10 days over the Internet. Acquisition time in the morning goes down to 15 seconds from 40 seconds in good environments and remains at 20/30 seconds on average in challenging environments (coated windshield, dense urban environment, etc.) versus several minutes, if at all possible without AGPS (thanks to Guillaume from GpsPasSion for the explanation). To support Offline AGPS, the X500+ includes an application called Satellite Data Update which downloads exactly the above mentioned ephemeris data:

Now, after you've updated the satellite data, TTFF shouldn't takes too long anymore and you can verify this with the inbuilt GPS Viewer:

The GPS Viewer is a pretty basic GPS monitor which shows you your current location in GPS parameters (Latitude/Longitude and Altitude only) and the number of available satellites. The Glofiish X500+ doesn't comes with a preinstalled navigation software (TomTom, Destinator, OnCourse Navigator, etc) but a navigation software has to be purchased separately.
On the other hand, you can also use free software like Google Maps Mobile, since the X500+ supports both: GPS to receive the information about the current location and GPRS/EDGE to download map details from Google:

And the VGA screen provides - in combination with Windows Mobile 6 - even further advantages, like web browsing in high resolution. On the left, the QVGA adapted screen of the::unwired - on the right the same site in real VGA resolution:

As you can see on the screenshots above, the Glofiish X500+ shows all the benefits from having a VGA screen. With a QVGA screen you cannot get so much more information on the screen which is definitely worth the extra money.

Now let us talk about the software. As you might know, I'm always a big fan if manufactures enhances the standard Windows Mobile platform and E-TEN is well known to do so as well - the X500+ makes no exception. E-TEN put Windows Mobile 6 Professional into the X500+ which means it's a touch screen device (previously known as Pocket PC Phone Edition). Except the Remote Terminal Client application (which is not part of the ROM), the X500+ includes all other applications you expect to get with a Windows Mobile 6 device, including Outlook Mobile, Messaging (incl. SMS and MMS), Office Mobile, Internet Mobile, the new Windows Live services (Search and Messenger), as well as Windows Media Player Mobile, etc.

From the photos above you you might have noticed a Today plugin which is not Windows Mobile standard. Indeed, this is a shortcut plugin, E-TEN added which gives a fast access to all kind of applications and functions:

For sure it can be configured and customized to make it even more useful:

Furthermore, the X500+ includes so called "Utilities" like Application Recovery, Backup Utility, Birthday Reminder, Bluetooth Manager, Default Settings, M-Desk and WLAN Utility:

Right with the first cold boot - X500+ installs a couple of E-TEN specific applications you can uninstall later anyway. Application Recovery allows you to install previously uninstalled applications again, without performing a hard resets.

Backup Utility is - as the name says - an application which lets you backup the X500+.

Birthday Reminder is another useful tool. Typically Windows Mobile devices notices of an upcoming birthday with an alarm; same does Birthday Reminder. However, Birthday Reminder allows you to send the contact a SMS, E-Mail or MMS message, straight from the reminder pop-up or lets you call it directly. Also it provides a general overview about upcoming birthdays and anniversaries:

While the X500+ features Microsoft's standard Bluetooth stack, E-TEN added its own graphic user interface on top which is called Bluetooth Manager. In general this works fine, even if some features left by implementing the GUI that way (for instance ActiveSync misses the Connect via Bluetooth menu item but ActiveSync via Bluetooth has be started with the E-TEN's Bluetooth Manager):

Default Settings performs a hard reset to bring the device to factory default.

Pretty interesting is M-Desk which is - as mentioned above - even accessible from one of the hardware keys. M-Desk (which is also configurable) groups applications into different tabs and can replace the standard Windows Mobile Start menu

From here, you can also select different profiles like normal, meeting, outside etc. which has impact on the ring volume etc. That's definitely a handy application to make the X500+ a better mobile phone.

Talking about the phone and the phone functionalities. First of all, E-TEN added a customized dialer skin which replaces the standard Windows Mobile dialer skin, as provided by Microsoft:

But, the X500+ also features a couple of additional applications and utilities called Add Ringtone, Call Filter, MMS Messenger, Scenarios, SIM Manager and Speed Dial:

Highlights are Call Filter, Scenarios and SMS/MMS Sender.

Call Filter allows you to define who is allowed to call you and who is rejected:

With Scenarios you can customize the different profiles you can select from the Today screen. This works similar to Windows Mobile Standard smartphones but since Windows Mobile Professional smartphones lacks this feature, it's pretty handy:

SMS and MMS Sender allows you to create a new text or multimedia message straight from the Today screen (if you put the shortcut there). No need to open Messaging first and tapping through the menu which makes writing new messages a pleasure.

Other utilities and applications can be found in the Multimedia folder. Beside the Camera, you get the FM Tuner, Image Maker, Image Wizard, Multimedia Manager and Namecard Manager:

Image maker allows you to paint your own graphics on a very basic paint program (similar to Windows' Paint):

If you've taken a photo with the Camera, you can use the Image Wizard to modify the photo by adding a frame, putting some icons on top of the photo, add drawings with the stylus, adding some filters and save the picture as a new one:

Namecard Manager is an interesting tool which allows you to photograph a business card and getting the data from the business card recognized and added to your contacts database:

While Namecard Manager identified around 50 % of my business card, for the other 50 % it was completely lost. But anyway, might be the mix of German and English words on my business card and OCR is always a challenge, also for a PC and even more if the scan is done with a camera.

Last but not least the FM Tuner which allows you to listen FM radio stations:

Unfortunately, the Glofiish X500+ requires the headset to listen the music. While it makes sense to use the headset as antenna, there is no way to listen the radio through the inbuilt speaker but you can listen through the headset only. Also it seems that TMC for GPS isn't supported at the moment.

Final Conclusion

No question - E-TEN's Glofiish X500+ is a great yet pretty unique device. It benefits from Microsoft's latest Windows Mobile version and the inbuilt features works perfect. Phone calls are loud and clear on both ends, GPRS and EDGE are enough for shorter web sessions, E-Mail push/download and using Google Maps and the inbuilt GPS receiver works fast and reliable as promised.
Navigation and mapping software definitely benefits from the VGA screen as well, as you have seen on the Google Maps screenshots above and also web browsing in the high definition mode is a pleasure - does it means you see 4 times more!
Hardware-wise the device feels rocking solid. No creaking, everything looks well done and the soft-touch finishing adds a high-quality look and feel. Unfortunately, the X500+'s misses two important buttons - the Start and OK key which means you have to touch the screen every time you want to start or end an application. I would appreciate if E-TEN could add these two keys to future devices.

Talking about adding stuff. The extra software E-TEN added makes perfectly sense. Maybe not every application is used by all of us but you can uninstall it after the initial setup anyway. The extra apps you might leave can make the device even more useful. I definitely like the phone apps like Scenarios or the extra Today screen plugin which allows you to use the device straight from the Today screen without ever using the Start menu. Maybe that's the reason why E-TEN leaves the Start button? If so, at least an OK button would be handy.

Some might find it irritating, that E-TEN isn't bundling any GPS navigation software with the X500+, right? I find it pretty smart for several reasons: The absence of a navigation software makes the device cheaper, some of us might have GPS navigation software already we would like to use with a new device anyway and you cannot please everybody anyway. Some prefer navigation software from company a, others from company b, etc. So E-TEN gives the customer the decision which software to use rather than deciding for the customer.

So all together, if you are looking for a GPS-enabled Windows Mobile Professional device, which features Microsoft's latest Windows Mobile version, the E-TEN Glofiish X500+ might be the right choice. Even more, if you don't need 3G but prefer a VGA screen instead. Definitively recommendable!

The E-TEN Glofiish X500+ should be commercially available end of this month. The estimated retail price without a contract is something around US$ 600 - US$ 650.

Cheers ~ Arne

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