“As far as phone calls go, you absolutely can't go wrong with the SDA and its call-quality.”
- Good phone call quality; solid video and recording and playback; fast internet speeds
- Small keypad; poor SD card slot location; below-average quality camera
T-Mobile will soon be releasing their SDA Smartphone to the public in February. Priced at $299.99 with activation, it’s aimed to be a decent entry-level phone for those looking to try the Windows Mobile platform out. Unfortunately, the phone has a few flaws that make it more trouble than it’s worth. A limited camera, horribly placed memory card slot and a bad UI make the SDA suffer. Join us as we take a ride through what the SDA has to offer and whether it’s good enough to meet your standards of phonology.
Features and Design
Let’s go over the specs of the T-Mobile SDA, shall we? It’s a sleek, but not so slender candy bar-style phone with an odd little “hump” at the top that looks like a lanyard or carrying device should go there. The device weighs in at 3.74 ounces, pretty decent for a Smartphone with lots of thrills like the SDA, so don’t worry about your pants pocket getting weighed down too much. It measures 4.53 x 1.82 inches and has a beautiful 2.2-inch, 65k color screen with a resolution of 320×240 pixels. It includes Bluetooth, 802.11b Wi-Fi, GPRS/EDGE, and a mini-SD memory card slot. The SDA is manufactured by HTC as the Tornado, but re-branded as the SDA for T-Mobile. So there’s the down and dirty on the SDA as far as the technical specs go.
Using the SDA is both enjoyable and frustrating. The screen is absolutely gorgeous. A crystal-clear and picture-perfect display is what T-mobile is offering you with the SDA. Unfortunately, right below the screen you’ll notice 10 buttons, a joystick, and a phone keypad; way too many buttons for your own good. They’re also entirely too small and during my time with the SDA, I had lots of trouble hitting the correct buttons the first time. The top 4 buttons include 2 general-use buttons, a home button, and a back button. Right below these buttons you have the obvious T-Zones button which T-Mobile wouldn’t be caught dead without, along with dedicated music player buttons: play/pause, forward, and backward. The joystick and phone call buttons are then on the next row of controls. The joystick works pretty well and I had no problems with it. The “place call” and “end call” buttons work just fine too and are the only decently sized buttons on the SDA. Next up comes the keypad. The keypad on the SDA is just too small, plain and simple. 12 keys will make you wish you had your Blackberry’s keypad back when trying to access websites or IM your friends. Not even T9 will help you here folks, so the SDA is not for someone with big fingers keep in mind.
As far as an Operating System goes, the T-Mobile SDA is running Windows Mobile 5.0. This is what makes the SDA an appealing phone for newcomers interested in the Smartphone market. It becomes your chance to try out and play with Windows Mobile, but not break the bank since the SDA is priced at only $299.99. The UI is easy enough for the novice to navigate and comes with some nice pre-installed applications such as Windows Media Player and Internet Explorer. This duo makes for a great multimedia experience. You’ll be able to go on the internet with the phone’s Wi-Fi, get some MP3s from your favorite band’s website, and then play them right then and there with Windows Media Player (WMP). Don’t download too many though, as the phone itself does not have a lot of storage space. You’ll need to add extra memory via the inconvenient mini-SD slot located underneath the battery. The SDA would work as a music player if the memory card slot were hot swappable and easily accessible. Unfortunately, it isn’t and this greatly limits your multimedia experience with the SDA.
The T-Mobile SDA connected to the internet
Testing and Use
So the SDA has some great features and some not-so-great ones. But what about phone calls? The SDA is a phone after all. In the city of Philadelphia, the SDA performed great. I received excellent, crisp call-quality, no drops, and good reception overall. If you’re just going to use the SDA as a phone, you’ll be very happy with your choice. I highly recommend the SDA as far as phone calls go.
Looking to browse the Internet with the SDA? It’s very possible with the phone’s built-in Wi-Fi 802.11b and GPRS/EDGE capabilities. When using Internet Explorer to view websites with just a regular phone signal, it was surprisingly speedy which made it easy for me to locate a nearby shop via Google. When I was at a Starbucks or a T-Mobile Hotspot, the SDA was sure to let me know. I connected very quickly with my account information and loved the download speeds I was getting on some MP3 and movie downloads. 500KB/Second on a cell phone? Simply unheard of, but it worked! The SDA is wonderful for browsing the Internet, but make sure you bookmark frequently visited sites or your fingers will fall off trying to type out a URL on the small keypad.
Don’t plan on doing any photography with the SDA’s 1.3-megapixel camera. The quality isn’t up to par like some other 1.3MP phones such as Samsung’s T809 or Sony Ericsson’s 2.0MP monster: The W800i. In proper lighting conditions, the camera was pretty decent and did well with pictures of people, objects, and buildings. However, when the clouds came out, a light got dimmed, or anything of the sort, the SDA’s camera took horrible pictures that remind me of the first generation camera-phones. The camera also has video-recording capabilities that work very well actually. I took a 30-second video of my girlfriend and grandmother chatting by a fire in low light and was surprised with the results. You can have a lot of fun with the video functions on the SDA, just not as much with the camera though, which is a shame.
Compared to other phones out there, including T-Mobile’s soon-to-be-released MDA, the SDA is more of a starter phone for the Windows Mobile world and is not meant for anyone that is a power-user. The lack of a QWERTY-style keypad makes the SDA limited in functionality and will make you cringe when you need to type out a message. Perhaps you may want to try out another HTC phone or just settle for carrying around a PDA like a Dell Axim and a smaller phone like a Motorola RAZR. It all depends on how you can adjust to the SDA and using it daily.
The T-Mobile SDA is not my favorite cell phone, but it’s not a horrible one either. It’s unfortunately hampered by the quality of some features such as the small keypad, but it excels at multimedia on the web. As far as phone calls go, you absolutely can’t go wrong with the SDA and its call-quality. So keep that in mind if you plan on using the SDA as a 50/50 PDA/Phone. Also remember that this is an entry-level Smartphone being aimed at people wanting to try out the Windows Mobile platform. A power user won’t benefit from an SDA at all and should probably wait for the T-Mobile MDA or go with another solution. The $299.99 price point is great for those not wanting to break the bank either. Overall, a solid phone that lacks some features and isn’t great in some areas.
- Excellent phone call quality
- Great video recording and playing capabilities
- Windows Mobile 5.0 Platform
- 802.11b Wi-Fi
- Sharp, crisp 320×240 display
- Small keypad
- Badly chosen location for the memory card slot
- Camera isn’t that great for 1.3MP
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