Nokia 5500 Sport
- Shock-proof and splash-proof casing, Instant swap key, Sports mode, Text-to-Speech capabilities, MP3 playback, Tapping functions, Excellent features list, S60 operating system
- Keypad and controls are a mixed bag, Poor battery life
The 5500 Sport is a surprise package. It offers a number of excellent features, headed by casing for the more active consumer as well as sports and music modes. Importantly, it also happens to represent excellent value for money at this price.
Price$ 579.00 (AUD)
Designed to withstand plenty of mistreatment, the Nokia 5500 Sport features a shock-proof and splash-proof casing targeted at the more active consumer. Despite being encased in a stainless steel cover with a rubber covering and a silicon keypad, the 5500 Sport has a solid list of features that will appeal to a variety of consumers. An integrated digital music player, FM radio, 2 megapixel camera and a 3D Accelerometer are all part of the package.
The 5500 Sport is ideal for regular gym users or tradesmen, as it is designed to withstand damage such as dropping the handset, water splashes or excessive dust. Measuring 107mm x 45mm x 18mm and weighing 103g, the 5500 is quite a compact handset and one of the smallest phones on the market running the S60 operating system - the same used on all of Nokia's current range of smart phones.
The rubber and steel casing of the 5500 Sport feels extremely rugged and it's obvious this handset can take a beating. As part of this design Nokia has used rubberised buttons: the keypad requires a firm press to operate and we found messaging speeds were significantly slower using this handset. One advantage the keypad has though is that it's virtually impossible to accidentally press the wrong key when messaging or dialling a phone number. The rest of the controls are similarly stubborn and include volume controls and a Push-to-Talk (PTT) button on the right hand side and an edit key and an instant swap key on the left. Although the buttons may be a little hard to press, the instant swap key was a welcome addition. Pressing this button instantly switches between phone, music or sports modes.
The controls consist of a five-way navigational pad, two selection buttons, answer and end call keys and dedicated buttons for menu and clear. Those with large fingers need not apply here; these keys are very small. Just above is a 262 thousand colour display with a resolution of 208 x 208 pixels. Our only complaint with the screen is that it is quite small and the tiny text gives the impression of a squashed interface. Despite this, the display is bright and clear and has a good viewing angle. Importantly, it also performs well in direct sunlight; ideal for tradesman who may be working outside in the sun for long periods of time.
The battery cover at the rear of the 5500 Sport needs to be opened with a coin, and this is to prevent water and dust seeping into the internals. Similarly, the bottom of the handset, which contains a pop-port connector and AC charger port, is sealed with rubber.
The 5500 Sport includes some unique features, headed by a sports mode. This application enables you to plan, record and schedule different workout sessions with a few button presses. Once you enter your details (gender, birthday, height and weight and heart rate) the 5500 Sport becomes your own personal training assistant. Tests offered include a cooper test (run as fast as you can in 12 minutes to estimate your endurance level), and a bike test (bicycle on different workloads to monitor your general aerobic capacity). There is also a quick start option for those who want to get straight into it; this measures your distance, duration, average speed, calories burned and steps taken. You can even set calories or distance targets over a time period and the data can be mapped on your PC using the included Nokia Sports Manager software. There is also a diary included, which lets you plan your exercise and fitness regime over a certain time period. We found this functionality to be extremely useful, and having it integrated into a mobile phone makes it particularly practical.
The other main feature of note is the music player. It is capable of playing back multiple file formats including MP3, AMP, AAC, eAAC+ and WMA. When used in tandem with the sports functions, you are able to create a fitness play list for your music files using the Nokia Music Manager software. Music files can be sorted according to the music tempo and fitted into categories such as training, warm-up and stretching. The 5500 Sport music player offers quite a few audio settings as well. Five preset equaliser settings, balance and reverb adjustment, stereo widening and bass boost are all available to enhance the sound quality of your music.
Perhaps the most interesting feature of the music player is the ability to operate it by tapping. Because the phone is used as a pedometer for the sports functions, the 5500 detects movement. Nokia built this into the music function as well; to pause or resume playback you simply tap on the keypad twice, to skip tracks you tap twice on either the lower left or right sides of the handset. It works quite well and is generally fairly responsive. The tapping function also works during a workout in sports mode; simply tap the keypad twice to receive voice progress on how you are progressing with the current activity. There is even a game included on the 5500 that uses the tapping technology called Groove Labyrinth; you tilt the phone from side to side to move a large ball through a maze.
The 5500 Sport also includes text to speech capabilities, a similar technology to that seen on the TomTom GO 910 GPS unit. By tapping the keypad twice within 30 seconds of receiving an SMS, the 5500 will read out newly received messages. Unfortunately there is no option to have them read out automatically, without tapping. Considering this phone has been designed for people on the move, this would have been a welcome addition. As it stands though, the word recognition still does a fairly notable job, with most words spoken clearly and loudly. Like most text-to-speech software, some words need to be sounded out to be heard correctly, but in general we were impressed with its performance.
Also included is a 2 megapixel camera, but there is no flash or light for night time photography. The camera includes 4x digital zoom as well as still and burst shooting modes, a 10 second self timer and brightness adjustment. Like most camera phones, the 5500 Sport is good enough for the occasional photo, but not for much more than that. Also included is a video recorder with sound which records sound as QCIF files. Unfortunately though, sound recording quality is fairly poor. Photos can be saved to the 5500's 10MB of built-in memory, or to a microSD card located in the slot beneath the battery. A 64MB microSD card is included in the sales package and this stores the languages and voices required for the text-to-speech functions. If you want to use a larger capacity card you'll need to copy across this data before swapping.
Other features include an FM radio, standard SMS and MMS messaging with T9 predictive text input, Java support, MP3 ring tones, as well as USB, infrared and Bluetooth 2.0 connectivity. A USB cable is included in the sales package, along with an adapter which allows you to use a standard set of 3.5mm headphones. This also doubles as a hands free kit and controls for music playback. As the 5500 Sport uses a smart phone interface, there are plenty of PIM functions as well including calculator, notebook, world clock, converter and file manager.
The biggest drawback of the 5500 Sport is battery life; according to Nokia's figures, the phone is rated at between two and four hours of talk time and 150 to 240 hours of standby time. If you regularly use the sport and music features (as the phone is designed to be used) then you'll have to recharge the phone every night, which is far from ideal.
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