More microsoft phones

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A few months ago we were ready to write off microsoft’s chances in the smartphone market. Now it appears to be mounting a real challenge to the Symbian operating system (as used by Nokia, Siemens and Sony Ericsson) with three new handsets due in the store in the coming months.

Two (Motorola’s MPx200 and Orange’s SPV 2 or E-200) we’ve already covered (cycle through our phones pages to find them) The third sounds like a really intriguing handset. Its the Voq Professional phone from Sierra Wireless. It looks similar to the original SPV and its line up of features is not too different from that handset – so no Bluetooth or integrated camera. Its key USP is that its numerical keypad flips open to reveal a full QWERTY keyboard. It also uses the latest version of microsoft’s operating system for handsets – Windows Mobile 2003.

Neil McIntosh at the Guardian has had a play with is and his version is below

First impressions: it’s a nice smartphone, light years ahead of the Orange SPV I’ve moaned about recently. For a start it uses a 200MHz Intel PXA262 processor with stacked flash memory which means that – combined with a much-improved and adapted version of microsoft’s Smartphone software – the experience is much more snappy. There are some nice features Sierra Wireless has added on top of the OS, too, including a very fast and easy way to file and retrieve information locally, and from the web/network.

The most obvious hardware feature is its fold-out keyboard: a QWERTY effort divided by a big, solid hinge. It’s reasonably fast to peck out a message – certainly, much better than an alphanumeric keypad or even the SPV’s fabric keyboard – although don’t expect to be touch-typing. But the device is also light – lighter than the SPV? – if slightly taller, and around the same thickness.

The phone will be aimed squarely at business users; although it will play games and do fancy/irritating ringtones, the most important features will be pretty pragmatic; support for standard BigFirm email systems including microsoft Exchange and Lotus Notes, for one.

Price info: top end of the SmartPhone scale, less than a PDA, which places it in the £200 – £300 bracket by my guessing.

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