Mobile phone

14 Aug 2003

Product: Siemens SL55

Price: €199-€299 with network subsidies

While other areas of the technology sector may be pretty sluggish these days, the mobile industry seems to be holding up pretty well and the flood of new phones onto the market shows no sign of abating.

Under review this week is the latest from Siemens, the SL55. A couple of years ago, the German mobile manufacturer took the market by storm with its range of neat, affordable and feature-rich phones. All was quiet on the Siemens front for a little while, but the company is back again as a contender. While making a name for itself at the budget end of the market, the latest line of Siemens phones is also staking a claim further up the value chain.

Last year’s S55 was one of the best business phones to reach the market and had one of the most attractive designs we’d seen in a good while. The SL55 does a good job in following in its footsteps. The phone isn’t intended as a replacement for the S55. Siemens’s branding closely mirrors that of Mercedes and in this case, the SL prefix designates something more sporty and fun.

One of the most notable things about this phone is its design. The model under review came in a brown and cream colour scheme, complemented by the odd touch of metal. The metal grille style of the earpiece gives it a retro feel, reminiscent of a 1930s radio.

The vogue for small phones seems to be returning after recent camera phone behemoths if the SL55 is anything to go by, given that it’s one of the most compact phones we’ve ever come across, at 81 x 44 x 21 mm. At 79g, it doesn’t weigh too much either, so it’s a phone well suited to being stowed in pockets or handbags. The phone’s size if facilitated by a design which effectively spits the body lengthwise and allows the back half of the phone to slide down to reveal the keypad. Despite the size of the phone, the sliding keypad is a decent size and can be handled with ease by those with large fingers.

Switching the phone on reveals a colour screen and a Siemens operating system, essentially the same as that powering the S55. The Siemens OS (which is soon to be replaced by Series 60 in coming models) has an icon-based menu system which is pretty easy to navigate. Although not as bright and clear as other phones we’ve reviewed, the display is no disgrace either and should keep all but the most discerning users happy. However, this combined with the small size of the screen means that those who prioritise viewing photos on their phone may want to look elsewhere.

The SL55 does have plenty of features. It’s MMS-enabled for a start. Although it doesn’t feature a camera, a detachable camera is available and a nice extra is that the Siemens camera features a flash, something most mobile cameras doesn’t have. The phone also has an email client, allowing you to pick up your email over the GPRS network.

PC connectivity is provided via infrared or by an optional data cable. Bluetooth is sadly absent. It would be nice to see it as a feature in more phones, since Bluetooth users are still fairly limited in their choice when it comes to upgrading their phone.

Other features include 1.6MB of memory, which is an improvement on the S55 and allows for the storage of more games, photos and the like. Tri-band functionality also means the phone will work in most parts of the world, which may be of interest to those who find themselves on the other side of the Atlantic from time to time.

Overall, the SL55 is a big hit in terms of design. It’s small and, given our experience using it for a few days, certainly eyecatching. Although not as loaded as some other phones on the market, the array of features make it a viable option as a business phone.

By Dick O’Brien