It's nice to see Verizon Wireless expand its selection of Windows Mobile smart phones. The nationwide carrier recently added the HTC SMT5800, which comes hot on the heels of the XV6800, also made by HTC, and the SCH-i760, manufactured by Samsung. How does the SMT5800 stack up against the others? To find out, I got my hands on the new PDA phone and did some subjective, real-world testing.
On the outside, the 5800 is noticeably smaller than the other two--almost 0.5 inch shorter than the Samsung i760 and about 0.3 inch narrower than both the i760 and the 6800. The 5800 is 10 ounces lighter, too, though I prefer the i760's sturdier feel.
All three handsets come with a slide-out keyboard, though the 5800's keys are arrayed more closely together than the others' because of the handset's compact size. Its rounded-edge keys are flat and raised ever so slightly. Overall, I found the keyboard comfortable enough to type on.
Like the i760, the 5800 has alphanumeric keys on the outside, along with a five-way navigation key, a home key, and a back button. The dial pad on the front of the new model is essential because, unlike the i760 and the 6800, it doesn't have an on-screen number pad. That's because the 2.4-inch LCD on this HTC smart phone isn't a touch screen. I find touch screens extremely helpful for quickly navigating menus and entering information; a non-touch-based system like the 5800's requires more scrolling.
The HTC SMT5800 runs the Windows Mobile Standard operating system, which offers many of the same features as the Professional version of the OS (used on the i760 and the 6800), including the ability to synchronize with the Outlook contacts saved on a PC, and the ability to view Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and PDF attachments. You can edit Word and Excel files on the 5800, too, but you can't create such files from scratch as you can on the i760 and the 6800.
Both e-mail and text messaging work well on the 5800. I synced my Yahoo account within a few minutes (though the process can take longer if you download a large inbox). To view my Hotmail (Windows Live) messages, I had to use Internet Explorer: The Windows Mobile software won't allow users to sync Hotmail through the phone's e-mail client.
The 5800 provides some fun apps, too. My favorite is the 2-megapixel camera's panorama mode. It can stitch six (or fewer) pictures directly on the handset; and in my experiment with stitching, the resulting wide-angle snapshot came out nicely.
The 5800's main drawback is its short battery life. According to Verizon, the 5800's battery lasts for up to 3.5 hours, which is similar to what I experienced. I ended up recharging the phone more frequently than I would have liked. Verizon's Web site lists longer battery-life estimates for the other two handsets: up to 5 hours for the i760's chunkier battery pack and 5.4 hours for the 6800.
All three phones support Verizon's 3G EvDO network, so Web page downloads were relatively speedy across the board. But unfortunately, the 5800 lacks Wi-Fi connectivity. Calls on the 5800 sounded fine, with good audio quality and adequate volume on both the earpiece and the speakerphone. You can pair the 5800 with a Bluetooth earbud or headphones as well.
At $250, the SMT5800 is the cheapest of the three phones. The SCH-i760 costs $350 and the XV6800 sets you back $400 (prices are as of January 25, 2008). I was moderately impressed by the 5800, but if I had to choose from among the three, I would go with the Samsung SCH-i760: It hits the sweet spot in price, performance, and features.