Product Type: Panasonic mobile phones
Newest Review: ... not justified. What other horrors could there be lurking within the depths of a Panasonic X70? Admittedly, this phone is not the easiest... more
Seven in ten return rate with the Panasonic X70
Member Name: tomshanks
Advantages: Small and light, extremely cheap these days, rather good variety of features, interesting lights
Disadvantages: Build quality slightly suspect, infra-red and Bluetooth issues, peculiar menu system
Now that Panasonic has stopped making mobile phones which do not have third-generation technology, it is interesting to take a look at what they have come up with in the past given that their current offerings on the market amount to zero. But, do the users wish that Panasonic stayed away from the market place, or came back with a bang? On the strength of the X70, let us attempt to answer that question.
I managed to pick one of these phones up on Ebay about eighteen months ago for 35 GBP. Admittedly it was locked to Orange, which limited its market somewhat, but was I about to experience the disappointment which drove seven out of ten of the original purchasers to return their X70s to the supplier? Such a statistic was told to me when I was in my first job in the mobile phone industry by one of my colleagues who had been working with them for quite a while (especially with Orange, who had supplied the majority of them to customers), and he was not impressed at my new acquisition. Bearing a few battle scars, and smelling distinctly of cigarette smoke, my new method of keeping in touch with the world had not got off to a good start. Mind you, I actually managed to sell my X70 for more than I paid for it about a month or so later, so there must be a market for them out there still!
The X70 is a small flip phone with two screens and a rather unfashionable external antenna. I thought it actually looked rather nice, and the external aerial did not really bother me as the phone was so small in the first place. Another advantage seemed to be that the keypad was quite large, especially the select button, which is massive. It is one of the few phones, I think, which actually looks better on the inside than the outside. It would have looked even better if the plastic cover which used to cover the charger port had not broken off before the phone came into my hands...
As a phone, the X70 was not actually that bad at all. The internal screen is large and bright, and displays a reasonable 65,000 colours at a reasonable resolution of 132x176 pixels. The same resolution, in fact, as the much newer Siemens S75. The keypad has relatively large, well-spaced keys which make dialling easy, and accessing the phonebook is not very hard either. The ring volume is loud enough, and Panasonic did put quite a few ringtones into these phones to provide aural satisfaction for most users. In fact, the phone will support MIDI, WAV and AMR files, as well as being able to use any of these types of files received via Bluetooth or infra-red as text message alerts, ringtones or alarm ringtones. I seem to remember an option to assign contacts individual ringtones too, which was quite nice.
Reception and battery life seemed fair to average, especially given what sort of the state the phone was in when I got it (the battery was starting to get a little bit loose through overuse, so it would sometimes turn itself off, but only occasionally), so that was fine. So far, then, the seven in ten return rate is really not justified. What other horrors could there be lurking within the depths of a Panasonic X70?
Admittedly, this phone is not the easiest to navigate I have ever come across. As Michael Oryl, editor of www.mobileburn.com pointed out when the phone was new, the Bluetooth function is inexplicably buried somewhere in the office tools menu, and the phone has to go into a special receive mode in order to accept any incoming files. This means that the phone cannot be used at all during an incoming file transfer. As the files which the X70 can store do not appear to be very large anyway (I had difficulty getting the phone to accept anything larger than files 100kb in size), I suppose this is not so bad either. The phone also worked fine with my Siemens HHB-600 Bluetooth headset. Infra-red was also quite puzzling, since whilst being the usual slow speed, it also required holding the phone sideways to send or receive anything, since the infra-red port was on the front of the flip, just about the worst place I have ever seen to put it. However, these factors are still not that bad. Let us to return to general usage to see if anything else springs out to allow the phone to deserve its terrible reputation.
Like many phones, the X70 has a 3x3 grid main menu. This is where the similarity ends, however. Underneath this grid main menu, amazing, are sometimes up to two more grid menus. The fact that the grid menus on my Orange branded phone all used identically coloured and identically sized icons did not help very much either. Of course, many people respond better to pictures than mere words, but it still could have been much clearer than this.
Text messaging is also slightly substandard since the phone does have a character counter, but does not say how many messages will be sent until right at the last stage, and thus those with a small number of free texts will not enjoy that unnecessary credit reduction having gone over by a few characters. There is also a pecularity relating to the actual behaviour of the central select key during the messaging feature. It will record the function it carried out last time (for example, delete, forward or reply), and the next time that it is pressed on a message, it will give the user the option again at the top of the list, rather than the options staying in pre-defined order. Surely the way to do this is to use the central select key as an 'OK' button and to have the left softkey as an 'Options' menu like on every other make of phone? Not according to Panasonic, who decided to make the left softkey redundant in this instance. Still, this could be worse. The keypad is responsive, and the phone is overall quite fast, so the actual writing of the messages is not too bad.
The camera, however, is something of a joke. Even if it has a flash, the pictures are appalling and terrible resolution (352x288 pixels). They would be fine for contact pictures or for Multi-Media Messaging, but they do not cut the mustard for a supposed 'photo phone'. Better are the other colours that the monochrome external screen can flash (as well as the flash LED), including blue, purple, red, green, yellow and orange. These can also be set to flash upon different events, such as calls, text messages, alarms or seemingly anything else! The phone can even be set to flash different colours for different callers, so if your mother rings, it can flash red, so that you know what to do... With a combination of vibration, a custom ringtone and a special LED flash, receiving calls turns into a much more interesting experience!
The Panasonic X70 does not deserve its jaded reputation amongst people in the mobile phone industry. The user-interface may have quite a few unusual aspects to it, and some of these can be quite frustrating, but they are not as bad as some I have seen. The camera may be appalling, and the phone may not have the best build-quality or battery life I have seen, but both of these are no worse than average, really. Some people will actually rather like its slightly dainty looks and flashing lights, and I do not think these do it any harm at all. For 35 GBP, and immediate resale value, I do not think that you can go far wrong with the X70. I certainly enjoyed the one which I had.
Joseph Lloyd (tomshanks)
Summary: A phone with an undeservedly poor reputation for reliability and useability and some unique features
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