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Yet another casualty of the late joint venture between Benq and Siemens, the S75 was never released in this country. It was, however, released in Germany, and I managed to get my hands on this rather elusive model of mobile phone just over a year ago. In many ways, I wish that I had saved my money.
Developed just before Benq Corporation took over the failing mobile phone division of Siemens, the S75 took a lot of inspiration from its predecessors, the S55 and S65. The styling alone is very similar to the relatively popular S65, which can still be found in this country, and the size is more akin to the S55. In addition to both of these, however, the S75 introduced new features to the range, such as a built-in MP3 player, a flash for the camera, and an updated menu system. What did not happen, unfortunately, was a revamp of the software to the extent that all the problems which had afflicted the 65-series of handsets would be solved. This, and the lack of a data cable in the sales package, put the phone immediately behind all its competitors even before the specifications were considered. These were not too impressive either.
Despite including a bigger Multi-Media card than virtually every other manufacturer at the time (the phone was launched in mid 2005) at 128 MB, the rest of the S75 seemed to be behind the competition even when it was announced. The screen shows a paltry 132x176 pixels, which compared with the likes of the Sony Ericsson K750i, Nokia 6230i and especially the Samsung D600, meant that there was not much to recommend the phone for more than die-hard Siemens fans even before picking it up. The camera, at 1.3 Megapixels, was also put to shame by the D600 and K750i. Even the old K700i had a better screen than the S75. So far, this is not looking good, and the good old-fashioned trait of Siemens software instability is once again about to rear its ugly head.
This time it was so bad that the phone would not even turn itself off properly. Whilst switching off, the phone would freeze up completely, and leave just a ghosting display of the Siemens URL for about 30 seconds, during which time it was completely unresponsive, and then make a slight pipping sound, before eventually coming back into a state where it could be switched on. Needless to say, attempting to perform software updates on the S75 was useless, as the phone would not switch off properly, a necessary purpose of the firmware update tool which I used to download for this very purpose.
I therefore sent the phone back to Siemens, who fortunately did repair the phone for me despite the fact that I had bought it in Germany (there is a pan-European warranty for this sort of eventuality). Siemens had the phone for more than two weeks (during which time I had to buy a new phone to tide me over), and then sent it back with exactly the same problem as before. Naturally, I was quite furious by this stage, and sent it back to them again. Fortunately, they did not take so long in repairing it this time, and did actually fix it. I had no choice but to then get rid of the phone as quickly as possible, only to hear that it had gone wrong again with the person who had bought the phone off me on Ebay. Why I even bothered to search the phone out in the first place if it was nothing but trouble, I do not know.
When it did actually work and I had managed to update the software myself, the phone was reasonably good to use. The new menu system made a lot more sense than the old one, and the screen was not too bad. It was just that most others were better! Texting and calling were not too hard at all. The keys on the S75 are rather peculiar in that they are like little pellets and very wide but not very tall. This is similar to the more recent E71 model. It is not too hard to get used to them, however. Texting is actually quite good too, if the phone does not crash in the middle of a message, and messages can be written quickly and efficiently, as long as one remembers that the classic Siemens keypad layout is different from that of many others on the market. Reception seemed to be fine, just like most other Siemens phones, and battery life was adequate at around 2-3 days. The phone would also support SIM and phonebook entries separately, although adding new entries to the SIM card was more complicated than it should have been. Photo phonebook was also supported, although the pictures themselves were not too big on the rather small resolution screen.
One of the big improvements of the S75 was the MP3 player. The volume is very high indeed from the internal speaker (it was thus quite hard to miss calls) and there were even dedicated keys for toggling the player on and off, minimising it and play/pause. The Interface for the MP3 player was not quite as user-friendly as that of Sony Ericsson Walkman phones, but it would at least separate into artist, genre and album if required, as well as displaying the ID3 tags. In fact, this is probably the S75's best feature. The 128MB card in the box and included headphones make it clear that it was supposed to be for this purpose.
There were also a number of connectivity options for the phone, which made up for the lack of data cable in the standard package. The phone supported Infra-red, Blueooth (which seemed to work find both with my headset and other mobile phones) and GPRS Data, and the speed of transmission was noticeably faster than that of the S65 I had had before.
The S75 also handled Multi-Media fairly well. It is possible to customise alarm ringtones, caller ringtones, text message alerts and even the on/off tone for the phone. The message alert can even be set to be a specific duration (say just the first five seconds of an MP3 track) and the ringtone can be virtually any format and not just the standard ringtones. Different ringtones can be set for different callers too, and I seem to remember that the phone even supported video ringtones, although it was more than a year ago, so I may be wrong. There were also some Java games which were pre-installed into the phone, but I did not get much of a chance to play these with the phone being away for most of my time of ownership!
The camera took perfectly adequate photographs (much better than the S65) which suggests to me that, although the resolution was a bit lacking, the software was much improved. The flash was incredibly bright and a welcome addition to the setup. These things appear to be more useful as torches sometimes, however. Video recording was at QCIF (176x144) resolution, and appeared to be just the same as any other phone I have attempted to use this only marginally useful feature on.
I suppose it is my fault for expecting the S75 to be something more than it was. Having been let down by Siemens models in the past, I was expecting something incredible, but I was sorely disappointed. True, Siemens have got the basics right, like good sound quality, reception and styling (it is rather a nice looking phone), but this was just not good enough when it was accompanied by such lacklustre reliability. The fact that the phone was quite overpriced to start with is indicative of perhaps the overblown expectations the company had for the model. British consumers, however, simply went ahead and bought Samsung D600s, Nokia 6230is and Sony Ericsson K750is instead, all of which are much better phones than the S75. It is interesting to note that Benq-Siemens next attempt at this end of the market was pretty much a clone of the K750i, and even then there were problems.