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Review Motorola C550

Motorola C550, live pictures

Standard kit

  • Handset
  • Battery
  • Charger
  • Manual

Motorola fixed its positions after releasing C350 that became the cheapest phone with color screen on the market. But thats not all, the consumer was offered design that is not typical for such segment products, the phone looked more expensive, than it actually was. Such combination was loved by many consumers, and the sales showed that clearly. The company will try to repeat the successful experience once again, by offering the cheapest phone with built-in camera. This phone will be Motorola C550 that is based on the same platform as another new model C450. The main difference from C350 is batterys increased capacity, world time clock, changed menu items. Full Java support, ability to upload new applications can be counted as another difference. 550 can add built-in VGA-camera to the list.

The phones size can be compared with the classical 350, although the new edition is slightly bigger (98 x 42 x 20 mm, 79 grams). I didnt encounter any discomfort, the phone can be carried anywhere you like. Its weight can be compared with other models from this segment; you feel it in your hands.

The color solution is standard silver plastic that is varied by edging around the screen and soft-keys. This edgings color is green, sides are the same. The phones front and back covers can be traditionally exchanged. This is an easy action to do, and finding additional covers for your phone will not become a tough thing to do, according to C350s experience.

If you remove both panels from the phone, you will notice the main block. Battery is made removable, unlike the first models from this series; an original construction for SIM-card holder is introduced. By removing the plug, you will be able to push out the card from its slot, this is convenient.

The battery is LiIon with 750 mAh capacity. The manufacturer claims that it can work up to 200 hours in stand by mode, and 2.5 hours during the talk. We were testing this phone in Moscow, and MTS was our operator. The phone worked for 3 days with 20 minutes spent for talks and up to 15 minutes for other functions daily. Comparable to C350 and other phones from this segment, although some models have better performance to offer without looking at the fact that they are in the same category and do not have built-in camera in them. It takes 1.5 hours in order the battery to charge up.

The screen is absolutely identical to the one used in C350. This is STN-matrix that can display up to 4096 colors; the screen turns pale on the sun greatly. The resolution is 101x80 pixels (28x18 mm), up to three text lines and two extra lines for service needs can be displayed. ZOOM function is present, and then the font increases its size and becomes gigantic. This mode is introduced for those who have problems with reading small letters; others will not find anything besides inconvenience while using this mode, since a lot of heading will be cut.

This model has nice realization of dialing process from the stand by mode. The screens size is big, alike Samsungs phones. Nice to see that you dont have to look down deeply into the small screen.

The usage of comparably old screen is motivated by the manufacturers will to decrease the phones retail price, and to save some money by using produced components. This will is rather obvious, although it crosses out the main idea built-in cameras usage. Judge it by yourself, when you are buying a phone with built-in camera you are expecting to use it, and view the pictures on the screen, and transfer them to PC only after that. The pictures displaying quality cant stand against any critics, the color transfer is weak, you cant see separate images details. A huge amount of effort has to be put into trying to imagine whats on the image, especially if you arent the one, who made this photo. Id like to make a note here, peoples faces pictures made on a close distance are still recognizable, and thats why its possible to use them in the phone book. The unpleasant behavior style is similar to Siemens MC60; theyre direct competitors by the way. Both models have the screens as their weakest parts that force the presence of built-in camera to a not so important factor.

The pictures can be transferred to PC via the data cable and the proper software. Its obvious that theyre not shipping inside the box, but it will not be hard to find them around in mobile phone shops. The price will vary from 20 to 30 dollars. Mini-USB port is located on the phones bottom. This means that usual cables for digital cameras and other devices will be suitable, although the original software works only with original cable, thats why these cables cant be used for synchronizing data. By immersing 5-7 dollars you lose the ability to synchronize pictures with your PC, this is really disappointing. Hard to say if buying the data cable for GPRS-modem needs is really necessary thing to do,

At the moment there is no working version of Mobile Phone Tools for 550 (there isnt picture transfer option). This is a serious disadvantage for a product that is already on the market, since the internal phones memory will be overloaded with pictures after a short while.

Handsfree connecter is located on the phones bottom, as well as charger port. Hole for the strap is located on the top. By the way, the very same holders for the strap are located on the phones bottom as well; it is up to you to decide the way youd like to carry this phone.

Lets review the keyboard. The keys are located in horizontal rows, their size is average. Backlights color is white; the symbols are clearly seen for the central row (vertical). The side rows lighting is not so good, the symbols are not readable in all lighting conditions.

The keys size is average, the comfortable rate is average as well, and you will not notice any major problems, although its hard to call the keyboard an ergonomic one. The soft-key block is not convenient due to the fact that the navigational key is slightly raised over the other the rest of keys, meanwhile the rest are sink deeply onto the case.

The speaker can be noticed on the back panel, it is used for playing the ring tones. Camera is located on the top, and it doesnt have any protective cover. The small mirror is located near, it has decorative purpose, and there is no real mirror around.


The main menu can be accessed by pressing the central button that is located in the navigational key. All items are formed round, and you list the whole menu in turn. Shortcut key navigation is not present, and since the menu is rather big this causes certain difficulties. On the other hand you have the ability to place all menu items the way you want, and this is convenient. Two soft-keys can be assigned with custom functions, instead of those that are preset by default.

Phonebook. Up to 100 phone numbers can be added to phone memory. Several phone numbers can be added to one contact, but the total quantity of phone numbers can't be more than 100. Phone numbers from both SIM-card and phone memory are displayed in the list. All names, which have several records, are displayed several times and an icon of the phone number type is displayed near each number. You can also add e-mail addresses to your phonebook and divide all records to the caller groups. Besides, you can associate a special ringing tone and icon or picture, which is displayed while incoming call, to each name. Also it's possible to add up to 25 voice tags to phone numbers. Voice recognition works correctly.

You have the ability to see all entries in the mode, when one name will reveal all numbers hidden in it (mobile, home etc). This phone book view mode can be set from the settings menu. The phones advantage is based on the fact that each entry, as well as each phone number can be assigned with its own picture. This is the main difference from the competitors, since they can offer setting the picture only for the entry, and not the phone number.

The phone book allows sorting the entries into five contact groups, they can be useful while composing an SMS, since there is no big use from them in the phone book.

Messages. Up to 20 SMS-messages can be stored in the phone memory. SMS chat feature is available. You can also create templates. The phone supports EMS, so, there are pictures and melodies, which can be used while creating SMS message. We need 4 seconds to open a message. Experiments with other SIM-cards showed that this time was almost the same for all of them. We think that a limitation is time of picture drawing, not time of information read-out. This peculiarity is similar to C350.

The phone can create MMS-messages, as well as receiving them. Unlike the SMS, MMS are stored in the dynamical memory, and their amount depends on the amount of free space. Five templates are present, composing the new ones and sending the old ones is not hard. When you receive MMS from other phones, you will most likely be forced to scroll the picture, since it is too big to be displayed on the screen. Once again this is due to the poor screens resolution.

Media Centre. You should use this item to preview images, animated pictures and melodies. MotoMixer - a musical composer is also located here. It helps to compose own ringing tones. Totally, there are 35 pre-installed melodies and space for 32 other melodies. New function which is appeared in this model is themes. Now you can change wallpapers and screen savers on your screen. The list got updated comparing to the older models, now there are four available themes. We liked the Dog one.

The new item in Media-center menu is Camera. Camera is bind to the left soft-key by default; this makes it easier to access from the stand by mode. The screen plays the role of viewfinder, by moving the phone you will not see rapid movement on the screen, the picture changes in real time. Rather unexpected feature, to tell the truth. The effective distance for making the most quality pictures (displayed on the screen) is about 35 cm. The phones memory is 3mb; it dynamically spreads among all applications. The main part will be occupied with the pictures. We already mentioned that the phone has VGA camera on board, this allows taking pictures in 640x480 resolutions. Besides there are other modes: MMS (160x112) the phones peculiarity is that this resolution is made for C550s display, which is smaller than the other phones have; Average (320x240 pixels). You are unable to define the quality of the picture, it always remains the same. On one hand this makes the setup process easier, on the other it limits the freedom leaving the user without alternative. You can choose one of the five sounds for shutter, or disable it.

The exposure can be setup (from -2 to +2), as well as lighting conditions (automatic detection is set by default). An interesting fact that there are five options for lighting conditions and they really help. You can setup the way the picture will look like during the shooting process (Colour, Black and White, Bluish, Antique, Reddish, Greenish).

The picture quality display on the screen is not very high; this excludes the main idea that was attractive for users. The phones camera differs from the one installed in the V-series phones, although the amount of features and settings is similar.

Alarm clock. You can set the alarm clock, choose time and set a name for it. Several alarm clocks can be setup at once.

Chat. SMS-chat is located in this menu. We are not sure that it was necessary to create a speciaa menu item in the main menu for this feature, because it is not often used.

Voice dialing. It is also a special menu item in the menu. Its not very convenient that this item is not located in the phonebook menu. Up to 20 voice tags can be added to phone numbers from the phonebook. Its pleasant that you can view all names, which are assigned to voice dialing in one list.

Settings. As always you can find security and wap-browser settings. Besides, you can select a menu language and a backlighting duration, change a wallpaper (animated or static). You can also set time, which shows in how many minutes selected wallpaper will be displayed. Firstly, a backlighting is switched on to view an image on the screen.

Office tools. Up to 500 phone numbers can be stored in the phone memory. Alram-clocks are absent, organizer records can substitute them. There is an autodelete function of old records, a possibility to create a reminder and even recurrent event. Calendar is almost absent. You can see one week on the screen.

Calculator it is brought up as a separate item in the main menu, although it could have been placed in the organizer menu, like in earlier models.

Ring Styles. A user can find all settings connected with rings here, nothing special.

Recent calls. This menu item is highlighted when you enter a menu. You can view 10 last dialed calls and 20 received and missed calls there. Its interesting that when you press a send key in the stand-by mode, you can see only a list of dialed numbers. To view a list of missed calls you should enter the menu (3 operations or 2 ones if you add this item to MyMenu). Its not convenient that you can view the information about missed calls only once, and then they are indicated as received calls.

Quick Dial. You can assign phone numbers to the speed dial keys.

Fixed Dial. The same as Quick dial, but only 3 phone numbers can be assigned to it.

Web Sessions. All settings for WAP via CSD or GPRS are placed here.

Browser. The phone has a standard WAP-browser in version 2.0.

Web Access. It is a dubbed access to WAP-browser; also one can view history, favorites and saved pages here.

Games. The phone supports Java, unlike C350 you are free to download new applications, it is not hard at all.


The network quality is typically good for Motorola phones; the phone behaves reliably in all conditions. The polyphonic ring tone volume (it is 16-tone) is slightly above average. Comparing to C350 it sounds better and louder. The ring tones are pleasant enough, although they are certainly worse than the ones located in Korean phones. On the other hand this parameter is similar to European manufacturers, Siemens for example.

The camera has nice specifications, although they get annihilated by the screens quality. Basically we get a compromise on which the manufacturers were forced to go in order to decrease the phones price. Basically we come to the fact that Motorola C550 will be the cheapest phone provided with built-in camera. The direct competitor will be MC60, although it doesnt have any advantages due to the poor screens quality. You will have to buy data cable in order to transfer pictures on your PC, in case with Siemens the same scheme with buying original data cable exists. Most likely this model will be popular as wireless GPRS-modem, just like in case with C350.

At the moment the retail price difference between these two models is 30-35 dollars. This difference will be kept in future. Motorola C550 costs around 180 dollars at the moment, the price will decrease to 155-160 dollars during the upcoming 1.5 months, and there will be no major price drops in the future. In any case this will be the cheapest phone with camera on the market during the upcoming year. By the end of this models life cycle the price will be around 100-110 dollars. It will not repeat the success of its predecessor, although will still be popular, and the sales will be high. The price defines a lot of things on this market, and users are ready to buy the cheaper product even though it has several disadvantages.

Eldar Murtazin (eldar@mobile-review.com)
Translated by Alexander "Lexx" Zavoloka(alexander.zavoloka@mobile-review.com);

Published — 23 February 2003

Have something to add?! Write us... eldar@mobile-review.com



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