The PPC6601's phone features are simple to use. Pressing the Talk button brings up a large onscreen number pad that's easy to dial with a fingertip, or you can go through your contacts list and press the Talk key twice. Once the keypad is up, you also can easily access your speed-dial list and call history with a press of the button. Compared to a standard cell phone's, the Audiovox's large display makes the call history especially easy to scan. Also, the OS does a pretty good job of integrating the PDA applications with the phone so that you can easily turn the last call you received into a new contact or send an e-mail to an existing contact with a tap of the stylus. After placing or receiving a call, you can activate the speakerphone by holding down the Talk button; an icon will appear in the toolbar to indicate it's on. We also liked how easy it was to talk hands-free while taking notes or using the other PDA features. Other phone features include a vibrate mode and three-way calling.
The e-mail client that ships with the PPC6601 supports multiple POP3 and IMAP4 mailboxes and a single Microsoft Exchange server account. Unlike a BlackBerry, which automatically notifies you when you receive an e-mail, you have to turn the PPC6601 on to see if you've received any new messages. However, Sprint does offer GoodLink as an extra service for businesses which automatically notifies client devices when new mail arrives. In addition to GoodLink, the PPC6601 supports Sprint's PCS Business Connection desktop software which pushes e-mail from your desktop Outlook to the device. This enables you to access your corporate e-mail without having to involve your friendly neighborhood IT people.
The phone supports text and multimedia messaging in addition to e-mail and voice phone calls, but there's no built-in camera (the Audiovox PPC6600 offers an integrated VGA camera).Using Sprint service in the San Francisco Bay Area and while roaming in Mexico City, we tested the dual-band Audiovox PPC6601 (CDMA 800/1900) and were pleased with the call quality when holding the phone to our ear. The included stereo headset made it easier to hear callers in noisy environments. Unfortunately, the built-in speakerphone didn't fare as well since callers said they could hear a bit of feedback.
As a PDA, the device was responsive; however, being a Pocket PC, it began to slow down when multiple applications ran simultaneously. Battery life was admirable. In CNET Labs tests, where we repeatedly play a video clip with sound and backlight at high and all wireless functions turned off, the PPC6601 lasted a little more than five hours. Since our drain test was designed to deplete the cell as soon as possible, you'll get more mileage out of your battery under normal use.
Sprint's 1xRTT data network was reliable if not blazingly fast. The PPC6601 was able to quickly make the data connection. Low-bandwidth stuff, such as e-mail and even attachments, transferred fairly quickly. However, as with most mobile devices, surfing the Web exercises some patience as pages load more slowly. Also, complex sites such as CNET crashed the browser. Unfortunately, we weren't able to test out the EVDO data connections.
The PPC-6601 is rated for only 3.6 hours of talk time and just six days of standby time. Our testing indicated that those numbers about right. You can buy a spare battery to extend your time between charges if needed. Still, most road warriors will find that the PPC6601 just doesn't last long enough for them to get the job done. According to the FCC, this device has a SAR rating of 1.3 watts per kilogram.
CNET Labs project leader Dong Van Ngo and Senior Editor William O'Neal contributed to the performance analysis.