Vodafone only recently announced Nokia as the supplier for its 3G network in New Zealand, and we probably won't see a 3G enabled mobile network in the main centres before mid-2005. But Sony Ericsson is bringing the Z1010, their first 3G capable phone, to the New Zealand market. Why bother, knowing that the first UMTS network is still at least 18 months away? Roaming is the answer.
The Sony Ericsson Z1010 is a dual-band GSM/GPRS (900/1800MHz, GPRS 4+2) and UMTS (64kbits uplink, 384kbits downlink) mobile phone at the same time. It means that users can connect to the currently available GSM/GPRS network here in New Zealand and overseas, while being able to connect to the faster 3G network currently being deployed by Vodafone in Japan and Europe.
The clamshell style Z1010 is a beautiful phone, with a good size screen (176x220 pixels) capable of show 65,536 colours. When closed users can check the current status on a smaller (101x80 pixels) gray scale LCD. This smaller screen will continuously show the current time, reception strength, Bluetooth, battery and of course a caller id when an incoming call is announced. The internal screen is really nice, with crisp image and visible even under sunlight. In terms of size it's a little bit chunky, but nice to hold and feels like a good solid phone.
The phone comes with two cameras. An external camera (VGA for still, QCIF for video, digital zoom) is used to capture images and videos, while the internal camera, located under the display is used to capture images to be sent while in a video call. The video call feature only works when there's 3G coverage, so this feature is not currently available in New Zealand. It's possible to start the video call application though, and we can see how the display is split with my own image using 1/4 of the display, and the other side's image using the the remaining space. Users are also able to "freeze" the image, and the other party will only see the last image captured, not the live streaming. Another neat feature is when in the video telephony browser, if you press the top left hot key, the picture shown will toggle between the inside camera and the outside camera to show the other caller scenery etc without having to turn the phone around and guess at what they are seeing.
There's a four directions pad with a button in the middle, just above the keypad. Pressing the button will bring the main menu with nicely done icons, or act as OK while using some of functions. The four directions pad can have a shortcut assigned to each direction, making it easier to access most used functionality.
There are buttons to initiate a WAP session and a button to initiate video calls. The phone I tested did not have any Vodafone live! customisation, although the default site was the Vodafone service.
In terms of multimedia capabilities, this phone comes with a built-in MP3 and video player. MP3 files can be assigned as ringtones. To watch a video on this phone it must be in MP4, MPEG or 3GPP. The phone is capable of playing content streamed directly from the Internet, but onyl if it's in 3GPP format.
Using the camera application it's possible to capture still images or short 3GPP movies. These can be sent as MMS or attached to e-mails directly from this application. The built-in e-mail application is easy to use, and supports both POP3 and IMAP4 servers.
Users can easily add content to the phone by using the Memory Stick Duo adapter, located on the left side of the phone. The Z1010 accepts up to 128MB Memory Stick Duo cards, and comes with a 32MB Memory Stick Duo and adapter. Since the Memory Stick Duo is smaller than the standard cards, this adapter can be used if the user wants to insert the Memory Stick Duo into a standard sized Memory Stick read/writer.
Sony Ericsson Z1010 (left) and i-mate Smartphone2
A trial phone
Bluetooth support on this phone is very good, better than on the T610 (that I tested but didn't publish here on Geekzone). Actually this is the first mobile phone I see that supports 100m range. The Z1010 comes with a decent File Manager application, but the great thing is that Bluetooth supports full File Transfer. I was able to browse the phone memory's content from my Pocket PC and from my laptop, both via Bluetooth.
Since I didn't receive the original CD ROM with this package, I couldn't test the computer based phone manager. But since the phone supports the Bluetooth IrMC synchronisation I've used the Bluetooth built-in synchronisation instead. I only had to pair the devices, double-click the icon corresponding to the Z1010 on my computer, and double-click the IrMC Synchronisation icon. It took 45 seconds to transfer 500 contacts to the phone's address book. Very good !
The following Bluetooth profiles are supported: Dial-up, File transfer, Handsfree, Headset, Imaging, Object Push, Serial Port and Synchronisation. If you don't have Bluetooth, the phone also supports Infrared and USB.
For owners of the very fun Sony Ericsson Bluetooth CAR-100, I can confirm this phone fully supports charging and controlling the car.
Charging the Bluetooth Car, before a ride
It seems to me that the Sony Ericsson Z1010 is a very functional and well designed mobile phone. Small enough to fit in a pocket, but still of a good size to make it feel comfortable in the user's hand. I think this phone is positioned half way from the lifestyle to the business markets. It allows data connectivity with easy configuration, while having some strong multimeda capabilities. I guess that if you're a GSM/GPRS user and travel frequently to areas where there is 3G coverage, this could be a good choice.
The expected retail price in New Zealand is NZ$1599. This handset will not be customised with Vodafone live! theme.