New Zealand users are already familiar with Sony Ericsson products in the smartphone area. Both the Sony Ericsson P800 and P900 were launched here by Vodafone New Zealand soon after their worldwide launch. It seems the Sony Ericsson P910 should be available here soon, as some gadget magazines and telecommunications pages are already showing adverts for this new Symbian UIQ based smartphone. I had the opportunity to try the P910i model, which is the tri-band model for Europe, Asia-Pacific (other models include the P910c for China mainland and the P910a for the North American market).
If you have had any contact with the P900 then the changes are small (in number), but nonetheless interesting: the full keyboard on the inside of the keypad is the main feature on this new version. When rumours about this new phone showed up on the Internet, users were discussing how could be possible to have a flip keypad and a full keyboard without making the hinges too fragile. Sony Ericsson did a good job delivering this feature, and it's actually really well made. I have used it without fears of having a broken smartphone in my hands, and it's a pleasure to write e-mails with this device. The phone is not heavy, at only 155g and small enough (115 x 58 x 26 mm) to be held with both hands while typing with the thumbs - I was using my index fingers behind the phone to hold it while typing.
The keypad is a nice change from the original P800: while the old P800 keypad was actually a series of pins touching the screen when in use, the P900 introduced a real electronic keypad – probably paving the way for the P910. The keyboard is rubber made, with a good tactile feel, and even girls with long nails can use it (check the picture). The internal keys are of rectangular shape, but after a couple of days you will be up to speed with this addition, and typing e-mails and SMS in fast speed. Unfortunately there isn't a TAB key, as I would expect this to move between fields in forms or applications. There's still need for the stylus, which is the same as the previous one from the P900.
Flip keypad open, showing internal keyboard
Flip keypad open, typing
The screen depth and colours are the same as the P900, which is a great improvement over the P800 mode, but the built-in VGA camera still takes terrible pictures (click here for an example). This should be ok for some business users that need instant image for their applications which is the audience for this device (I can think of insurance companies for example), but would not score high with non-business users.
Size comparison: P910i (left) and P800
Like the P900, the Sony Ericsson P910 comes with a video recorder function, and the 3GPP movies recorded on the phone can be played on the phone itself, or on a desktop computer with appropriate software (like Apple Quicktime or RealPlayer). The same application used to playback the user-made video can also be used to play 3GPP/MPEG4 videos and video streaming over GPRS. Content is of course provided by mobile operators, and include video clips, short news clips and the like. Albeit small (208x320 pixel), the screen is crisp enough for this kind of use. There's even an application in the market that allows users to have DVD contents on their smartphones (check 138234 DVD to Mobile Sony Ericsson edition).
Music lovers will like the MP3 player, which can be used in combination with a Memory Stick to carry their favourite songs around – time to get some serious sized memory cards. To accomodate all this multimedia features, the P910 comes with more memory, which is always good news. It now has 64MB RAM of internal memory, plus a 32MB Sony Memory Stick Duo in the box.
The video player
In terms of applications, it comes with the Sony Ericsson web browser, which does a decent job, but also comes with a free copy of the Opera web browser, which is much better in terms of page rendering. Avantgo for Symbian UIQ is now part of the package, and in Europe it comes with GPS-enabled navigation tool for navigation. The built-in e-mail client supports POP3 and IMAP accounts.
The software also includes Quicksheet (part of the 89620 QuickOffice package available for other users of Symbian UIQ), a very efficient spreadsheet, compatible with Microsoft Excel, and a cleanup helper called Storage Wizard, a smart application that guides the user through a step-by-step cleaning procedure, finding old applications, files and images that are no longer needed in the memory. Still waiting for a full file explorer though, although some third party apps (some free) do a good job.
Built-in e-mail client: ok for POP3 and IMAP
The standard web browser: ok, but free Opera (bundled) beats it
Office application: spreadsheet
Using this wizard is easy to find and remove files
In terms of connectivity, Sony Ericsson is still doing very well with its Bluetooth implementation, which is in my opinion the best Bluetooth stack available in mobile phones these days. The phone also supports infrared and USB, including that very funky docking station, the same model from the P800 and P900. Users can synchronise their Microsoft Outlook data through these connection options, or by using the built-in SyncML client, which is required when using some third-party servers.
In terms of evolution, the P910 is in fact a step ahead from its predecessor, and I'm thinking what could be next – I wouldn't mind a 3G version, or the introduction of wireless LAN on the next model. In any case, Sony Ericsson has shown their commitment to innovation in the mobile phone area, and this is great for users – and competition.
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