January 12, 2004

Sony Ericsson T610

I recently bought this piece, and thought I'd introduce you to it. I was seriously considering buying a cell, and of course no Nokia for me. Agree, nokia has quality, but it suffers from the same problem that plagues all industry leaders. The basic technology is cheap, but all bells and whistles are priced out of the world. And frankly Nokia low-to-medium range cell look like rot.

So, the shootout started, between price and features. I was looking at a slightly above base product, and at the same time could not afford a communicator. I landed somewhere around T68i, primary because of the way it looks. Then I was with a friend who had a T810, which had a similar screen if not the looks. And the 256 color screen put me off. It just did not pack the zing I wanted. T68i was out. Then, something else happenned. Some brain cells, which had been hibernating, woke up. And I wanted a camera with the phone.

Enter T610.

Looks could just kill.

The first look at the phone, and it looks like half a phone. It has a gigantic 128 by 160 pixel, 65000 color screen, covering more than half the front of the phone. the key pad starts with four navigational buttons, two for screen prompts and two more as "clear" and "up level up" buttons. Sandwiched between these four buttons is a very small and extremely handy joyclick (it isnt much of a stick, and you can click with it too!). Below the navigation is the regular keypad. However, the keys are really accessible rounded rectangles, small but handy and wide enough to never have a cross clicking of keys. The entire phone weighs just 95g, and is of a block design. The grooved sides provide a nice way to grip the phone when talking. You dont feel that it is just going to drop. The back of the phone has a 3d sony ericsson logo, and an inconspicuous dark circle - your 33mm lens ;)

The screen and the interface

The lively 65000 colors is what catches your attention first. Indoors, the colors are vibrant, and well contrasted. The icons are well constructed and intuitive. The main desktop is a treat to look at. The problem crops up when you try to use the phone out in the sunlight. The visibility of the display drops, and leaves the screen almost useless. Shading the screen, helps, but does not improve matters by much.

The interface is governed by your ability to use the joystick and the navigational keys. Nokia users will find the interface "counter" to what they have been using. The joyclick is also a tad difficult for the first time user. However a few days and a little practice can upgrade your usage speed enough to avoid being the bottleneck.

The icon-driven menu is informative and useful. Navigation starts from icons and has layered menus underneath. Maybe, the icon interface could have be extended to the later layers too, rather than continue with the plain vanilla menu interface. Messages are displayed via a "pop up" screen. Some menu options have a help option too, to provide additional information. The eye-candy is good, usability is better.

One final comment about the interface is the T9 input. They call it "predictive" but it does not. However, it works like the usual one-click input. However, it is slower than that given by Nokia. The T610 makes up in part, by giving a VB IDE style, auto complete popup during text input. It is slow, but it makes up.

Features (drool, drool)

Camera: a 1:1 CCD based camera. Means, low quality photography and bad response in low light. But dammit, this is a phone. Takes pics in two sizes, one at 1:1 giving you are 320 by 240, and another one smaller, with marginal improvement in quality. The camera is accessible via a shortcut key on the left edge. A very cool nikon-style click sound when the shutter is hit. Rapid saving of photo, in under 5 seconds. 2 megs of memory, use it as you please.

WAP: Another shortcut key on the right edge. To be frank, I have not yet found the actual link that leads to starting a browsing session. Render of pages is decent, however streaming multimedia is not supported, so you cannot watch video and the like.

Themes: The look on the phone is handled by means of themes. Colors, shades, wallpapers are all part of the theme. Some realyl good themes are bundled.
Connectivity: Bluetooth, Infra red and possible a data cable. Usage is quick and painless.

Games: The days of the snake is over. We now play GOLF, which sounds as if I was potting a ball in a billiards table. Supports JAVA and Morphun games too. But I miss not having a snake handy.

Programs: Do you know what a midi synthesiser looks like? No? Did you have a chace to ever play with a program called the Rave eJay? No? Check out the awesome music composer in the T610. You can choose from like 120 pieces to arrange 4 tracks to build really new pieces. Want to be woken up with the crash of an orchestra - well, make it yourself. Hey, talking about software, you have a paint program in the phone too. You will not be jobless when you wait for your delayed flight.

Others: You get a Outlook sync on a bundled CD. Slow, but it works. And there is a pretty nifty interface to even map fields between the T610 and your Outlook. You also have all your other nifty thingies - voice commands, organiser (nice interface), screen savers, 32 phonic sounds (we will come to that later), personalised rings and pictures etcetera etcetera.

In Use

Memory: You have 2 megs, shared between all your pictures, sounds and themes. You dont want to be caught without memory for the crucial shot of your girlfriend laughing. Swap the existing stuff out. Use bluetooth, or infra red, but clear your desk, you never know what might be coming in.

Battery: This beast of a display drains your battery like crazy. Remember, talking was once the biggest drain, the display just joined it. Add some sessions running JAVA games and you know what that can do to a battery. Keeping a once a day schedule of recharging is not a bad idea. But of course, it charges up pretty quickly.

Heating: A gentle warming during prolonged use (games/charging), but nothing out of the ordinary.

Voice Volume: Get used to low volumes. You may want that louder, louderer option for that concert - you dont have it. However, regular use is pretty workable.
Ring Volume: Is low. Is abysmally low. And the loudest is pretty much half of what a nokia 3315 can whip up. But wait.

Do you know the polyphonic sounds are actually midi files? (oh, the composer also stores its sounds as midi files)

Do you know you can transfer midi files two way between a computer and a phone using bluetooth or infra red?

Do you know there are freeware available that can be used to jackup the volume of your midi files?

Do you know that you can google for almost any midi file you can think of?

Now dont ever crib about not having enough volume, or enough options for ring tones. Dont even tell me that you "paid" to "download" polyphonic ringtones to your phone. :)

I love this phone,

- ravi

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