- Huge bundled software library
- well-integrated telephony and applications
- Chunky in the pocket
- QWERTY keyboard is very small
- lacks Wi-Fi
The P910i is Sony Ericsson’s third smartphone, and updates the earlier, and very well received, P900. This itself was an advance on the company’s first offering in this area, the P800. The operating system for all these phones was Symbian’s OS7, overlain with the UIQ interface. Unlike other Symbian operating systems, this one supports a touch-sensitive display, which offers increased opportunities for, and flexibility with, interacting with software. This factor, and the large array of bundled software, helps Sony Ericsson characterise its Pxxx series as both a smartphone and a handheld.The ‘i’ on the phone’s name, incidentally, indicates the geographical area it covers: there is a P910c available in China, a P910a in Latin America, and the P910i covers the other areas where this model is available.
Sony Ericsson has retained the basic design of previous Pxxx models. Measuring 57mm wide by 115mm deep by 24mm high, it has almost exactly the same dimensions as the P900, having lost just 2mm of depth. The weight has gone down a touch, from 157g to 155g. The flip-down number pad remains too -- Sony Ericsson refers to this simply as the 'flip'. This offers the standard number pad and associated letter keys on its front, but when swivelled down -- in a new feature for this phone – it offers a tiny QWERTY keyboard in a one-letter-per-key configuration. As with earlier models, the flip can be removed, and in this case the touch-sensitive screen lets you dial calls and accommodates other text- and number-entry features. You can enable a 'virtual flip' from the control panel which places a mini-dialler on screen. This is activated by a tiny ever-present on-screen icon. It's an ideal substitute for the real flip, and you can try it before going through the process of flip-removal, which is handy as this requires undoing a couple of screws. The rest of the hardware design is also very familiar. The five-way jog dial wheel sits on the left edge of the case. Once you get used to the fact that the wheel can be rocked towards and away from you as well as up and down with a press inwards to select, the extra features are useful. Generally, a rock away acts as a ‘back’ function, while one towards you brings up context-sensitive menus. We found rocking on this plane a little difficult one-handed, and never quite mastered it. Also on the left edge is the power button, while the right edge houses a button dedicated to the built-in camera, a button that activates the Web browser and a Memory Stick Duo slot, which is protected by a hard cover. The stylus is incredibly small and light, and lives in a housing on the top right of the casing. Sony Ericsson provides a spare in the product box, along with a set of headphones, a protective case, a USB docking cradle, a 32MB Memory Stick Duo, a converter for this card to the standard Memory Stick format, a mains power adaptor, a wrist strap, a tiny screwdriver used for flip removal, and a cover for a small portion of the phone’s innards that gets exposed when the flip is removed. There are also two CDs, one offering the PC desktop synchronisation software PC Suite, the other offering a extra software, sounds, wallpapers, games and viewers for a range of document types.
The phone is tri-band GSM with GPRS. Despite its similarities to predecessors in the Pxxx range, the P910i does have some new features. The QWERTY keyboard behind the flip is one of these, although it has to be said that its value for data entry is questionable. Its keys are among the smallest we've seen, and there's very little spacing between them. We had trouble creating even short SMS texts and found the whole experience somewhat cramped and difficult. This, and the fact that when the flip is in place the visible screen area is reduced from 208 by 320 pixels to 208 by 208, means that we prefer to work without the flip at all. The screen offers 262,144 colours (18-bit) and on our model was clear, clean and crisp. The P910i is has 64MB of memory, and after a master reset we were left with 59.4MB free. This is a considerable improvement on the P900’s 16MB and the bundled 32MB Memory Stick Duo card boosts this further. The total amount is a healthy quota for a smartphone, and rivals many handhelds. Bluetooth is built in, but Sony Ericsson has not included Wi-Fi. That’s not going to matter if you don’t want to use the P910i as your only mobile device, but since it's packed with features, and can take on the functions of a handheld, Wi-Fi is a notable omission. The camera, too, is something of a disappointment. With so many cameraphones now offering megapixel imaging, the capabilities of this one look a little old fashioned. Images can be grabbed at 160 by 120, 320 by 240 and 640 by 480 pixels, with high, medium and low quality settings. If mobile email matters to you then the capabilities of the P910i will be of great interest as it can cope with both push and ‘collect’ email services. Operators can deploy solutions based around offerings from Research In Motion (RIM), Smartner, Extended Systems, Vistio and Intellisync. The range of applications that come as part of Symbian OS 7 or are added by Sony Ericsson means there's plenty of productivity out of the box. The usual PIM tools of Calendar, Tasks and Contacts are supplemented by a Jotter that accepts drawings and text (entered as in other P910i applications, either using the flip, a soft keyboard or handwriting to the screen), digital music playing and calculator. There is a messaging tool that manages SMS, MMS and email. Also, very usefully for corporate users, Quickword and Quicksheet allow for creation and viewing of Microsoft Word and Excel documents, while PDF+ acts as a viewer for PDF documents. There are more applications pre-installed, and the CDs contain a wide range of extras, including pre-purchase trials.
The P910i does not represent a radical step forward from the P900. It follows on -- as the P900 did from its predecessor, the P800 -- in delivering incremental advances. One of the new features, the keyboard, is of dubious utility. Our battery rundown test was our usual straightforward looping of MP3s. We got playback to the final second of battery life, to the tune of six hours precisely with the power-saving option disabled, the screensaver turned off, the screen light always on, and music playing from a Memory Stick Duo. Sony Ericsson suggests that up to 16 hours of talktime is achievable, and up to 20 hours on standby. Following our real-world test, we’d suggest that Bluetooth users or those with heavy communications needs should be prepared to recharge daily; low volume users should get several days' usage from a single battery charge. At the price, we would not consider an upgrade SIM-free. However, if the P910, with its increased memory, slowly replaces the P900 on contracts, then we wouldn't say no to it.