Sony Ericsson P900: a first look

Sony Ericsson has upgraded its flagship Symbian smartphone. Here are our first impressions.

Sony Ericsson has released the P900 Symbian smartphone, an update to its popular P800. The size has been reduced slightly, the appearance tidied up, an improved 16-bit TFT screen added and the software bundle enhanced. All this is fine, but if you're looking for a vast leap forward from the P800, the P900 isn't it.

Sony Ericsson P900: sleeker, with an improved 16-bit TFT screen and a better software bundle -- including secure access to corporate networks.
Much of the specification of the P900 is the same as the P800: a tri-band GSM phone with GPRS plus MMS, Bluetooth, Memory Stick Duo slot and digital camera. You get the idea. The biggest changes aren't with the internals of the unit, but with its appearance and ergonomics. The P900 is a slightly squarer design, fractionally smaller and lighter than the P800. The old transparent plastic stylus has been replaced by a more robust metal-shafted version. The flip keypad has been changed from a passive unit that pressed the touch-screen to one with electrical switches. This eliminates the problems sometimes reported with the P800 of the buttons not working all the time. The keypad can still be removed from the P900 if you'd prefer not to use it. The five-way jog dial makes single-handed navigation of the P900's interface relatively easy, after a little practice. You'll still have to resort to pen-based operation for any text input you need to do, using Jot character recognition or the on-screen keyboard. T9 predictive text input is now available on the keypad. You can capture video clips as well as still images using the built-in VGA digital camera. There's a small mirror next to the lens, on the back of the phone, used for framing shots of yourself -- since you can't see the screen when pointing the camera at yourself. There's an option to limit video clips and stills to the maximum size permitted by most multimedia messaging services (MMS), or you can take full-size images and save them onto the Memory Stick Duo slot, or use the cradle connection to your PC. This last option is also a good way of putting music files on the P900 to listen to with the supplied stereo hands-free kit. One significant addition is a secure network client, allowing encrypted access to company networks. However, this isn't a standard VPN client, but requires you to use either RSA's SecureID or SafeWord from Secure Computing. These both require licences to use, making this facility less useful than if a standards-based VPM client, such as IPSec was included. However, there is the facility to add other secure clients provided by third parties. Check back for our full review of the P900 in a couple of weeks or so.