Sony Ericsson K850i observations

October 30, 2007

I’ve been using my Sony Ericsson K850i for a few days now and it’s a great device all around. In fact it’s almost as powerful as the Nokia N95 which was my convergence device of choice for several months…

That’s pretty impressive, because it’s not a smartphone and it’s not equipped with WiFi or GPS. Then again, these missing features are somewhat alleviated by solid Java support, tri-band (!) HSDPA and an optional GPS module!

- Hardware:
As I’ve mentioned before, it’s smaller than I expected and it’s a fingerprint magnet. Build quality is very good – no surprise there.

Like most digital cameras and unlike most phones, a hinged door hides a battery slot, a memory card slot (which accepts either micro-SD or Memory Stick Micro M2 cards – very nice), and a SIM slot (hot swappable) all stacked next to each-other.

There’s a strip of black rubber along the edge of the hinged door that prevents the phone from sliding when placed keypad/screen up on a flat surface – smart touch.

Unfortunately, there’s no dedicated play/pause hardware key (see the Sony Ericsson W800i) for the media application. Standard USB and stereo headset connectors are also missing, so proprietary cables are required.

- Software:
The user interface is similar to other recent Sony Ericsson devices. It’s easy to navigate, responsive and quite polished (the fonts in particular). All of the supplied themes are appealing, which is rare on other phones.

The media application automatically switches between portrait and landscape when you tilt the device, just like the iPhone. Unfortunately, it takes incredibly long to index the contents of the memory card upon insertion.

The web browser is pretty basic when compared to the iPhone or the Nokia N95. It supports landscape, but it’s done manually. Java applications like Opera Mini and Google Maps Mobile work well, but strangely, Gmail Mobile is not available.

The phone crashed on me a few times when I was hammering the user interface right after power up – I was forced to remove and re-insert the battery in order to recover.

- Camera:
I’ll be reviewing the camera separately, but I’m pretty sure the K850i is one of the best camera phones on the market today. Overall picture quality and low-light performance are excellent, startup time and auto-focus are significantly faster than other phones.

In short, I feel that the Nokia N95 colors are richer, and that the i-mobile 902 sensor is less noisy, but the K850i is consistently good. The combination of both a xenon flash and an LED flash (to assist the auto-focus) can’t be matched by the other two devices.

The electrically activated lens cover is nice, but strangely there’s also a glass plate over the lens cover which easily becomes soiled with fingerprints – this makes the lens cover somewhat pointless.

- HSPDA/Bluetooth:
With quand-band GPRS/EDGE, tri-band UMTS/HSDPA (US 1900/850 MHz and european 2100 MHz), Bluetooth 2.0 (with A2DP and DUN), and USB 2.0 (with mass storage and DUN), what’s there not to like? It’s a great device for tethering…

- Keypad/screen:
The unusual keypad is surprisingly functional after a brief adaptation period (cutting my nails helped a lot).

The phone uses capacitive sensors just like the iPhone, but only at the bottom edge of the screen where the 3 soft keys are located. As a result I keep trying to tap on other parts of the screen, expecting it to react – doh!

The QVGA screen is excellent (it’s very bright but it could be larger).

The phone resets to using T9 predictive text by default when turned off – this is annoying.

- Audio/RF:
Call quality and reception are very good, as expected. Sound quality is excellent when listening to music with high-end headphones, better than the Nokia N95 (which is noisy at low listening volumes).

- Battery life:
Battery life is great, especially when set to GSM only with Bluetooth disabled.

I last charged it Sunday night and it’s still 3/4 full Tuesday afternoon. I turned it off Monday night for 8 hours. So far on this charge I’ve talked for about 2 hours.

I’m pretty impressed – then again, it’s not a smartphone :)


Tasty bits – 30 31 32 (yummy chunks)

October 23, 2007

Another month, another triple edition of tasty bits… I just can’t keep up!

A device I just acquired, the Sony Ericsson K850i:
- Sony Ericsson K850i Unboxing!

A device I recently reviewed, the BlackBerry 8320 (Curve):
- T-Mobile’s Wi-Fi BlackBerry Curve Is Fo’ Real and Quite Tasty
- UMA: T-Mobile’s secret weapon. Truphone: everyone else’s?
- T-Mobile BlackBerry Curve 8320 Unboxing Part 2 / Giveaway
- T-Mobile BlackBerry Curve 8320 Unboxing!
- BlackBerry 8320 Wi-Fi vs. BlackBerry 8300 EDGE speed test
- T-Mobile announces BlackBerry Curve with WiFi, we check it out
- Another look at the BlackBerry 8320 for T-Mobile

Nokia N95 (I expect to get my hands on the US version soon):
- A Brief Look at the Nokia N95 US 3G, PT. 1
- A Brief Look at the Nokia N95 US 3G, PT. 2- Battery Life Comparison
- A Brief Look at the Nokia N95 US 3G, PT. 3 – Build Quality
- BL-6F Into Nokia N95 – Yes It Can Be Done, But…
- Nokia N95 or Apple iPhone? – The Question Has Been Answered
- Sling Player Now Available on Nokia N95
- US 3G Costs Nokia N95 a Mere Hour of Battery Life
- US 3G Nokia N95 Runs For Over 9 Hours On EDGE
- US Nokia N95 Reviewed: Better Than the Euro Version
- New Nokia N95-3: it’s what the original should have been
- Unboxing the Nokia N95 8GB
- All About Symbian Review: Nokia N95 8GB
- Nokia N95-3 hands-on!
- Nokia N95-3 with North American 3G now available
- Hands-on (again) with the North American N95!
- Wiimote used to control Nokia N95
- Google Maps gets cozy with N95′s internal GPS

Nokia N810 (a device I’m very excited about, since I’m coming from the Nokia 770):
- Nokia N810 Hands-On Gallery and Video
- Nokia N810 Internet Tablet with QWERTY is peeped!
- Third generation tablet on TabletBlog
- N810 on TabletBlog
- Nokia’s N810 Internet Tablet, MOSH to debut soon?
- Nokia N810 gets official
- Nokia N810 hands-on

More Nokia news:
- S60 Touch Interface Launched
- Nokia E90 review: Heavyweight champion

iPhone info (centered around the 1.1.1 update and Apple finally announcing an SDK):
- iPhone Firmware 1.1.1 Out and Tested: Breaks 3rd-party Apps, Relocks iPhones and Sends Them to Semi-Brick Activation Limbo (Updated with video)
- iPhone Installer App Updated to 3.0beta3 With Many Improvements
- New anySim Gets Bugs Ironed Out, Now Integrated with Installer.app
- 250,000 Unlocked iPhones Have Been Sold
- iPhone Dashboard Widgets Imminent?
- iPhone Re-Reviewed (Verdict: Don’t Buy)
- Apollo IM for iPhone hits 1.0
- A note to both Apple and iPhone customers on the v1.1.1 update
- Truphone demos VoIP for iPhone
- iPhone update: facts and fiction
- iPhone v1.1.1 baseband downgrade released
- Orange to sell unlocked iPhones in France
- iPhone / iPod touch v1.1.1 jailbreak code posted
- MEX – the strategy forum for mobile user experience – Award surprises, Apple interface guidelines & our challenge for operators
- Apple: “iPhone SIM unlockers will end up with iBricks”
- How to relock your iPhone before the firmware update
- “iPhone Dev Team” issues statement
- Moment of Truth: iPhone Software 1.1.1 is out
- iPhone: 90 Days Later
- DIY iFlash for the iPhone
- iPhone/iPod touch Remote Control
- BusinessWeek: Why I Won’t Buy an iPhone
- iPhone Dev Team announces public iPhone 1.1.1 Jailbreak
- iPhone SIM Free announces 1.1.1 SIM Unlock, iPhone Unbricking
- iToner working with iPhone Firmware 1.1.1
- iPhone jailbreak interface INdependence updated to 1.2.2
- iPhone Dev Team announces free unlock
- Apple: “we plan to have an iPhone SDK in developers’ hands in February”
- iToner 1.0.3 works with iPhone 1.1.1
- iPhone programming 101: full header documentation released
- Stacks on the iPhone

Walt Mossberg echoes (in part) my own rant about the iPhone:
- Mossberg howls: “Free my Phone”

More Apple news:
- Apple Macbook Touch Concept and Thoughts on the Newton 2 Rumors
- We need a real handheld computer, who will build one? Apple of course
- More “New Newton” rumors

Samsung P520 (Armani), G800 and more:
- Samsung Armani Phone Hands On Video
- Java Phone: Sun Microsystems and Samsung May Be Developing Cheaper iPhone Alternative
- Specs Drop for Samsung’s Touchscreen, WiMax UMPC SPH-9200
- Samsung i550, GPS Phone, officially announced
- Samsung’s Armani phone has a surprise: a haptic feedback UI
- Samsung’s 5 megapixel G800 gets launched, available next month

LG VX10000 (Voyager) and CU920 (Vu2):
- Verizon’s Voyager- going after the iPhone crowd
- LG Shine, Prada coming to AT&T as Vu, Vu2?

Google phone:
- What’s the Google phone going to be? Hardware or software?
- The Google Phone: It’s the OS dummy

Linux/DIY:
- Compulab’s EM-X270 brings DIY to smartphones
- Wired’s Open Phone Round-Up Tells the Bleak Truth

Other:
- Motorola’s big ‘08 splash
- Meizu’s MiniOne M8 GUI showcased further, still devoid of originality


Unboxing the Sony Ericsson K850i

October 18, 2007

What do you get when you combine a good 5 megapixel camera with auto-focus, macro, and xenon flash with a nice quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE and tri-band (!) UMTS/HSDPA world phone?

You get the Sony Ericsson K850i.

It’s been a long time since I’ve used a Sony Ericsson device for primary duty. Over the next few weeks I’ll be putting the K850i through its paces, and measuring it against the new Nokia N95, US version…

In the meantime, here are some pictures – it’s smaller than I expected and it’s a fingerprint magnet.

Sorry for the flash in the pictures, but I didn’t have my Nokia N95, so I borrowed a Nikon D50 but I failed to find a mode (manual or automatic) that didn’t result in blurry shots without the flash in low light (it was a rainy Seattle day).


BlackBerry Curve camera

October 5, 2007

Here are some pictures taken with my WiFi-enabled BlackBerry 8320 (Curve)

Quality is reasonable, and in line with other current 2 megapixel devices like the iPhone and the Nokia N75.

On the positive side, the camera is equipped with an LED flash and a digital zoom. On the negative side, it is missing two important features: auto-focus and macro!

That being said, over the past few days I’ve really learned to appreciate the Curve – it’s a well designed phone (both hardware and software) with a well balanced set of features.


Please open up the iPhone

October 2, 2007

Dear Mr. Jobs,

I’m a long-time Apple customer, an Apple shareholder and a mobile technology blogger. I’ve purchased and activated 2 iPhones since June 29, 2007.

I’m not pleased with the direction taken by Apple with the iPhone in the past few weeks, specifically with regards to 3rd party applications, unlocking, ringtones and software updates

I’d like to see Apple open up the iPhone and support industry standard features instead of putting profits before the needs/wants of its customers!

I’m not the only one feeling this way – Apple is currently being scrutinized by the technology press and its “core audience” for its recent closed stance regarding the iPhone.

Here are some suggestions.

On the software front:
- Add support for 3rd party applications by releasing an official SDK. Alternatively, stop publishing software updates that prevent the development of 3rd party applications.
- Let us unlock the iPhone. AT&T unlocks other devices after 90 days for customers with accounts in good standing. We have already purchased the device without subsidy and committed to a 2-year contract with an early-termination fee. We should have the option to use other SIMs, especially when traveling.
- Let us create free ringtones from the music we already own (on CD). The RIAA already allows us to create free ringtones from the music we already own under “fair use“.
- Add support for USB mass storage
- Add support for video recording
- Add support for stereo Bluetooth devices (and other industry standard Bluetooth profiles, like file transfer, synchronization and DUN)
- Add support for MMS

On the hardware front:
- Add support for 3G (specifically HSDPA). EDGE is just not cutting it in this day and age.
- Improve the camera with a flash, auto-focus, macro, and a 3+ megapixel sensor

Stop being closed with the iPhone – it’s a revolutionary product that could be even more profitable if Apple opens it up. Also, it would be great PR!

Think different :)

Thanks for your time…

Sincerely, tnkgrl


No BlackBerry plan? No problem

October 2, 2007

I’ve been reading mixed reports about using my WiFi-enabled BlackBerry 8320 (Curve) without a BlackBerry plan… Some say it’s possible, other say it’s not, so I decided to investigate!

With my existing T-Mobile unlimited t-zones data plan, the built-in web browser worked fine for WAP sites (over GPRS/EDGE only) and for HTML sites (over WiFi only). I was able to install Opera mini 4 beta, the Google maps client and the Gmail client, but none of these application worked (over either GRPS/EDGE or WiFi, with TCP/APN set to “wap.voicestream.com”). Blame it on the proxy…

Since I was already considering it, I upgraded to the T-Mobile Total Internet data plan that was recently introduced (unlimited data + Hotspot). I also added the BlackBerry Feature Enabler (free – for MMS support).

With my Total Internet data plan, the built-in web browser worked fine for both WAP and HTML sites (over either GPRS/EDGE or WiFi). Opera mini 4 beta, the Google maps client and the Gmail client, all worked as well (over either GRPS/EDGE or WiFi, with TCP/APN set to “internet2.voicestream.com”)!

Then I got the phone SIM unlocked and tried my AT&T MEdia Max 200 data plan.

With my MEdia Max 200 data plan, the built-in web browser worked fine for both WAP and HTML sites (over either GPRS/EDGE or WiFi). Opera mini 4 beta, the Google maps client and the Gmail client, all worked as well (over either GRPS/EDGE or WiFi, with TCP/APN set to “wap.cingular”).

Basically, it looks like any proxy-less data plan works fine – so unless you require push email, ignore the BlackBerry plan :)

One more thing… UMA turns me on is pretty cool!

It works on most WiFi networks as long as you use a T-Mobile SIM, and call quality is great – no special router required. Unfortunately, transitions between GSM and WiFi often result in dropped calls, but this is apparently getting fixed soon.

Now I want to see UMA support for my Nokia N95.


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