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Tuesday, January 19 Front Page >> Random Rants >> Smartphone P800 awesome, but some teething pains.

Jan 30, 2003, 4:20pm

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Well, I've had my new Sony Ericsson P800 smartphone for just over a day now, and was entirely unproductive in my work all yesterday afternoon, evening, and even this morning.

(note, this has been edited - it was listed as a "review" on a popular symbian site, so I've revamped it to be more of a, uh, review. Also, scroll to the bottom to see 21 comparison photos!).

Bleeding Edge First Look

The Sony Ericsson P800 is one cool phone. It's probably the most feature packed, innovative "cell" phone to hit the market, in fact. But it's not without its early growing pains... and some of the blame is on my other device I hoped would work flawlessly with the phone: an IBM ThinkPad X30 ultralight notebook with Bluetooth.

I guess the coolest thing is the full blown "PDA" built into a cell phone, though some will argue it's the camera. Others will argue it's the Bluetooth. Others will argue it's all of the above. Some will even argue that Symbian as an OS sucks. I think it has the potential to be better than the Palm OS, but Symbian needs to take a lesson or ten from Palm's usability features.

What do I claim it to be? It's a time and space saver. For me, I needed something that stopped me from carrying around 3 or four devices all the time: a cell phone, my pda, a camera, my mp3 player. The P800 has all of this built in.

There's so much I like about this phone, but I'm going to save that for another rant (or review, part two). In this rant, I am going to focus on the negatives. Even as I do, don't think that for one second I'm disappointed in this phone - I'm most certainly not. But there's always room for improvement...

Things That Need Some Work on the P800

I guess first off, let's talk about the camera. It's a supah special feature to have built in a phone, and there aren't many on the market that offer this (yet - many are in the pipe). But there's three things that bother me. First, the image quality is not that great indoors (I haven't snapped an outdoor photo yet). Second, the lens is unprotected, except for being slightly recessed. I imagine eventually it will get scratched.

Third, and I'm hoping this will be a software upgrade: this camera definitely has the ability to shoot video - the big 320 by 204 LCD screen shows live, fast frame updating when you use the camera. The processor inside the camera is a ARM 204Mhz chip, the same that is inside many PocketPCs - plenty of horsepower there. But for some reason, Sony Ericsson did not put a video capture on the camera, and they are restricting developers from developing such a solution. I want video! Video via email, video via Bluetooth, video record to the internal memory!

The next thing that bothers me, and it's probably the second biggest bother after my BlueTooth issues (read below) is the choice of removable memory - Sony's proprietary, and (yet another) new memory form factor, the MemoryStick Duo. Crippled - 128mb is the largest size, and right now, you can only buy 16mb cards. Boo. Secure Digital should have been the choice here, SDIO compliant too.

The biggest complaint so far that I have with the phone isn't really the phone's fault - it is my ThinkPad's BlueTooth installation's fault. Basically, BlueTooth is a freaking joke - there are so many issues with stuff like "stacks" and "wicomm" software and stuff like that, it makes my head spin. All I know is this: I partially bought this phone because I wanted to use GPRS wirelessly between the phone and my notebook computer, via Bluetooth, and that ain't happening. The best I can do right now is GPRS over IRDA, which is a pain, a battery drain, and like I said above, a joke. It's supposedly IBM's fault for not updating their bluetooth drivers, but I now know first hand why Bluetooth hasn't taken off so far: it doesn't work.

The phone runs on Symbian OS 7, which is still very young, and there's really no professional applications written for it yet. I'm on the bleeding edge of early adoptivenessmilliajig here, so I have to cool my jets. I'm hoping that the following apps will eventually be written for this OS:

  • a competent word processing app, like QuickOffice or Documents2Go.
  • a better ToDo app than the one built in, which blows (and constantly duplicates the entries when I sync with Outlook).
  • a better sync solution that lets me use programs other than just Outlook
  • an Outlook sync solution that actually works (right now, I cannot sync schedules between the phone and Outlook, and everytime I sync, I get two warning dialogs on my PC screen about email sharing and how Outlook is not my primary email client - duh - Outlook blows - I use Eudora and I ain't switching).
  • a Project Planner type app that syncs with MS Project
  • a PowerPoint presenter application
  • a quality eBook reader: Mobipocket runs on it, but I don't like it. I'd like to see a port of iSilo's reader.
  • a better MP3 player with visualizations and the ability to play WMA files.
  • the email app is okay, but needs serious work - you can't, for instance, mark a series of emails read. You also can't navigate from one email to the next while reading the mail, you have to go back to the list of all emails first.
  • it plays videos, but only Mpeg 4, and there are no real decent mpeg4 encoders on the PC that are easy to use. Maybe the latest QuickTime, but I don't know how to use it.
  • full Apple OSX compatibility. Apple talks up their iSync and shows the Sony Ericsson T68i in the App, but the P800 doesn't work with it.
  • a USENET reader!
  • A broadcast video app for sending video streams out via gprs, BlueTooth, or recording video.
  • A wireless keyboard you can touch type on.
  • A photo and image editing program in the phone.
  • More!


Okay, so I'm all negative here, ain't I? Actually I'm not at all in person :)

Let there be no doubt: this is probably the coolest thing I've ever bought, and yes, I know the toy factor is huge ("Oh boy, Mark bought a new toy..." I can just hear my Mother, my Father, my fiancÚ, my friends and family all say... ) but it's much more than that. I very much need the ability to be connected while mobile.

Before getting the P800, when I go out and do business, I went with:

  • Cellphone (Motorola P280
  • Bulky cables (for gprs connectivity to notebook)
  • Notebook computer (okay a 3.7lb ultralight, but still...
  • PDA (either the Clie or iPaq, I got used to using both)
  • PDA keyboard
  • MP3 player (I get bored).
  • Etc.

Now I have the ability to go with just the cellphone, because I have a device that gives me decent access to my email, which is the primary thing I need on the road. That and my contacts. Well, I need a keyboard too. And I do like typing on the luscious ThinkPad keyboard.

Okay, so I'll be going out with cell phone and ultralight notebook computer. Right now I don't enjoy Bluetooth connectivity, but one day I'll be able to wirelessly broadcast my MP3s from my notebook to the phone, which came with some kick ass headphones. One day I'll (hopefully) have some good applications for the P800, a tiny wireless keyboard, and a bank of 128mb Duo cards (ugh)  that will let me leave the notebook at home too. Key for me is typing - because I get about 150 legit emails a day (and about 250 spams... sigh), I need to be able to answer them anytime, anywhere. I'm one step closer now.

If I can just get the damned Bluetooth working...

Here's a heap of photos I've taken of the phone today. So far online, I've seen lots of comparo-photos, and while some are very good quality, others are not, and to be frank, some of them are just plain boring - always comparing the phone with other phones! That's not fun! So while I did do some straight up compare shots, I've also done some comparisons with very common household things, and of course, a few coffee related items. Enjoy!

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Removable Flip
This built in flip, which actually only presses the screen, is removable. I like having it on, for now.
Does it Glow?
I swear this thing is glowing, but when you remove the back plate, I can't see how it is possible. Scary!
Some of the Fuss About
Built in 640x480 pixel CCD camera, which is cool, but no auto or manual focus and picture quality is so so.
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Camera Working
Here's the camera working. The screen gives a real time update. Why they didn't include a video capture (or broadcast) app, I dunno.
Compare: 3390
Here's the comparison that surprised me. The Nokia 3390 was the first real "tiny" phone for the masses. Check out the size similarity!
Compare: 3390
Here's the P800 and 3390 side by side. Yeah, the P800 is thicker, but if you remove the flip, not so much...
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Compare: iPaq
Okay, BORING I say, but so many people want to compare the P800's size to the iPaq. Well, here ya go.
Compare: Clie T615
Again, boring, but hey, people wanna know. Here's the Clie T615 compared in size to the P800.
Compare: Other PDAs, iPod
Here's the side profile of, from bottom to top, an iPod 10gb (thinnest one so far), Sony Clie T615, iPaq, and P800 on top.

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Compare: Club Soda
Here's a much better comparison. Here's the P800 next to standard 12oz (355ml) can of Club Soda.
Compare: GoldMember!
Here's how the P800 compares in size to a DVD box for Goldmember. The phone is puny, baybee!
Compare: Goldmember
Here's how the phone compares stacked up with the Goldmember DVD. I'm in Canada, eh, notice the French, eh?
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Compare: Perrier
The P800 looks absolutely puny next to a standard small bottle of Perrier. Puny I say! Or maybe it's my wide angle lens...
Compare: Perrier
Nope, not the lens. Okay, some of the lens. But not here - here is a straight on shot with a portrait lens. No exagerated angles.
Compare: MiniDV Tape
The P800 next to a standard MiniDV tape (from Fuji!). The phone is very small.
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Compare: Tamper
Now we're getting serious. Here's the P800 compared with a commercial grade espresso tamper.
Compare: Tamper
As you can see, either the tamper is massive, or the P800 is TinyElvis tiny. It's a bit of both.
Compare: illy Espresso Cup
Here's the P800 next to an illy espresso cup, which holds about 2 oz of espresso to the rim. The phone is all that.
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Compare: MiniZ RC Car
This photo is more to show how tiny this 25mph RC car is, than to show the size of the phone. MiniZ rulez!
Compare: iPod
I havent' seen any comparisons in size with the iPod from Apple, so here goes. The phone is taller, but narrower by a smidge.
Compare: Evil 100 Cigarettes
Holy crap - the phone isn't much taller than a pack of cigs - well, evil 100's sized cigs.

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