The back of the phone resembles a small digital camera, setting the stage for the excellent 1.3 megapixel CCD camera. The battery door with an added domed silver piece gives your fingers a better grip when you hold the phone horizontally like a digital camera. The battery lives beneath the battery door, and the SIM is under the battery. Above the camera lens, you will find the flash on the left and the lens cover on the right. Open the lens cover also to launch the camera app, and close the lens cover to exit the camera application-- a very convenient feature for capturing a quick moment. Note that the swivel must be closed to use the camera. The self portrait mirror is located below the lens. The S710a's speakerphone is on the back of the phone.
On the left side of the Sony Ericsson, you will find the charging LED, phone lock slider which can lock the phone with password protection, and the IR port. On the right side, you will find the volume buttons near the top, a shutter release for the camera and the Memory Stick Duo slot towards the bottom. The charging port and the stereo headset connector are located at the bottom of the S710a. The sides of the phone curve in a little bit, providing a better grip.
Phone Features and Organizer
As mentioned, the Sony Ericsson S710a operates on the 850/1800/1900 MHz bands and is offered by Cingular in the US. The Cingular version of the phone is SIM locked to Cingular, and there is an AT&T version available for business customers (NBO) who haven't switched over. The S710a gets very good reception on the 850 and 1900 MHz bands. It's not a top RF phone, but it's good enough for even fair signal areas. The ear piece volume is quite loud, beating many recent smartphones which seem to have gone quiet. When in a call, you can use the two select buttons to turn on the speakerphone or end the call. If you press the center action key on the d-pad, you will get a short menu which includes shortcuts to Main Menu, Hold Call, Mute Microphone, Turn Off Tones, Record and Transfer Sound. This interface makes it easy for you to take additional actions during a call without interrupting your conversation. The S710a supports most common mobile phone features including voice dialing, call forwarding, call waiting and conference calls where services are available.
The Sony Ericsson S710a comes with a full set of PIM (Personal Information Manager) applications including Phonebook, Calendar, Tasks, Notes and more. The Phonebook can hold 510 numbers and can store pictures, ringtones, email, Web address and street address to contacts. Note that if you save your contacts on your SIM card, you can only save entries as a name with a single number. It's easy to make a call from your contact database: just type in the first few letters of the contact's name to find the phone number to call. If you receive a call from a new contact, when your call is finished, the S710 will ask you if you wish to save the contact to your Phonebook. You can also assign speed dial number to your contacts with number 1-9, though it's a good idea to leave number 1 as your voicemail speed dial. The Calendar, Tasks and Notes applications under the Organizer menu are simpler than the respective apps found on PDAs and smartphones. The Calendar app has monthly and weekly views. When you add new appointments, you will go through a few screens to set date, time and reminder. You can save up to 300 appointments and 80 tasks depending on the size of each item, and set reminder for each of the appointments and tasks.
Web and Messaging
The Sony Ericsson S710a has a basic WAP browser that supports both WAP and https secure browsing. You can select browsing mode, use a proxy server if desired, and enter IP and port number in the Internet Profile settings. The browser has some basic features including bookmarks, history, save pictures and send links. Since the S710a support EDGE for data, web browsing speed is good.
The Sony Ericsson S710 supports SMS, Picture messaging and email. Launch the Messages application from the Main Menu, and you're ready to send messages. Text messages can be sent to one person, several recipients or to a group saved in the Phonebook. To enter text messages, you can use the keypad or copy/paste from other apps or messages. There is also a template folder where you can create templates for frequently used phrases and messages. The multitap text input works well for entering messages, but it requires more taps to select the wanted letter from a list. The predictive text input (T9) works about 70% of the time.
Picture messages can contain text, pictures, video clips and sound recordings. To send an MMS message, both you and the recipient must have a subscription that supports MMS. Inter-carrier MMS is still a bit unreliable. Because MMS can be large in file size, you can use download options to tell your S710 when to download the messages. These options include Auto Download, Ask When Roaming, Not When Roaming, Always Ask and Off.
If you have a data plan, you can use the Sony Ericsson to send and receive email using the Email application. Setting up an email account is fairly easy and there are three ways you can create an email account: download settings from the Internet, send a request in a text message and create an email account manually. The Email settings are extensive and both POP3 and IMAP4 are supported. You can set incoming and outgoing servers, ports, encryption, mailbox, email address, signatures and more. You can use a contact's email address in your Phonebook or type new email address to send an email. If someone who's not in your contacts sent you a message, you can either block it or add it to your contacts list.
Camera and Multimedia
The Sony Ericsson S710a has an excellent 1.3 megapixel CCD camera with 8x digital zoom that takes superb photos by phone standards. The shutter location and the phone's camera-like form factor when closed make taking photos very convenient and comfortable. Open the shutter lock to reveal the camera lens and self portrait mirror, and launch the camera application at the same time. The large 2.3" LCD becomes the viewfinder. One of the select buttons brings up various photo settings and options. These options include Shot Mode (normal, burst 4 or with frame), Picture Size (from 160 x 120 to 1280 x 960), Night Mode, Self Timer, Effects (negative, solarize, sepia and black & white), Light (turn on the flashlight), White Balance (auto, incandescent, fluorescent, daylight and cloudy), Spot Photometry, Shutter Sound, saving locations (phone or Memory Stick Duo) and more. Once you've taken a picture, you can choose to trash it, send it via MMS or view all the photos in the album.
As of this writing, The S710 has by far the best camera of any current phone or PDA. The photos taken with the Sony Ericsson have good color saturation and light balance. Indoor shots with decent lighting and outdoor shots with mild sunlight yield the best light balance. Strong sunlight can wash out photos, though the S710 handles this better than most camera phones. Photo buffs love this phone for a reason: it takes simply great shots by today's standards and the photos are good enough for web site use. In fact, you might get an OK 4" x 6" print from your shots. You can view your photos one at a time or in a slide show . The desktop software includes an image application where you can manage your photos.
The camera can also take live video with sound at 176 x 144 and 128 x 96 resolutions. The sound and image in the video stay reasonably in sync. The video has some breakup and the audio sounds a little muffled, but its still good by camera phone standards.
The voice and music volume on the Sony Ericsson S710a are quite high. You can use any MIDI or MP3 files as ringtones. The voice quality is above average, good but won't wow you. When the volume is turned up to near max, incoming voice crackles a little bit. Playing MP3 through the included pop-port stereo headset gets decent quality, but loses the fullness of the music to certain degree and adds a little bit of white noise, especially on more processed music pieces.
The bright, color saturated 2.3" color LCD is capable of displaying 265K colors at 240 x 320 pixel resolution. It's well-suited for viewing the camera's lovely photos.