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Sony Ericsson P800 Symbian OS GSM Smartphone

(discontinued)

Posted June 2003 by Lisa Gade, Editor in Chief
Feb. 2004: This model has been replaced by the P900 reviewed here.

The Sony Ericsson P800 has been one of the most anticipated smartphones released in the past year. Why? It has a relatively large display, runs Symbian OS 7, supports GPRS, has Bluetooth and a VGA camera. If that isn't enough for you, it's one of the few Symbian phones that runs UIQ and has a touch screen that allows you to use the stylus or your finger to navigate and enter data. It's a GSM network phone that suports GPRS for data, and you can get it from Sony Ericsson directly as well as other dealers. It should work with any provider's SIM card (our review unit ran on the AT&T Wireless network), and it's a world phone that works on 900 MHz, 1800 MHz and 1900 MHz bands.

Sony Ericsson P800 smartphone

 

Size, Looks and Ergonomics

No doubt, this is an attractive phone. The metallic sky blue and silver finish is beautiful. These tones and the phone's sleek lines give it a tastefully modern and clean look. While the casing and flip are made of plastic, it doesn't look the least bit cheap and feels reasonably sturdy.

The phone was much smaller in person than I'd expected, fitting well in the range of larger candy bar phones. It's actually a bit shorter than the Nokia 3650, and a wee bit thinner than the otherwise smaller Kyocera 7135.

To use the P800 as a phone, you can simply dial using the flip cover in the closed position, as shown in the top left picture. If you prefer, you can use the on screen soft dialpad instead if the flip is open. You can even remove the flip if you prefer to have the large screen always available and set the phone to use the on screen dialer interface as its default.

The Memory Stick Duo expansion slot is on the right side of the phone, below a blue translucent plastic panel that pops out. This panel has a pen like tip at one end because it acts as the stylus! An ingenious design, though it doesn't make the best stylus being too light and flat. It does however stay securely in place, so you're not likely to need the included replacements. Also on the right side of the Sony Ericsson P800 you'll find a camera button which launches the camera app and acts as the shutter button.

The left side of the phone has a jog dial, headset jack, IR port and the power button. The back is where you'll find the VGA camera lens.

 

 

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What's in the Box?

You get the phone, battery, a slim and well made sync cradle, a CD with PC Suite, another CD with multimedia apps and games for the P800, a 16 meg Memory Stick Duo card, extra stylii, wired headset, an excellent printed manual and a pouch style case. What is a Memory Stick Duo? It's yet another new memory expansion card format that looks like a regular Memory Stick but is only about 1/2 as long. The P800 can accept cards of up to 128 meg capacity.

Phone Functionality

The Sony Ericsson P800 has good reception and call clarity. It's not as good as the Nokia 3650 which has excellent RF reception and doesn't pull in as many bars of signal strength (we have both phones and both are on AT&T Wireless which offers the best GSM reception in our area). However, calls do sound good and I haven't dropped any calls or heard any mentionable digital distortion in lower signal areas.

To make a call you can use the flip or the virtual dialer display which looks indentical to the flip. Instead of send and end buttons, you'll use the OK button to send a new call, answer a call or end a call. The flip isn't backlit, but since it's made of translucent plastic, the light from the display shines though to illuminate the keys. You can also voice dial using the included headset or Sony Ericsson's Bluetooth headset, and initiate a call from the phone book by tapping on your contact's number.

PDA Functions

The P800 come with CIC Jot for handwriting recognition and this does a very good job of allowing you to enter data using natural print characters. There's also an on screen keyboard you can call up to enter data. Like any PDA, the P800 has all the standard PIM (personal information manager) applications: Contacts, Calendar, Tasks and a memo pad supporting ink notes. The Contacts app supports a good number of fields, including home, work and fax numbers, email address, web address, home address, work address, notes and an image for each contact. You can create categories for your contacts and assign specific ring tones to your contact. The calendar has day, week and month views, and indicates appointments in week and month view as a blue box. You can set all day appointments, repeat events and assign categories to calendar entries. The Tasks app allows you to assign priorities, due dates, alarms to your task and you can mark it completed. Jotter is the memo app and you can enter text via handwriting recognition or the on screen keyboard. You can also draw and write ink notes, and specify the color and thickness of your lines. You can send your Jotter notes via MMS, SMS, Bluetooth or IR. You also get a calculator and a messages app for viewing received MMS and SMS messages and sending/receiving email (POP3, SMTP and IMAP are supported).

Additional Applications

There's a file manager for working with files on internal memory and the Memory Stick, a video player, audio player, picture viewer (for looking at the JPEG photos you shoot with the built-in camera) and MS Word viewer application. The P800 has a voice recorder which records in pretty decent quality, and you can record over an hour on a 16 meg stick. Voice memos can be used as ring tones and sent as MMS messages— pretty cool! Opera is included for Internet browsing and it's quite capable, supporting SSL, JavaScript, CSS, cookies and frames. The P800 supports PersonalJava and J2ME for you gamers.

Syncing and Bluetooth

PC Suite, the standard desktop apps for Symbian smartphones, is included, as is a desktop USB sync cradle. You can sync, transfer files and backup the phone using PC Suite. If you don't wish to use the cradle, you can sync using IR and Bluetooth. It runs on Windows ME, 2000 and XP, and works with Outlook 98/2000/2002, Lotus Organizer 5 and 6 as well as Lotus Notes 4.6 and 5. I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to sync and install files using Bluetooth, and I didn't go crazy setting it up. I used Anycom's new USB-220 USB adapter on Windows 2000 and was able to pair and sync right away. I just received Anycom's latest adapter and gave it a try with the P800 hoping for the best, and all went well.

To connect the P800 to another device such as a laptop or headset, you'll go into the control panel and select Bluetooth from the connections tab. You can make the phone discoverable and initiate pairing here, and specify whether the phone will ask permission before connecting to paired devices. The phone supports the relatively new hand's free profile and works well with Sony Ericsson's own HBH-60 Bluetooth headset reviewed here.

Built-in VGA Camera

As if the P800 didn't do enough, it also has a built-in digicam capable of taking shots at VGA (640 x 480) resolution at your choice of three quality settings. It can also take shots at 324 x 240 and 160 x 120 resolution. You can tweak the brightness, contrast and lighting settings (Auto, Fixed, Indoor, Outdoor and Flourescent). How's the image quality? Pretty good for a VGA digicam. It compares favorably to accessory digicams for PDAs, and does a good job of setting proper exposure and color balance. It does display noticable artifacts on indoor shots that aren't very well lit. Below you'll find a few sample photos. The full size images have not been edited, while the smaller thumbnails displayed on this page have only been reduced in pixel dimensions.

Indoors with bright light from sliding door

Outdoors on a sunny day

Indoors, medium ambient lighting. Notice artifacts in full size version of this image.

 

Comparing the Sony Ericsson P800 to Other Smartphone Platforms

The Sony Ericsson is both a phone and a PDA. That said it's more in the phone camp than the PDA camp. Functions and ergonomics are phone centric, though it does offer full-featured PIM applications and some nice basic multimedia apps. When comparing the Symbian Series 60 Nokia 3650 to the P800, the P800 is certainly a more formidable PDA thanks to the strong application suite, larger screen and handwriting recognition. The 3650 just squeaks by as a smartphone, while the P800 definitely tackles basic PDA tasks. Plus, the P800 offers a touch screen and handwriting recognition while the 3650 and once very popular Nokia 9290 Communicator do not.

As you might expect, the Palm OS smartphones such as the Samsung I330 and Kyocera 7135 offer a much fuller PDA experience with greater expandability via accessories and the myriad commercial, shareware and freeware Palm OS apps available. The same can be said of recent Pocket PC Phone Edition models such as the T-Mobile and Samsung i700 models. Though you won't find as many software titles for Pocket PC OS as Palm, there are still several thousand applications to choose from.

Nokia 3650, Kyocera 7135 and Sony Ericsson P800 smartphones

Above, size comparison of the Nokia 3650, Kyocera 7135 and the Sony Ericsson P800.

Sony Ericsson P800 smartphone side view
Side view of the P800 with flip open. The Memory Stick Duo card goes in the side under the translucent blue cover which pops out to act as a stylus.

 

If you're a user who's looking for a convergence device that will allow you to carry one device instead of two, and you have basic PDA needs, then the P800 should do the job admirably. If you're a PDA power user, or are interested in exploring the rich world that PDAs offer, then the P800 may not be your device.

Battery Life and Display

The P800 comes with a user replaceable 1,000 mA Lithium Ion battery that was good for 2 days of average use, and a week or more of standby time.

The display is a front lit TFT LCD with a resolution of 208 x 320 pixels when the flip is open. While it's not breathtaking, it is an adequate color display that is visible in daylight.

Suggested list price $699

Pro: Attractive, and surprisingly light weight for a full-featured Symbian smartphone. Symbian OS is reliable and stable: you won't have to worry about losing your data due to crashes. Offers handwriting recognition and on-screen QWERTY keyboard. Good battery life, large color display, Bluetooth plays nicely with other devices. built-in digicam takes nice pix. Con: PC Suite can be a challenge at times for syncing, though generally once you get it working, it will be reliable. Not as many apps and expansion possibilites compared to Palm OS and Pocket PC phones make it a weak choice for PDA pro's.

 

Specs:

Display: TFT color LCD, 12 bit, 4096 colors, Screen Size Diag: 3", Resolution: 208 x 320 pixels (flip open).

Battery Lithium Ion rechargeable. Battery is user replaceable. 1,000 mA. Claimed battery life: Talk Time 5 hours.

Performance: ARM 9 processor running at 156 MHz, 12 MB built-in RAM available to user. One 16 meg Memory Stick Duo also included for memory expansion.

Size: 117mm x 59mm x 27mm. Weight Approximately 158 grams.

Audio: Built in speaker, mic and standard 2.5mm mono headset jack.

Software: Symbian OS 7 and UIQ 2.0 user interface. Standard PIM apps included, along with image viewer, camera app, video player, Opera web browser, message app for email, SMS and MMS, games and more. PC Suite for desktop syncing and more.

Expansion: 1 Memory Stick Duo slot. 16 meg card included, can accept up to 128 meg cards.

Network: GSM with GPRS. Tri-band 900 MHz (Europe), 1800 MHz and 1900 MHz (US) freqencies.

 

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