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Sony Ericsson S710a GSM Phone

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Posted July 8, 2005 by Tong Zhang, Senior Editor

Candy bar phones are Sony Ericsson's specialty and trademark. The T68i, T610, K700 and the P900 series have proven that Sony Ericsson's designs work for various types of phones with vastly different feature sets. The S710 series extends that design to a new form factor with a swivel. It enables the phone to have a roomy 2.3" LCD, 1.3 megapixel digital camera and a large number pad in a reasonably compact design. Throw in the EDGE, Bluetooth and a Memory Stick Duo slot for expansion, and you've got a unique looking phone with powerful imaging, connectivity and data features.

There are two variants in the series. Like many features phones, the S700i came out in Europe and Asia first, operating on the 900/1800/1900 MHz bands. The S710a model was released to the US market and is offered by Cingular. It operates on the 850/1800/1900 MHz bands. We received the S710a for this review.

Design and Ergonomics

Styling and wow-factor are now sustaining trends in mobile phone design. While the Sony Ericsson can't compete with the extreme styling of Nokia's recent fashion phones such as the 7610 and 7280, it hold its own with a unique style and attractive design.

The S710a is an average size phone, albeit thicker than most. The 2.3" color screen and directional pad with four action buttons are located in the top half of the swivel, and a spacious number pad dominates the lower half. You need only swivel the phone open to use the number pad, and you can answer calls without opening the swivel. Users who wish to have a big screen for viewing photos, watching videos and playing games, yet don't want to give up the convenience of a large number pad will simply love the S710a.

S710a phone


Below the LCD, you'll find a 4-way directional pad with center joystick/action button. Four buttons surround the d-pad. Two large select buttons perform various functions depending on the application you are in. Two smaller buttons located below the function buttons take you one level up in the menu tree (left button) and deletes numbers, letters or items (right button). The earpiece speaker sits above the display, and the mic sits between the right select key and the delete key below the LCD.

Swing the phone open and you'll see a full cell phone keypad. The keys are large, and are inset a little so that the number keys are actually lower than the plate surface. It takes some getting used to them if you rely on tactile feedback. There are two additional keys below the number keys and they are for quick access to the Internet and turning the phone on and off. The number keypad, function keys and the d-pad light up for a short period of time when you press a key.


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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.

S710a open
side of Sony Ericsson 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.

Below: sample photos shot at 1280 x 960 on auto settings. Click on a photo to see the full size unedited original.


Sunny day, flowers in part shade.




Odwalla bottles at the market



The Sony Ericsson has built-in Bluetooth that supports synchronization with PC and Mac, DUN (dial up networking), both Handsfree and Headset profiles for Bluetooth headsets and more.

To sync with your PC, you must install Sony Ericsson's SyncStation, part of the PC Suite that comes on the companion CD and the newest version can also be downloaded from You can sync your PIM data, manage and transfer files via the Bluetooth connection. If you have a data plan with your carrier, you can also get online with your laptop or PDA using DUN on the Sony Ericsson.

The Sony Ericsson can work with Bluetooth hands-free solutions such as headsets and car kits. It supports both Handsfree profile and Headset profile. We tested the S710a with the Motorola HS820 and the Plantronics M3500 headsets, and both worked very well. The range is very good: we were able to 25 to 30 feet before we heard static and echo.


The Sony Ericsson has a 780 mAh Lithium Ion rechargeable battery, which is higher in capacity than the Sony Ericsson K700i. The standby time and talk time are amazing. Sony Ericsson claims 300-hour standby and we got at least 200 hours, and get got a talk time of 5.5 hours. The 1.3 megapixel camera doesn't use much power, to our surprise. The Sony Clie NZ90, which had a 2.0 megapixel CCD camera, drained the battery very quickly when taking photos. We took 20 pictures with the Sony Ericsson S710a and the battery went down about 10%. Bluetooth does drain the battery however-much more so than recent competing Bluetooth enabled mobile phones. If you leave Bluetooth on all day, you'll need to charge it nightly (even if you're not using Bluetooth heavily).


An attractive phone with an excellent digital camera by phone standards. An ideal phone for photo buffs who also like a nice set of phone and PIM features.

Pro: Large screen with accurate, vivid colors and a bright display. 1.3 megapixel CCD camera is the envy of other camera phones on the market. A good set of phones features including PIM applications. Built-in Bluetooth is excellent for syncing with desktop and using handsfree solutions as well as other Bluetooth accessories. Comes with a nice set of PC companion software for managing files, syncing with desktop apps and processing images and video clips.

Con: It's an effort to punch numbers and letters due to the number pad design. Heavy SMS users won't appreciate the less than adequately predictive T9 implementation. Poor battery life when Bluetooth is turned on.

Price: $299.99 with 2-year contract with Cingular

Web site:,



Display: 265K color LCD. Screen size diag: 2.3". Resolution: 240x320 pixels.

Battery: Sony Ericsson Standard BST-27 Lithium Ion rechargeable battery. 780 mAh capacity. Battery is user replaceable. Claimed talk and standby times: talk, up to 7 hours. Standby, 300 hours.

Performance: 32 megs of internal memory.

Size: 4.2 x 1.9 x 1 inches. Weight: 4.83 ounces.

Audio: Built in speaker, mic and a Sony Ericsson's proprietary stereo headset port that's similar to Nokia's Pop-port stereo headset connector. Supports polyphonic ringtones, MIDI and MP3 audio. Supports MPEG4 video with Media Player bundled on the phone. Vibrating alerts supported.

Camera: Integrated 1.3 megapixel CCD camera with 8X digital zoom. Also records video clips with audio. Picture resolutions range from 160 x 120 to 1280 x 960 and videos can be taken at 176 x 144 and 128 x 96 resolutions.

Phone: GSM triband phone, 850/1800/1900MHz in the US version. GPRS and EDGE for data. Bluetooth. IR.

Software: Sony Ericsson OS. Bundled applications include Contacts, Organizer (Calendar, Tasks and Notes), Messaging (supports SMS, MMS and email), WAP/xHTML browser, Media Player and Image gallery. Also included are two JAVA games, Music DJ, Sound recorder, calculator and stopwatch applications. The desktop companion CD includes software for syncing with PC, File Manager, Sound editor, Image Editor and Adobe Photoshop Album 2.0 Starter Edition are included. Modem drivers are also included on the CD.

Expansion: Memory Stick Duo (Memory Stick Duo to Memory Stick adapter included). A 32MB Memory Stick Duo is included in the package.

In the Box: The phone with battery and a 32MB Memory Stick Duo, an A/C charger, a stereo headset, PC suite companion CD and user manuals in English and Spanish.


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