Initial P800 review

OK, I admit it, I'm a cellular phone and portable gadget addict. There, I said it... now, to heck with the remaining 11 steps, because I ENJOY being an addict.

The fact of the matter is that this industry is moving so quickly that (with the sole exception of the expense), it is one of the few great places to be playing around these days.

Enough about me, you all came here to read about the phone. So, I purchased my Sony-Ericsson P800 cellular phone/pda/camera from Expansis USA about a week ago...

After a small bit of confusion over the shipping setup, I got my phone last week before going out of town to Las Vegas. By the way, I would strongly suggest that an out of town trip is a necessary part of the early cellular phone or PDA experience, since it will give you the best chance to rely upon the device as an crucial part of your personal information infrastructure.

When you open the box and take out the phone, you see one thing, screen. This thing is one huge screen with all of the other bits jammed in behind it. It's large (208px w x 320px h) and bright (worked in the LV midday sun without incident and in the dimly lit recesses of the casino).

Reception is about what you would expect from any of the previous Ericsson models (such as the T68i). I haven't done any scientific analysis, but so far, it appears to provide slightly better signal handling.

My configuration information appears to have mostly come over from the T68i, with a few exceptions for things like the GPRS configuration, although that was easy to fix.

The built-in speaker and mic are acceptable for normal, occasional use.

Bluetooth headset handling is a little weird. It's not "bad", as ringing occurs in the headset correctly and it follows the same basic "where you accept the call is where it goes" behavior of the previous Ericsson models. However, there is one place where that breaks, and that's picking up a second call. So far, I have been using the handset to switch calls, and that seems to (more often than not) send the call back to the handset... annoying. I may have to read the manual about that one.

The biggest disappointment was finding out that it doesn't sync with iSync. I'm doing some experimentation and it appears that it doesn't really comply with either the "standard" for SyncML over Bluetooth or the previous (T68i) method of doing OBEX over AT commands through the serial profile of Bluetooth. At the moment, this means no sync for Mac users (although the PC users are in luck thanks to software on the included CD).

The camera seems to work well, if you really want a dinky little camera. It's going to be somewhat useful for those times when you don't have a camera, but that's why I have my little Cannon. It's a very happy camper and is small enough to carry about when I have a jacket on.

Which brings us to carrying it about. So far, no belt clip, and I'm not sure that's going to change. The phone is a bit wide to be comfortably strapped on in the way of the venerable T68i. We'll just have to see how the ingenious after-market adapts. For the time being, a light coat or shirt pocket will suffice.

The GPRS support is great. It is more reliable than the T68i (not that it was bad, but it did have some glitches) and the 4+1 slot capability of this phone with CS-4 means that eventually you'll see speeds approaching 128K. My TiBook was very happy talking to it for internet access both at IAD and LAS, so I was wired whenever I needed to be. Further, New York-New York has nice coverage on the casino floor, so you can get your email and surf the web while losing the cash you were planning to use to buy another phone or PDA.

The built-in email is about the best that I've seen in a hand-held phone and in many ways beats the built-in mail in the PocketPC. I've used the T68i happily for a number of months in this regard, but had found it annoying to have to jeopardize my security because of the lack of SMTP authentication. This feature is supported on the P800, as are secure connections. Both IMAP and POP seem to work well, and it can deal with multiple accounts. Among the cool features are:

  • copy and paste of message bodies
  • open in browser
  • call number
  • forwarding, replies, and quoting
  • tight address-book integration

The built-in web browser is good. It's not great, but it's integration is nice and it will render most non-frames non-javascript pages without difficulty. And, it's a lot faster than booting up your laptop to look up that FedEx or UPS status.

If you really need frames or JavaScript, you can always download the latest Opera for the P800. It has some very rough UI edges ( it is Opera, after all), but is speedy and feature-rich.

This shows another strength of this phone, the availability of third-party applications. Touting both Java and C-based Symbios, this phone has a lot of expansion capability, and with the Memory Stick (right concept, wrong implementation, SD/MMC would have been better) there's enough room to put useful stuff on there.

So, what about battery life, you ask. Well, there's good news, and bad news. I haven't done any scientific work, but I can give you a basic idea of what I've seen. For me, I can get up to about 3 hours of talk time in a normal day without running out of juice. The time is reduced or expanded mainly on the basis of how much time I spend playing games on it (the solitaire is addictive), and how much GPRS is used. So far, I haven't run out or felt the need to do mid-air (in-car) refueling on it. However, I wouldn't suggest leaving the adaptor at home if you go out of town. Which reminds me, it uses the same adaptor as all of the other Ericsson phones, so you can keep interchangeable travel chargers for your phone and earpiece and you don't have to buy yet another car charger.

More news as the story develops.