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Spillikins. Issue #2

We recently received a generous package from Sony Ericsson, which contained a slew of the makers latest and greatest products, including the Sony Ericsson C702, Sony Ericsson G900, and Sony Ericsson W760. This installment of Spillikins, and lets be honest, our office too, are painted in the colors of Sony Ericsson. And whats more, given the impending announcements that are set to take place early this summer, our heads start to spin - it is one of those times when we could really use an extra hour or two on top of those 24 we already have at our disposal.

Model X featured in the first issue of Spillikins provoked some mixed responses, just like the format of this series did. The truth is, I like it. On the other hand, the manufacturer of this enigmatic X has already called and even mailed me that there wasnt much mystery to it left the casing colour gave it all away. The main thing though was that my vision of the device didnt meet their expectations. Nevertheless, in my experience it happens all the time the company needs solid reasons to tout not particularly good/interesting/important solutions. So they try to brainstorm their way out of the situation, making up reasons why some handset is decent. Eventually, going over it again and again, people actually start to believe this, although in a years time, along with the phone's withdrawal from the market, they get an epiphany and brand it as incredibly weak, but a replacement is on its way to market and it has loads of potential under its hood. At first you play along, but then it gets irritating.

Sony Ericsson C702

Surprisingly ruggedized phones arent exactly all the rage on the market while many have eventually come to appreciate the two-phone setup, where one device is used for work, and the other one for personal matters, a ruggedized handset for leisure or work is still regarded as more of a gimmick. Back in the 90s such experiments were encouraged by all the manufacturers, with Ericsson being the one to kick the things off. I can still clearly remember their R250, which spent some time in my pocket. Then the Nokia 6250 came along and left me with mixed emotions, especially when, at the phone's premiere, they displayed a couple of commercials with, for instance, a country doctor rushing to his patient through a storm or a road worker, who, realistically, couldnt even afford such a device back then. It wasnt just a dozen or two R250/R310s that got dipped into water, beer and other substances by the fans of Ericsson-branded phones. Ordinary phones would have never survived this kind of abuse, while these devices were different creatures altogether. But the mass market listened to what common sense had to say why would they need to buy a fully protected handset and pay a high premium for that, if non-ruggedized solutions were quite reliable and sturdy already?

Around a year ago, Artem Lutfullin brought Xonims ruggedized model to our regular meeting note that before that he had carried out a couple of tests, i.e. dropped it on various surfaces, and even put it under water. As skeptical about its toughness as I was, I seemingly did the impossible I dropped it on the carpet in our office and managed to crack the phones display, rendering it useless for good. Apparently, it wasnt such a tough guy after all. To put my mind at ease I also dropped (and rest assured the hits were slightly harder) my Sony Ericsson K800i a couple of times, and only got the battery cover to spring off after the third time. Other than that, the K800i was good as new, and went on to live around a month more in my pocket before I changed it to a different handset.

This should definitely get you thinking why should someone shell out for ruggedized models, when even ordinary, and pretty much no-frills (in terms of anti-shock design), phones can take quite a few tumbles too. However, manufacturers hate to give up and the funds they had invested in the development of ruggedized handsets didn't vanish they simply shifted the focus and changed the name to sporty solutions. These phones could take more abuse than standard handsets they had rubber in them, as well as metallic accents and thick display covers. In a nutshell, they packed in all the makings of a companion for adventure holidays. They could even survive direct contact with water. All in all it was an interesting idea, relatively popular at that, although this toughness came at a certain price, i.e. these devices never had decent cameras because their lenses were doomed to get dirty and scratched in an instant (lens cover wasnt an option, for it would have complicated the design).

The idea behind Sony Ericssons C702 is to offer youth a ruggedized phone, yet with an adequate camera onboard. You will learn why the C702 has been designed this way and for what reason it targets ex-users of Siemens-branded phones in our review. But for now let me share my impressions of this phone. When I first saw the C702 I noted that it seemed quite good. Now that I have been playing around with it for some time, I have to say that its been a gratifying experience indeed.

The C702 is the size of a conventional candybar phone with convenient keys and a 2.2-inch display. Its blue plastic is rubberized, so that it wont slip even out of wet hands. By the way, there are two ways to allow for a firm grip on the phone first is to put some rubber on the front and rear, or just embed a ribbed edging along the perimeter.

Earlier this month I had to take a business trip to another city, so it took both the C702 and G900 along, with the former acting as my main phone. After a month of quality time with the Sony Ericsson G700 I actually caught myself trying to tap the display to call up the menu from time to time. Itd seem that a touch-sensitive display adds nothing to a handsets core functionality, but its an addictive feature nonetheless. Even my kids who have already mastered touchscreen-enabled devices refuse to understand why they cant punch the screen in every phone and get some reaction from it.

To be fair I should note that being a non-touchscreen device by no means mars the C702. Interestingly, last Friday we received a huge change log for this handset's production version and most drawbacks will be dealt with very soon all in all, a two-page long list is quite something already. What is more, these are only improvements in plastic and build quality; and since my unit is robust enough already (I would rate it a solid B), if they will do what they promised in this change log, the C702 will become more appealing.

So what did I do with my C702? First of all, I put it under a stream of water; basically, thats pretty much the thing most owners of Casios G-Shock watch did upon its debut they just smashed them into walls, just to make sure they wouldnt fall apart. Interestingly, the casing remained intact, while the wristlet would often snap off. I was motivated by exactly the same instincts nothing bad happened to the C072 though, as when the water went off, and the casing dried out it was as good as new. I still havent ventured to throw it what if I damage it before the review is done?

While this phone belongs to the Cyber Shot line-up, the C702 doesnt have much in the way of camera-related frills only a 3.2 MP camera, and this module has been pared down a little, so it is even worse than that found in the Sony Ericsson K800i. On the other hand, it packs in the lens shutter, which is the feature that allows it to stand in line with imaging-savvy solutions. No, wait, not just that. The C702 is one of Sony Ericssons first handsets to support geo tags. In Nokias range, for instance, this ability is embraced only by the Nseries devices these days. But here we deal with a feature phone that uses both hardware GPS and Cell ID for these purposes. However, in the latter case its estimations may well be several kilometers off, but indoors with no A-GPS it is at least something. For every shot you can check out the location you took it in on the C702s map. On the downside, however, this feature will set you back a little, while in the roaming zone, as you cant turn it off. I suppose the developers will figure this out some time in the future and make it adjustable.

As regards to the C702s hardware GPS, Im not going to spill the beans here, mainly because I havent tried it in all possible modes yet. The phone sports Google Maps 2.0, and has the navigation mode enabled. Its sporty functions are singled out in a separate application, where you can track what distance you have covered or how many calories you have burned.

As a short preview, take a look at a couple of shots I took with the C702 not masterpieces, yet not the worst quality we have seen either.

(+) maximize, 2048x1536, JPEG (+) maximize, 2048x1536, JPEG
(+) maximize, 2048x1536, JPEG (+) maximize, 2048x1536, JPEG

The Sony Ericsson C702 is certainly an appealing device for leisure or forest trips, this is exactly what you need. It also boasts a slew of newsworthy feats which I would like to tell you about, but thats the point at which I should stop otherwise our second issue of Spillikins will slowly grow into a review of the C702.

Sony Ericsson G900

After our review on the G700 some readers told me literally the following: Why would you need to make a full-featured review on the G900? Just run through the changes, put them all in one paragraph and merge it with the G700 article. If it was the younger me, I would have definitely done that, but not now. It is not so rare that our reviews are used by people who have not the foggiest about what the G700 and G900 are and why they are so similar. They come here to learn about some particular model, rather than jump between reviews, trying to find out the differences. Our most loyal readers surely cant appreciate that, but what can we do. Trust me; we are always trying to bring something new into our reviews.

But now, lets look at the differences between the G700 and G900, and see if we can figure out whether these should be two stand-alone reviews or one merged piece. So, here goes:

  • Design. Different materials, some controls have been altered in the G900, it sports no soft-keys, hence unique ergonomics and overall feel. While the G700 seems more like an affordable device, this phone definitely has loftier goals.
  • Camera. The G700 packs in a no-frills 3 MP unit without autofocus, whereas the G900 comes in with a 5 MP autofocus-enabled unit. Although it is totally identical to the one installed in the Sony Ericsson C902, meaning that it is pretty average in terms of quality, it is quite another matter that it carries over manual focusing from stand-alone digital cameras with touch-sensitive screens. It is a truly wonderful thing: you look at the screen, pick the object you want by tapping on the display and then the camera will obediently focus on it. Upcoming handsets in the Cyber Shot range will feature this ability too.
  • New Themes, Applications and games. Obviously these are skin-deep changes and you can transfer multimedia content between these two phones. But of all those millions who will buy the G900, who is actually going to care about that? Ten thousand people? Maybe. The rest will be really proud to find out that the main menu on their handsets can change shape, and that they have some catchy tunes onboard. Thats the way it is.
  • Positioning - A difference of 50 Euro doesnt seem like much, but thats only at a glance. The G900s WiFi, content sharing capabilities and other features make it target a totally different audience. It is not THE ultimate solution, but well-rounded device for business.

Now count them four changes, which dont seem like much, which is a solid argument against a separate review, but as I see it, while they share a common design, inside they are very different, hence why we would like to talk about them more. In addittion the Sony Ericsson G900 has awoken a strong nostalgia for another SE-branded phone that used to be popular some time ago even the colors and materials used are similar. Guess which one? Post your answers in our forum. I imagine the G900 will enjoy the same amount of success as its predecessor, although it is more a brother in spirit.

Sony Ericsson W760

This slider reminded me of the Nokia E65 in a way no solid grounds for this, just similar colours and dimensions, but other than that they couldnt be further apart. While the former is a S60-powered smartphone, the W760 is a feature phone running A200. Nevertheless, I find the spirits of these two phones uncannily close. Had the W760i hit the market earlier it would have been an interesting addition to the Sony Ericsson K850i, yet with no frills in terms of its camera. June will see the debut of the Nokia E65 successor Dora, which comes in a more diminutive casing and feels great (it is a tad steeper) than the Sony Ericsson W760, but it beats it on many fronts). Thats why you wow at the phones games and motion sensor at first, but after some time the excitement fades away and you end up with a run-of-the-mill slider on your hands, not even unique as far as the design goes.

Another thing of note about the W760 is that it comes from the same generation as the C702 with its bundled GPS and geo tagging; on top of that it shows off the Walkman 3.0 interface with gesture controls and SensMe playlists.

Thats where our attentive readers can start berating me for being biased how is it, theyd say, that you like the Sony Ericsson C702, even though it has an inferior player; the same GPS; its ruggedized, which is pretty odd, and it is not as fashionable as slider-type handsets? Dont forget, though, that this is how I personally feel about this phone I dont know, the W760 just cant set my pulse racing; it seems like it is missing something; maybe because its stereo speakers sound like a single unit? I doubt that, I have never been keen on the speaker count; I actually prefer to judge their sound.

On balance, the W760 is a no-frills, well-balanced phone; even its red color scheme doesnt feel flashy. Taking my thoughts even further, I think another parallel is in order this time, with the Sony Ericsson W610i, as they are somewhat similar in terms of design and how it is appreciated. The W610i wasnt a widely adopted offering, nor will the W760 garner much following.

As you have probably noticed, the second issue of Spillikins doesnt feature a whole lot of phones, primarily because wed like to do away with the handsets whose reviews we promised in the first installment and then move on to the rest of the heap believe me, well get you something nice from those two dozen phones that are piled up on my desk. Stay tuned.

 

Eldar Murtazin (eldar@mobile-review.com)
Translated by Oleg Kononosov (oleg.kononosov@mobile-review.com)

Published — 02 April 2008

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