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Review of Panasonic Docomo P-03C Lumix Phone
It is a camera in the first place based on the company's own image rendering processor Mobile VenusEngine. A very handy and utilitarian cameraЕ with "a phone function".
Lumix Phone belongs to the winter-spring line of 2010-2011 and was released by Panasonic exclusively for the Japanese carriers NTT Docomo and Softbank. It will not be officially on sale outside Japan but can in fact work with any GSN carrier. I have been testing the NTT Docomo version. Besides the color the phones look the same. The same difference is in the menu style and also in the availability of certain services and functions that each of the carriers offer.
NTT Docomo Lumix Phone:
Softbank Lumix Phone:
The Lumix phone shipping box as well as any other Japanese carrier's phone contains:
I will remind you that chargers or USB cables with an audio adapter are never included in the package of Docomo phones with the exception of a few smartphones like Regza (T-01C). This is due to the fact that these jacks are identical in Docomo and Softbank phones. There is no point adding same chargers and USB cables into the package. On the one hand, this looks pragmatic, but on the other Ц if you are a first time buyer you will have to add rather expensive accessories to your cart Ц you will, at least, need a charger.
It turned out that to insert a SIM card into the phone you have to apply a lot of strength. There are no dents or projections you could use to take off the back panel. I had to consult the manual and find that it works quite simple: you press your thumbs against the camera rim then push down the panel and shift the whole rear side down. So you actually see the entire back side uncovered (the battery and the camera). It is nice that the Panasonic engineers managed to place the memory card slot aside the battery you will not have to take out the battery to replace the card. It is a big advantage that stands out as compared to most competitors. You can also use a USB cable to connect to a PC for data transfer. This phone supports microSD cards up to 32GB
Currently, like the majority of Japanese GSM phones Lumix Phone can work with any GSM carrier using a hypersim.
The hypersim is inserted together with a SIM card and the phone recognizes the SIM as native. Importantly, starting from April 2011 Docomo offers its phones in two versions: locked and SIM free. And as was mentioned above you can unlock your phone for a symbolic fee of ¥3150 in any Docomo store after signing an agreement. Apparently, unlocked phones will gush out on free sale. There is only one issue Ц how quickly will third party service centers receive the necessary software and specific phones' firmware for unlocking.
When you take out a brand new phone that has been released just a couple of weeks ago you always feel that you are a part of something important. In case of Lumix Phone this was exactly what I felt. The phone feels solid in hand. There is no typical for many flip phones crackling. The phone is extremely well put together Ц a real Made in Japan. The phone gives you an impression of a monolith. I think it could have easily been made water resistant. This is definitely a deviation from the modern trends. But I must admit that the phone's teasers and the announcement did not impress me as well as many other Japanese phones fans. As a rule, the slider form factor is alien to the Japanese market. Also, there is nothing creative or outstanding in the phone's design. Moreover, in terms of design Lumix Phone is almost an exact copy of its Japanese siblings.
In case of Docomo P-03C I learned once again that one is not to judge a book by its cover. I had similar impressions from Docomo SH-01C (the top Sharp flip phone which I am going to review a bit later).
Many instantly noticed that Panasonic designers had made an accent on the similarity of the phone with the point and shoot cameras of the company. And there is definitely an analogy. The whole phone's body is made of plastic. It may seem too big on the pictures but in reality the phone is feels very good in hand. The dimensions are 116х52х17.7 mm / 4.57x2x0.7 in and weighs 141 g / 5 oz. the surface is glossy but fingerprints are not very visible due to the appropriately picked color. Besides the beige metal the phone is available in black, blue and pink. As usual, the Japanese are not conservative and offer a lot of colors. I am quite sure that the blue and the pink variant will find owners.
The most of the front side is occupied by the touchscreen that I will leave aside for a moment. Underneath the screen there are the main controls. The multifunctional round center button immediately catches your eye. This rotary button serves as a select button in the four main dimensions and can be used for scrolling when rotated clockwise or counterclockwise. If you rotate it clockwise the selection in any menu that has more than one option (like e.g. in a photo gallery) goes down or up if you rotate the button counterclockwise. I cannot recall right now any European phone with something like this though I am positive that it has been somewhere. To say that it is convenient is not to say anything. Using this wheel is easy on a reflex level Ц your thumb automatically knows what to do as if it had been accustomed to this for a long time. This concept is similar to the HTC trackball which I actually never use.
In the center of the wheel there is a button that serves as a light indicator that notifies you about incoming calls, SMS and missed calls. During charging the button is solid red. You can adjust the colors and the light pattern of notifications in the settings.
Under the wheel there is the Back button that takes you to the previous menu that also serves as the Backspace button and deleted the character to the left when typing. At sides there are typical for any phone function keys. In Docomo P-03C they are as follows:
In the bottom corners there are the Call and the End call buttons. To turn the phone on or off you have to press and hold the End call button. Regardless how thin or thick your digits are working with the buttons is easy. When the phone is locked it is in standby mode. To wake it up you have to press the center button and hold it for a couple of seconds. Or you can unlock the phone right from the touchscreen.
At the bottom side there is a slot that allows you to connect via to all the main interfaces: AC/DC adapters, USB cable and an audio adapter. The lid is tight and there is no wobbling.
The left side of the phone features no buttons. There is only a charm/holder hole at the top of it.
On the right side there is probably the most important button Ц the shutter button. It stands out due to its size and the chrome finish next to the volume rocker and the MULTI/Wi-Fi button.
The volume rocker controls the sound volume and the screen modes. Also it adjusts the brightness levels of the LED backlit in the camera mode. The name MULTI/Wi-Fi speaks for itself. To save the space in Lumix Phone the engineers quite reasonably moved the Multi button from the key pad to the right side of the phone. In all Docomo phones there is a sort of multitasking. You can switch between up to five active applications. Wi-Fi works just as in any other smartphone or laptop.
The functionality of the button is limited to basic functions typical to any modern point and shoot digital camera: if you press the button down a bit Ц the sensor focuses on the selected object (in the center of the screen by default), if you push the button all the way down Ц you make a snapshot.
At the top side of P-03C closer to the screen there is the IR port lid. Don't be surprised. Many top Japanese phones still have IR port that is used for transferring contacts pictures etc. Due to exotic Japanese laws it is prohibited to use Bluetooth for data transfer Ц you can only use Bluetooth with a wireless headset in Japan. The first spet towards the alien European civilization was only taken this year with the phones like Docomo SH-01C (Sharp) and Docomo F-01C (Fujitsu). And believe it or not Ц you can now actually Bluetooth pictures to another phone!
In the right corner of the key pad section there is an inbuilt TV antenna Ц completely pointless in some many countries since it can only work with digital signal.
As I have mentioned above the entire back panel is completely solid. The camera eye is surrounded by a wide chromed rim. It makes the camera module seem big but as a matter of fact the module is quite miniature.
On the opposite side there is a thin chromed bumper that protects the phone from scratches when you for example put it on the table Ц it so to say takes the fire on itself and sustains a lot of visible damage. Next to the camera rim closer to the center of the body there is an LED flash that as the manufacturer claims assists photo and video shooting at low lighting levels.
Right in the center of the back panel there is the Lumix logo that looks quite expensive.
On the side of the camera rim there are hole of the loudspeaker. The volume is of an incoming call is sufficient. The loudspeaker is not protected by any cover and the sound waves travel freely right into your ears.
The plastic touchscreen of Lumix Phone is nothing special as compared to other similar Japanese phones Ц 3.3" with the resolution of 480x854 with multitouch. It displays up to 262144 colors. There is a hardly noticeable protective overlay on the screen that does not spoil the general perception of the screen. And it does add some protection against scratches. Unfortunately, I did not have an opportunity to compare it to AMOLED screens or other super duper screen of major manufacturers but I found the screen quite readable in any lighting circumstances. The main disadvantage of touchscreen is of course fingerprints so you will need cleaning cloths and protective cases.
As in many other Japanese phones in Lumix Phone there are tiny light sensor and the call loudspeaker.
No serious deviations Ц this is how I would describe the key pad of Docomo P-03C. the keys Ц despite being cramped together are rather handy due to their salience. The key rows are only set apart vertically which helps you make less mistakes. The bright white and blue backlit of the key pad together with the screen can easily act as a flashlight in some circumstances. The backlit of the key is not even but it is not in problem when you work with them in darkness.
The slider moves smoothly and without any jerks. There is a smart slider closer that slows down the sliding motion a bit both when you open and close the phone. At the key pad's sides there are special slides that carry the body of the phone. The only disadvantage I could find was the play between the phone halves when it is open. There is a noticeable amount of wobbling and you can see the gap. I suppose that Panasonic tried to avoid the scratches that would appear in case of a tighter slider like in case of Docomo F-04B where scratches on some keys appeared after just 2 weeks.
I am sure that many think that wobbling is unacceptable in a phone of this form factor, others, however, will not stand scratches on the body and the key pad. There are two different and in the same time right views. Of course, it would be perfect if a phone could be absolutely solid and scratch free. The only such phone I can remember is Sony Ericsson S500i. My wife used it for 2 years and the phone only needed a replacement of the body because the back panel was falling off but the key pad remained in mint condition.
This is a huge advantage of Lumix Phone Ц the long playing battery. By the end of the second day (about an hour of calls, a few SMS, Menu surfing and a lot of camera using) the 800mAh battery still had 25%. From my experience with Japanese phones I can assure you that it is an outstanding result.
The undoubtedly main feature of Lumix Phone is its camera. It is up to you to decide how good is the hardware and the software of the camera Ц have a look at the sample images.
The phone features a 13.2 MPix CMOS camera. But nowadays you cannot win by a mere number of pixels Ц they do not really affect the quality of the picture. The maximum photo resolution is 4160x3120. There are a lot of smart tweaks that you can see on the photos.
To be frank, I am not impressed by the quality of the pictures. The semitones have distinct grain noise. In my may be biased opinion the quality is too poor for a top model. I think Lumix Phone is more of a marketing product than a technological breakthrough even if you take into account the Mobile VenusEngine. As of today, among all the Japanese camera phones I like Docomo SH-01C by Sharp the most, and Pixon among the European phones.
Below you can see sample pictures as taken out-of-box. Of course, if you spend a lot of time tweaking the settings you can achieve a near perfect quality but I would still like to see the quality of Lumix camera, but, alas!
Lumix phone cas shoot HD video (1280x720) but the result is far from getting an A.
The main question is Ц who will like Lumix phone? Most likely the fans of Panasonic or those who would like to try a phone made in Japan for Japan. Docomo P-03C Lumix Phone has a GSM module and can work with any carrier via a hypersim. In the near future the service of official unlocking will solve a lot of problems of this phone getting outside the Japanes market. I doubt that iPhone or Android fans will ever buy it Ц it is a different universe. You may hear questions like: Where did you buy this Chinaphone and how much did you pay? Lumix Phone will make a nice second phone or a compact camera. All in all the phone looks very average and in the Japanese mid price range being positioned as an image phone. In its price range Lumix Phone has a few competitors that leave it far behind in terms of the camera quality: Docomo SH-01C (Sharp), Docomo F-01C (Fujitsu), Docomo N-02C (NEC). They all have similar specs but are different in looks and their functionality. In my next reviews I will talk about some of them.
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Published 27 March 2011
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