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Review of GSM-handset Sony Ericsson S500i
Live photos of Sony Ericsson S500i
The Sony Ericsson S500i is the little brother to the Sony Ericsson W580i. Those who have already peeked at our review on the latter can easily check Introduction, Applications section and Conclusion, scrolling through everything else, since the phones are really resembling. The foremost difference of the S500i, compared to the senior model is, to some extent, design (different color schemes), retail package (no memory card, conventional headset). But taking this model as a downgraded edition of the W580i without motion sensor, and consequently sporty applications shoved off, wouldn’t be the right thing. By the way, the S500i also comes without TrackID feature, radio and player version 2.0
Let’s take a look at the functionality of these solutions so as to evaluate their potential.
Such resemblance in the specifications is not a fluke, the models are tightly connected and with the help of a handful of traits were able to position themselves differently, and the centerpiece was form-factor and pedometer. But now let’s look at these devices from another standpoint in order to assess the potential of the handset we are reviewing today.
So the main distinctive factor here is the emotional constituent, specifically the wallpaper that keeps morphing throughout the day – the flower either blossoms out in the sun or droops in the nighttime. In spring the sun is bright, while in winter it is snowing over there. So this gives us not only metamorphosis during the day, but in course of the year as well. Generally, similar wallpaper can be installed on other devices as well, but the maker hampers this technically, therefore those who have grown fond of this feature are bound to look exactly at this product.
In the European campaign this handset turns out to be aimed at the women audience as a matter of course, and frequently I get to hear that it has been designed exclusively for women. To me, there is much of exaggeration to it, the handset will fit both men and women. The latter will make the bigger share in sales but only thanks to the manufacturer positioning the S500i this way. If someone doesn’t feel good about the flower on the screen, it can be easily replaced by any other picture or video clip.
The S500i comes in a choice of two colors - Mysterious Green and Spring Yellow. The former trim has more style to it, and technically it is black – that is, the front fascia is clad in black lacquered plastic, while the rear utilizes soft touch finish. So it’s natural to wonder where the green is. It is on the navigation key, the number pad and the rear of the phone when it is zipped open.
The handset measures 99x47x14, while it tips the scales at 94 grams, meaning that it is petty enough to slip into any place you want. Speaking of the characteristic features, we can't overlook the slop on the front, which extends the casing’s curve. In this sense the handset is quite remarkable and looks pretty quaint, especially the rear view.
Due to the bottom end’s curvy lines, the Fast Port has been moved to the right-hand side, where fits just fine, so plugging in a headset is a breeze. One the other hand, if some of you carry their handsets not in short pockets, but in jeans, like me, then you won’t get round the issue of disconnecting the headset when taking the S500i out of the pocket holding the wire.
The microphone sits on the bottom end, as well as the holes for a carrying strap. The flap-covered memory expansion slot is on the top, the sunken power button is also here (pressing it accidentally is next to impossible). On the left spine is the volume rocker.
The slider zips open and closed smoothly with its spring mechanism. Although there is no thumb rest, its role has been taken on by the protruding navigation button, nevertheless your finger will always feel like punching the display up.
The display shows up to 262 K colors at 240x320 pixel resolution (2 inches diagonal, TFT), which allows accommodating up to 8 text and 3 service lines for most applications; and when browsing web-pages, or handling e-mails or text messages, you can cram more lines into the display by decreasing the font size.
Similarly to other Sony Ericsson’s models, the S500i utilizes mirror layer that improves its readability while in the sun and allows its picture to stay crisp and visible. The display boasts enhanced image sharpness and contrast, thus when we put it up against the Samsung U600’s matrix, we spotted only marginally smaller diagonal, while the colors were more vibrant and saturated on the Sony Ericsson S500i.
The set of functional keys has gone through some face-lifts, compared to the Sony Ericsson W580i, so now it looks more conventional. The soft-keys, as well as the Back and C buttons are mounted separately, and to my mind, the S500i’s keypad is more convenient to tap (while the numeric pad is no different. Unlike the A2-powered offerings, the S500i retains Back and C buttons (no support for Nokia UI). The navigation key found here offers more comfort than the W580i, since it doesn’t stick out that much and feels easier to handle.
The numeric keys are made of plastic and mounted in horizontal rows. The number pad is a cinch to use, so nothing we would complain about here. Serving decoration purposes are the insets between the buttons, reminiscent of nail heads, which look pretty quaint and appeal to most users, without provoking any negative feelings. All buttons are lit in white, which is well-visible in various environments.
There is a unique feature to the key design in the S500i – all buttons here are pieces of plastic tacked on a slab. So if you get heavy on the keypad, it might get covered with cracks or splits on the keys. This is a construction-related issue characteristic of all handsets, both the Sony Ericsson S500i, and the Sony Ericsson W580i. This defect even might not manifest itself at all or show up in a couple of weeks. It all boils down to how often you text, how big your hands are and so on. At present all we can recommend is call at the nearest service centre for keypad replacement, there is no alternative way-out. The maker is looking into this problem, but hasn’t received substantial number of returns and doesn’t see this issue as a production or design flaw, the only thing he does mention is that this isn’t a mass defect.
The back cover firmly sits in its slot, and is easy to open. Removing it reveals a 930 mAh Li-Pol battery. As the maker claims, with this the S500i provides up to 350 hours of standby and up to 9 hours of talk time. In conditions of Moscow networks the battery life averaged two and a half days on moderate load (up to 1 hour of calls, about 30 minutes of games and 20 minutes of browsing). Getting heavier on its features automatically means daily recharging sessions. And if you will cut your total call time to the very minimum, the battery will stay up and running for about 3-4, but that’s an improbable scenario. Within the European networks the device will last for at least twice as long in all modes thanks to better coverage. Continuous music playback drains the battery in 16 hours.
On USB-connection you are forced to pick connection type – specifically whether you will be accessing data stored on the memory card or just keep managing the phone or activate Print mode. For the first mode we mentioned above the handset goes off and you gain access to the contents of both the memory card and the phone internal memory. Despite the maker claiming it to be USB 2.0, data transfer speed doesn’t exceed 500 Kb/s. If you just want your S500i to turn into a modem, then pick the second option, when you will have a chance to play around with various USB settings for going online.
The handset comes with EDR-enabled Bluetooth 2.0, the menu enables you to turn on enhanced power saving mode. There is also A2DP support, which allows employing wireless headsets with the S500i. The list of supported profiles:
The handset comes equipped with about 18 Mb of user-manageable memory, though the retail package doesn’t include a memory card. You can always swap cards on the go, as long as they don’t exceed 2 Gb in size.
The S500i puts up typical numbers for the company’s latest generation of devices and is ahead of most models available on the market. There are no limits on JAR-file size, HEAP size – from 512 Kb to 1.5 Mb.
Ever since the Sony Ericsson W850i the company has been into light effects, and the W580i/S500i represents another consistent step up in this direction. The phone’s side-plates retain LEDs that can generate various combinations of light effects and differ both in terms of color and rhythm. When the S500i is flicked open, all this looks more appealing, but these effects can be seen with the device zipped closed as well. The keys on the front fact swap backlighting in a similar fashion. Though you can’t pick or setup these effects, you can enjoy only those coming pre-installed with the handset. Nevertheless with 22 of them, there is quite a pool to select from, so no one will leave without an own theme. Plus you are enabled to bind up a personal light effect with a contact in your phonebook.
The device is equipped with a 2 MP camera with a CMOS matrix without auto-focus. The device supports three possible resolutions - 1632x1224, 640x480, 160x120 pixels. Two types of data compression (Normal and Fine) are at your disposal. The majority of the sample photos are in the Fine quality. The photos differ in size almost two times depending on the resolution. Thus a photo in the Normal mode takes up about 300 KB while the Fine quality results in 500-600 KB. Saving a photo takes the same time not depending on chosen type and makes about 1-2 seconds, and that is quite speedy for such file size. When taking several photos one after another (not in the Burst mode but just successively) then you'll notice slight slowdowns (up to 3-4 seconds). My subjective feelings tell me the device buffer includes 2 Mb of memory.
The camera settings look in the following way:
The screen serves as a viewfinder while in the shooting mode. The picture moves very smoothly, details don’t get dropped out. Numeric keys help in switching between various functions and shooting parameters quickly that significantly fastens work.
Video may be recorded in two resolutions (176x144, 128x96), file format is 3GP. Clip duration may be limited (up to 10 seconds) or unlimited. The quality of the clips is below all criticism; so far this has been the weakest spot of all Sony Ericsson-branded devices.
The main menu pops up before you as a grid consisting of 12 icons (one of the themes also features horizontally laid out menu). Shortcut number navigation is on the S500i’s spec sheet as well – you can assign shortcuts to most menu items, that the handset comes pre-installed with, whereas own applications or files can’t be set up for one-touch access.
Text input has remained on the same comfort level, so, pressing the "#" key brings out a list of the available languages and you can easily switch between them while typing.
Besides traditional vertically arranged sub-menus, the maker has provided subject-based horizontal tabs. It means that while viewing a list of the dialed numbers, one can see not only the dialed numbers but in the same time (by leaning the joystick horizontally) switch between missed and received call tabs. In the phone menu this kind of navigation is provided anywhere it's possible and it makes for much better usage experience. The menu ergonomics is quite high in this phone. I also have to note that such horizontal tabs appear in Phonebook, Settings and other menu items as well.
Activity Menu is standard Sony Ericsson fare. The first three tabs display various events, like missed calls, memos, messages – actually all this can be found in the first tab. One can disable Activity Menu for these events as well – in this case pop up windows, reminding of a certain event type will appear on the screen. The third tab features the shortcuts, which you should set up yourself. And the added fourth one contains links to the most frequently used applications and resources – and the top of this list is claimed by Google search.
The second tab is the most interesting, since it appears to be some kind of a task manager, featuring the list of all currently running applications. User is able to have up to eight Java-applications launched (in fact there are no definite caps) simultaneously and switch between them. This may come in handy, in case you use an ICQ-esque mobile client, which should be constantly online, and at the same time want to play a Java-game. Up to now counterparts to this solution by other manufacturers haven't been announced.
Themes, design components
The S500i is positioned as an emotional offering, which automatically arms it with various themes and the wallpaper that changes depending on time of the day That is, the handset comes pre-installed with 3 different themes, which are all flash-based and alter the main menu view, as well as its layout. These themes are very interesting, vibro-effects trigger when navigating through the menu, and some themes modify position of track information windows in standby. In a word, the S500i is decent in the sense of themes.
Another thing of note here is a couple of video-tones that come with the handset – in fact, these are quite simple tunes merged with straightforward graphics, which can be used as ring tones. So far none of the makers has offered any sort of this feature, although Nokia is coming this way as well, however it hasn’t rolled out pre-installed tones as yet.
Up to 1000 contacts with fully filled in fields can be stored in the phonebook, but number of phone numbers is limited to 2500. This means that despite the ability to assign up to 5 phone numbers to one contact, you cannot go over 2500 entries. This is enough even for the most active users, as only few have more than 500 entries in their phonebooks.
As mentioned above, several phone numbers can be submitted for one contact, as well as address, email, IM number, other contact information. In settings you can select the required fields, they will be available, meanwhile the useless ones will not be presented. Contacts can be sorted by fields, including name and surname, but only one input field. Unlike previous models, this time we have dynamics on - handset automatically sorts the list after changes.
It is possible to assign custom ring tone and photo to each contact. On incoming call the image and ring tone will be used. Date of birth field can be synchronized with Organizer, at that you will have a chance to set how many days prior to the event the handset should warn you.
When typing in information, you can scroll between tabs, in the first one you enter phone numbers, categorize them by types. On the whole the organization of this process reminds of Outlook, and it means comfort in the first place. Voice tags can be added for required phone numbers, names, there can be up to 40 of them. Voice dialing remained the way it was many months ago, it starts looking archaic with all these voice independent recognition software being implemented by the competitors.
The company still follows its traditional beliefs that SIM-card is used only in case of emergency, that’s why the only way to see its contents is to go into special option in the menu. SIM contacts are not displayed in the general list.
You can create a back-up copy of all entries in phonebook, which will be stored on the memory card, so that you will have the ability to restore them afterwards.
Contact Groups serve only for mass SMS sending, since it is impossible to bind custom ringtone or photo for Group.
Any video clip may be used as Caller ID for a contact in your phonebook. Also any contact many be assigned to one of the light effects.
All tools used for managing messages are standard, there are some templates available and you can come up with some more of your own. Phone’s memory together with SIM-card is used for storing messages. Chat function is supported. On the whole everything is just like in any other phone from this company. Only emoticons icons have changed – now they look much more attractive.
The MMS implementation is as always great, you can literally create video clips, there are lots of settings and this is one of those things that give SE’s product a cutting edge over competitors.
E-Mail client can send and receive e-mails, all sorts of encodings are supported. The emails can be stored on memory card.
In email settings you can setup separate password for SMTP-accounts, this is very convenient. The settings are flexible, support for almost all encodings, and not only Unicode has been added. Attachments that are supported by the phone are presented as icons in an email’s body. The phone doesn’t recognize office files or PDF, but they can be stored in any directory. The limit for outgoing/incoming email size is set by operator. Emails with 6-7 Mb attachments can be sent without any hassles. The phone supports Push Mail standard. Naturally send & receive process is carried out in background mode.
RSS Feed. The settings for this item are really simple - you just specify the title for feed and its address. The phone will connect and download it without your assistance. You can update only one item, or the whole feed at once. Capabilities of built-in browser are used for displaying the feeds. Feeds may be updated on schedule
Up to 30 records can be stored in the general list, all with date and time. Icon that stands for call type (missed/received/dialed) is shown next to each entry. Besides this additional icon identifies if this phone number is present in the phone book or SIM-card. The list of missed calls can be viewed separately and stores up to 10 entries. In this menu you can also see the cost and length of all outgoing calls and last call. Navigating through the lists works with the help of tabs and this does save much time.
Photos, music files can be accessed from this menu. MusicDJ function is rather interesting, even though it is a niche solution and there is not much of a chance that this feature will be highly demanded. In the editor you can create ring tones and edit up to four bands.
Advanced version of MusicDJ is called VideoDJ, it allows editing not only music files, but also adding images and signs. The resulting file is recorded in .3GP file which can be sent by MMS or Email, or just transferred to another phone.
PhotoDJ has kept the name but had its inners completely revamped. The manufacturer has partly removed the shroud handing over the impending CyberShot projects, which will feature this editor by default. Now tell us, how often do you draw with your handset or create own pictures? The answer for most will be as clear as it only could be – never. At the same time getting rid of red-eyes effect, adjusting a shot’s brightness, contrast, sharpness, overlaying some effects, might well come in handy on certain occasions, but to do that you frequently have to wait the moment when you get photos uploaded to a PC. The new PhotoDJ looks to make performing these most basic actions as easy as it has never been before, enhance the handset with the ability to carry out these operations on the go. This is a really positive move.
Remote control – ability to control other devices via the phone’s Bluetooth connectivity. It is standard for all phones made by Sony Ericsson.
The sound can be recorded by Sound Recorder - it allows making clips that can be later used as ring tones. Phone calls can be recorded too, this is done from context menu, no time limits are set for the Sound Recorder.
Games – the handset comes with two games - Sims2, and also Lumines Block Challenge.
Organizer keeps a lot of functions underneath. Let’s get Calendar out of the way first. There are three view modes embedded in the W580i’s calendar: weekly, monthly and daily. The last option displays the list of all events and memos, in two others you will see highlighted time or day. You can switch to required day and year, or month. So everything is pretty simple, just as the schedule input is. You get the ability to name the event, define the place where it will take place, set length and setup the reminder (before or right at the start of the event). Recurrent events support is also onboard. Types of reoccurrence: daily, monthly, yearly. Reminders work even if the phone is turned off as well, unless you disable this function.
To do list in this phone is quite ascetic. There are only two types of events: phone call and reminder. On the other hand, this is really enough, simplicity has its own advantages.
The phone has full-fledged search, set up for calendar: you specify the search line (word or part of it) and after a while you will see all events that match this criteria. The function is quite speedy even if the organizer has more than 100 entries; fast switch to the event from the search window is supported.
Notes. The phone supports notes entry, though they are limited in length. The name of the note you see on the list will be first word entered. This is not always convenient since you will have to think of the first word that would tell you what the note is all about.
Alarm Clock. Now you have access to five alarm clocks, and each of them can be set up manually. They can work in definite week days. Besides the ring tone for alarm clock you can select small note and picture, they will be displayed when alarm clock goes on. Any music file can be assigned as the alarm tone.
Stopwatch/Countdown. Here everything is quite standard, although the same can be said of the stopwatch that has intermediate times function. The phone has special application for storing secret codes, which was a huge success in previous models, well, standard calculator is onboard too.
The browser owns a separate menu item, the version is 2.0, it supports secured connections which is quite important in case you are using electronic transactions. New wallpapers, themes and ring tones can be downloaded right away – all this is available at the original web-site.
Standard browser for Sony Ericsson phones is NetFront, which supports one-column web pages display and HTML. One of the best things about it, is the ability to create folders with files and bookmarks. The browser is considered to be one of the market’s best offerings, but limited phone resources do it no favors. On the whole those using Internet constantly should consider buying PDA or laptop, since full-fledged Internet access is not an ultimate must-have for this device type. At the same time RSS Feeds support is great, it allows using the phone for reading news, announcements and articles on the go in a convenient fashion.
HTML pages that contain advanced formatting or exceed 500kb in their size will not be displayed. On the whole standard browser is all fine, but usage of Opera Mini is preferable, since it has got way more to offer.
This menu stores all settings related to the phone’s operation. In the stand by mode clock can be displayed at the bottom (on or off), you an also alter the font size, in case you select big letters it will be easy to see what time it is, but the font itself becomes a tad transparent. There isn’t anything to add, all the rest is standard.
File manager, memory volume
The user has 16-18 MB of available memory at his disposal, add empty M2 memory card to that too. Here all data (photos, videos, applications) can be stored. The remaining memory is occupied by preinstalled applications, which cannot be wiped. Part of memory is dedicated to phonebook, call lists, etc.
The phone has a basic file manager, with its help files can be sorted by various folders, custom directories can be created in phone’s memory, files can be moved there as well. With or without cable the phone can become a perfect storage, there are no problems with recording your own files, even if they cannot be opened by the phone.
Traditional file sorting includes the following options: date, type and size. The Image Gallery has new setting called Timeline, after you activate it you will see a bar on which months will be shown. And in lists you will see photos that were made during this or that month. You can make the list more detailed by pressing the same key twice, in that case you will see days instead of months. This is a good way to wander around in tons of images.
The manufacturer has singled out the player in an individual menu item for the purpose of emphasizing how different it is compared to the music player, and other makers’ offerings, where video and music players share one section. On the plus side is ability to playback QVGA-clips at 30 frames per second, progressive fast-forward feature, landscape mode switcher, auto-scaling of high resolutions down to the display’s size. And the last, but of course not the least, highlight on the list is possibility to get snaps of frames of the played back video, which are saved as pictures and can be used in whatever way you like afterwards.
The S500i comes preinstalled with two applications, specifically AccuWeather, that allows checking out weather forecast, and Audible, enabling access to Audible.com library, where you can upload various books in some European languages (no Russian though). First 30 days in the library are free, then it charges around 8 USD monthly. This is a tidy and quite promising service.
Walkman player 1.4
The handset locates all files and folders on the memory card, and then gets the necessary data from ID3-tags. Supported audio formats - MP3, AAC, AAC+, E-AAC+, WAV, WMA and m4a. There are no limitations on bit rates; you can also upload files with VBR. The company recommends using files with 192 Kbit/s bit rate.
Among the settings available there are adjustable equalizers with some presets (Bass, Voice, Tremble etc). In terms of what it can do, the player belongs to the first generation of Walkman with no bells and whistles, like Album Art support or other extra features.
Despite the polyphony being 72-tone, the handset does not provide a breakthrough in sounding of mp3 tunes as compared to other Sony Ericsson branded phones. The loudspeaker is average volume-wise and has a great deal of basses in its sounding, so the call is easily heard even on the streets. The silent alert is of moderate power or even slightly higher than this, but even this admission isn’t an excuse for the cases when it proves too weak to be felt. The reception part is in line with other products by the company – in other words, it’s very fine.
The device has already arrived in retail stores with the price tag of 400-420 USD, which is too much for this model and is by no means an adequate price/functionality ratio. At the same time, banking on the emotional components, the maker is not after tremendous sales of the S500i. That said, any slider that appeals to you personally with design and suite of features qualifies as a rival to the Sony Ericsson S500i.
Published 11 July 2007
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