Phone Envy: Sony Ericsson T68i Bluetooth World Phone

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Date: Thursday, April 11th, 2002, 01:06
Category: Archive

sony ericsson t68i First a rant about mobile phones, or better, mobile phone providers. The problem with providers in the U.S. is that few if any have high-end phones available for sale in the U.S. The providers have a very long qualification process for new phones before they bless them for use on their network. This means that that super cool phone that you see on the Nokia or Ericsson Web site probably won’t be for sale at your local mobile store for at least a year – if at all.

There is one way to circumvent this vicious cycle – buy a phone abroad. But before jumping the gun a primer on mobile phone networks is in order. In the U.S. there are three prevailing digital telephone protocols:

  • TDMA – Time Division Multiple Access networks are used in North, Central, and South America and used in the U.S. by Cingular and AT&T Wireless.
  • CDMA – Code-Division Multiple Access is currently available in the United States, parts of Africa, Pacific Asia, Latin America, and Russia. CDMA is currently offered in the U.S. by Sprint PCS and Verizon Wireless.
  • GSM – Short for Global System for Mobile Communications, currently offered by Voicestream and Pacbell in the U.S.

In the United States TDMA and CDMA are the most common platforms, but because of compatibility issues they cannot be used abroad. Most of Europe and many other countries use GSM. The another snafu – GSM abroad is either 900 or 1800 MHz while GSM in the U.S. is 1900 MHz. Therefore one country’s GSM phone will not necessarily work in another.

The newest generation of tri-band GSM phones support 900, 1800 and 1900 MHz making them compatible in the U.S. and in Europe – a boon for someone looking for a cool new phone that will work in the U.S.

My criteria for features in a new mobile phone (in order of priority) were: 1) Bluetooth, so that I could use it as a modem for my PowerBook, 2) GPRS, (General Packet Radio Service) which runs at speeds up to 115 kilobits per second, compared with current GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) systems’ 9.6 kilobits. A distant third was a color display.

ericsson t68 After doing some serious research, the only phone I could find that met these criteria was the Ericsson T68, a GSM phone which I was told was “coming soon” to Voicestream.

The Ericsson T68 was announced in the U.S. on 05 March and because it is tri-band GSM it will work on any GSM network including Voicestream and AT&T Wireless in the U.S. Cingular is also adding GSM capabilities later in the year.

ericsson t68i Credit card in hand, I stopped myself from buying the T68 just in time. A little more digging around revealed that the newer Sony Ericsson T68i was just around the corner and even shipping in a few Eurpean countries. The updated Sony Ericsson T68i was announced at CeBit 2002 and is pretty much the same as the T68 except that it is white and blue, it says Sony Ericsson on it and it is the first phone in the world to feature Multimedia Messenging Service (MMS). MMS is an extension of the popular Short Message Service (SMS) that allows you to send text messages between phones. MMS expands on it and adds the ability to send pictures, sounds and animations between phones.

Features include:

  • Imaging – Wallpaper, Phonealbum, MMS templates, Picture phonebook
  • Messaging – MMS, EMS, SMS, e-mail
  • Mobile Internet – GPRS, WTLS Class 3, WAP 2.0. In colour!
  • Connectivity – Bluetooth, cable, Infrared

Communicam MCA-20 In addition the T68i handset can be attached to a digital camera accessory, the Communicam MCA-20 which enables you to take photographs and then send them as an MMS message to another phone, email them to a PC, or store them. The other killer accessory is the Bluetooth Headset HBH-15 (about US$150) which sits comfortably on the ear and supports voice dialling and answering – sans wires.

sony ericsson p800 Although the S/// T68i is the phone I want today, the Sony Ericsson P800 is what I would get if I could wait until Q3-2002. The P800 is a smartphone based on the Symbian OS with, among other things, a color touch screen, built-in camera, photo album, telephone book with photos, e-mail, SMS, EMS, MMS, WAP and triple-band.

Having already been a Nokia user, I found it tough to think that Nokia didn’t have a competitive phone with the features that I wanted. I was interested in the color Nokia 7650, but it does not have Bluetooth.

Other upcoming Nokia handsets include:

  • Nokia 7210 – 4096 colors, Java, MMS, no BT.
  • Nokia 7650 – No U.S., no Bluetooth. Availability: Europe, Africa, Asia Pacific in the 2Q2002.
  • Nokia 8310 – No U.S. model, no Bluetooth. Availability: Europe, Africa, Asia Pacific.
  • Nokia 9210 – No U.S., no GPRS, no BT and too big. Availability: Europe, Africa, Asia Pacific

Nokia will release several other new phones in 2002: 7210, 3510, 6310i, 9210i and 3410. The 7210 is the phone with: MMS, java, speakerphone, radio, polyphony ringtones, 2 Java games and it’s only 83g. The future of phones is getting exciting, within the next six to 8 months Siemens, Nokia, Samsung and Panasonic will announce color handsets.

Whew! Phone overload.

That said, I decided on going with the S/// T68i because it was available now and it works in the U.S. on Voicestream. Finding one was another topic altogether.

Since T68i’s are just trickling into stores in Europe it can be difficult to find them there, let alone here in the U.S. If you really want to take the plunge, check out the message boards on On them you can find retailers in the U.S. that import the T68i from abroad and sell them for around US$500. Then there is always eB

ay, at last check there was no shortage of T68i’s available on the venerable auction site.

If you decide to jump into the imported phone fray, keep in mind that warranty service may be difficult if not impossible to get and that your phone may ship with foreign AC adapters and manuals. The T68i I purchase said “For Indonesia Only” on the box (it was purchased from Hong Kong) and when I opened the box I was dismayed to find that the AC adapter was a foreign config. This was remedied by a US$2 adapter from Radio Shack.

Now if I could only read the Bahasa Indonesia manual.

Coming soon: Connecting your Mac to a Bluetooth phone and GSM tools that make editing your address book a breeze.

[Update 11/10/2002] is selling the Sony Ericsson T68i color, Bluetooth mobile phone for only US$50 for a limited time.

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