Sony Ericsson P800: Hands-On Review

Posted by:
Date: Friday, April 18th, 2003, 01:00
Category: Mobile Phone

Sony Ericsson P800It has been almost one month since taking delivery of my new Sony Ericsson P800 mobile phone and I wanted to post the first follow-up. If you haven’t already, you should read my first P800 article “Mobile Phone Nirvana.” The first article was written after about two days of actual (albeit intensive) use. Three plus solid weeks of real world use has given me a chance to look at some of the practical features and drawbacks of this cool phone.


Sony Ericsson P800It has been almost one month since taking delivery of my new Sony Ericsson P800 mobile phone and I wanted to post the first follow-up. If you haven’t already, you should read my first P800 article “Mobile Phone Nirvana.” The first article was written after about two days of actual (albeit intensive) use. Three plus solid weeks of real world use has given me a chance to look at some of the practical features and drawbacks of this cool phone.
Functionality, Cases
The phone is more than a successor to the wonderful Sony Ericsson T68i – it is a complete departure. Where the T68i was a tiny powerful color Bluetooth phone, the P800 is more akin to a small computer that makes phone calls and take pictures.
Sure, it’s bigger, but it does so much that the tradeoff in size is well worth it for the expanded functionality. I started out keeping it in the nice nylon case included in the package but quickly rememberred why I like an “operate-in” case like the Krussel Classic Multiadapt – a closed case is impratical for a cell phone, it requires the extra step of opening it and removing your cell phone when the phone is ringing. This exercise was bound to cause a fumble and drop of the phone so I went to a no case “nude” approach. P800 cases are currently available from Krusell and Piel Frama and on the way from Vaja Cases. I wish that Convertec made an “operate-in” case for the P800. Stay tuned for case reviews.
Keeping a Smartphone in your pocket (without a case) means some additional precautions need to be taken. The phone should be the only thing in your pocket for obvious reasons. Keys, coins and other hard objects can damage your phone or scratch the screen. The screen gets fairly dirty going in and out of a pocket so I picked up a set of three Brando P800 screen protectors on eBay for US$7.50 (search for “p800 screen”). They are similar to WriteRight screen overlays for your PDA. They make the screen a tad softer and are a pain to install (plan on trashing the first one) but the extra protection is worth it.
Performance
Overall menu performance is fast, launching some apps will take a few to several seconds during which the screen goes gray. Speed of the Symbian OS is good to excellent.
The speakerphone is a nice surprise. Walking around and multitasking while on the phone is excellent on the speakerphone. The speaker is on the bottom so you need to lay the phone screen down for best results. The person you are talking to is loud and clear and most times they can’t even tell that you have them on speaker. The P800 lacks the T9 text entry shortcuts found on the T68i, a surprising oversight. I hope that this is addressed in the next revision to the software.
New R2D Firmware Available
Rumors have been flying around recently on the Esato P800 message boards about a firmware upgrade (R2D) that adds a number of features and enhancements. Well, it was releases this week but only in Europe.
The P800 R2D firmware update adds a lot of features. The problem is that it is not available yet in the United States. If you comb the Esato boards you can find a few people in the U.S. willing to flash your phone to the new version for about US$50 plus shipping, but I’d rather get it done locally and for free from a Sony Ericsson service center. This post is from the P800 board at Esato.com.

upgrade uses up an additional 7% or so of phone memory.
full-screen pix and video work as advertised so absolutely no need for 3rd party full-screen pix app. video was a bit choppy on full screen tho. maybe i should re-convert my video files.
as mentioned somewhere previously, multiple video/pic files can now be selected at once for deletion. also sms delivery reports now available. picture thumbnails also appear to be a bit bigger.
have yet to try the cam but it has night mode, shutter mute, delay timer and picture freeze timer. default screensaver displays some funky dancing cubes but only uses up top section of the screen. still have to test BT, but version is R5A and hopefully will be as stable as T68 BT

Odds and Ends
The ringer is effectively silenced when the handsfree ear phones are plugged in because the ring tone comes through the earphones and is barely audible. The earphones (note plural) are stereo and sound excellent but the microphone in mine died today so I can hear callers but they can’t hear me. I called Sony Ericsson U.S. service and they immediately dispatched a new pair.
The email is a little tough to set uo at first but not difficult. Email is handled in the messages area with SMS and MMS. You should be able to figure it out pretty quickly.
Hardware
I wish that S/// put the scroll wheel on the right hand side of the handset instead of the left, it would be easier for one-handed operation. Placing the earphone jack just above it makes matters worse leaving almost no room for your finger to operate the wheel. While I’m on the subject of the wheel, it is more intelligent than it looks. It is a five function wheel. In addition to the scroll up, down and (push) in functions, the P800 adds up and down. You can angle the wheel up or down which act as ‘escape’ and ‘options’ respectively.
I managed to crack the stylus at the little hole that locks it onto the body of the phone. Luckily the crack is only on one side of the hole, so it is still functional. Sony Ericsson thoughtfully includes three spare stylii in the box, I just swapped it out for a new one.
MSGM128A memory stick duoThe Memory Stick Duo is proprietary, expensive and unavailable as of this writing. None of these is acceptable but a cost of doing business with Sony. Hopefully 128MB Memory Stick Duos (MSGM-128A) will begin shipping soon. Froogle, the referene e-Commerce site here at PowerPage HQ lists several vendors offering it for less than US$80. One company is even taking pre-orders for a replacement P800 battery that will support full size Memory Sticks instead of the smaller Duos. Conceivably, this would mean that you could install a 1GB Memory Stick Pro in your phone. Scary.
Third Party Software
There are a number of software sites where you can find Symbian software for the P800 including:

My-symbian.com is the one to keep your eye on, always updated and reader reviews.
Some applications that I have been using include NutriLog a log program that helps you track what you eat. The built-in food database is customizable and based on official USDA nutrient tables. Daily totals keeps your eating in line, summer is coming.
Fuel Manager is a cool concept but it displays fuel cost per distance which is the norm in Europe. I would prefer to see miles per gallon. I would like to see a brief MPG report after each fillup like MPG for the Palm OS.
Epocware’s Handy Day (US$20) gives you an overview of the daily appointments and tasks in a single view. Handy Safe (US$25) is an assistant for secure and convenient managing of sensitive data while Handy Expense is an expense tracking application that allows you to record business expenses as they occur.
I will be reviewing more software, especially some of the cool games after I flash my phone and find a 128MB Memory Stick Duo. Stay tuned to the PowerPage for more on this exciting Bluetooth phone in the coming weeks.
Further Reference

Buy Your Sony Ericsson P800 from Amazon.com and support the PowerPage.

Recent Posts