Sony Ericsson T68i and MCA20 CommuniCam review

3.5 out of 5
£183

For

Easy to use

Against

Camera not built in

Firstly, what don’t you get? You don’t get a built in camera, if that is your thing. However you get just about everything else that is in phones, that isn’t 3G. Yes, you have infrared, and Bluetooth, a colour screen, MMS, GPRS, tri-band etc etc etc. It fitted my specs because I wanted a phone that I could travel with around the world. I was a Nokia user, but didn’t fancy the businessman’s 6310 (now, of course, they have the 7210 that over comes that problem, albeit without the Bluetooth), so we decided to switch to Sony Ericsson to see what they offer over their Nokia brethren.

When people talk phones, they talk ease of use. Nokia beat Motorola hands down because their menu was so much better, especially when it came to text messaging. Sickening to say, but the biggest selling features on a phone are not the ability to make a phonecall, but the ability to do a range of other things. The Sony Ericsson menu system is very easy to use, as is the text messaging function. Predictive text is easy to use, as are the other features. The only problem are the games. There are about 8 games to play, none if which have instructions. Ok, I can figure out battleships, but the card games? You have to be a Las Vegas Natural.

Enough chat, let’s get geeky. Infrared is an old toy, but still has a place on the phone. Using IR you can swap information with other IR handsets. File swapping, such as sending pictures, or an electronic business card is amazingly simple. Bluetooth was the buzzword for much of last year, and something that has been earmarked for the future of everything (that is, until it becomes dated) Bluetooth was appealing to me as a way to get the phone to talk to my PDA, a Compaq iPAQ.

Communication and integration is the way of the future and the T68i is equipped to do this. In theory, it should be able to exchange info with the iPAQ with no problems. Forming a partnership between them is simple and causes no problems. Beyond that, things become tricky. You can send contacts from the iPAQ onto the phone - so you can Sync the iPAQ with Outlook on you PC, then move the contacts to your phone, in theory. I managed to move one contact, and after that it wouldn’t play. Talking of PCs, the T68i ships with the software needed to Sync it with a PC, so long as you have the right cable, or wireless device.

The phone of course supports GPRS and HSCSD (high speed data thingy) so can be used for email on the move, WAP and so on. As mentioned you can set it up again with a PDA, so you can send and receive your email in a more accessible manner. The possibilities are great, providing you can figure out how to set it up and how to get your phone service provider to play ball. Trying to get both to work at home is one thing, overseas, a totally different challenge.

To make use of photo messaging the plug in CommuniCam for the T68i is a well designed attachment - easy on the eye, hard on the pocket. If you can get it free with the phone, then excellent. If not, expect to pay £50+ depending on the model. In summary, there is the MCA-10, MCA-20, MCA-25. The MCA-20 is the real partner for the T68i, co-ordinating nicely if you like that sort of thing. Plug the camera onto the base of the phone and hey presto, ready to go. Press the button and you’re snapped digital image is displayed on the screen. It is a little deceptive - the camera is better than the display capabilities of the phone, so you look at it and see a pixellated mess, which is actually a decent quality, if a tad small.

The CommuniCam seems like a gimmick, but once you get the images away from the phone’s limited display, they’re not bad. You get the option of shooting images of 80x60(QQQVGA), 160x120(QQVGA), 320x240(QVGA) and 640x480(VGA). These images can be sent as MMS to your pals (so long as they have a compatible phone, have elected to receive messages and are on the right network [and they have enabled it] and are just plain lucky). You can also move them to a PDA or PC. You can elect to have a picture to show up when someone calls - for example, the face of your beau, or the ‘curves’ of your uber-friendly secretary. You can store 200 small pictures, or 14 of the full size ones, as the camera has its own memory, as well as the option of storing the images on the phone memory.

Finally, the important part - yes, making a phonecall - is easy, as is enabling the keylock. The battery life is good, sitting on standby for 16 days, and up to 12 hours of tongue wagging. Assuming the onslaught of 3G is going to take off, then this ‘old’ technology might start getting cheaper - I wouldn’t hold my breath for 3G considering it has taken a long time to get photomessaging working, and hardly anyone does. In the future, photomessaging will become as common as the SMS and be a part of all phones. How much 3G has an influence on the market remains to be seen.

Verdict

For the time being, the T68i is a happy little phone that stands up well, and the camera is as good a gimmick as any other.