Sony Ericsson C902

Now pay attention 007. Sony Ericsson’s C902 Cyber-shot model was announced some time ago and has already been supplanted by the 8-megapixel C905. But can the Bond edition, released to tie-in with Quantum of Solace, impress?

Well first up, let’s clear up what the James Bond limited edition phone is: it’s a "titanium silver" version of the C902 with a preloaded Bond theme - ringtone, trailer for QoS, wallpaper, etc., which all comes on a bundled 1GB M2 card. Fortunately the customisation goes no further than that, so once you are bored of Bond you can erase him from your handset. It is available from O2 and with a customised box, which might hold some interest for Bond collectors in the future.

We first looked at the C902 back in February 2008 but as seems to be the way with Sony Ericsson phones, we then saw the C905 before either was available, and now you can get your hands on both models from the Cyber-shot range.

The titanium silver edition of the phone has that Sony Ericsson look to it, taking on the candy bar form with a smallish number pad and sporting a 240 x 320 pixel display. The central chrome edged four-way controller is flanked by the normal button options for calling, menu and application navigation and so on.

The build quality is very good and this really is Sony Ericsson doing what they do best in a phone. Metals encase the handset, giving it a solid feel, a welcome change from the all too common plastic found on some of their other handsets. The titanium silver colour scheme is also particularly fetching, a blend of black, grey and silver giving this handset a distinct masculine look. It’s a good weight in the hand too, which always gives the impression of quality.

The 5-megapixel camera isn’t exposed on the back, nor is there a ugly bulge like you’ll find on the Motorola ZN5. A crisp tug on top slides out the camera, reminiscent of the Minox type of spy camera that Bond has used in the past. You’ll also find a flash lurking there too. The great thing about this setup is that when the camera isn’t deployed, it just looks like a regular phone.

So let’s dive straight into the camera. You get some of Sony’s more sophisticated features found on their Cyber-shot cameras, such as face detection, that seemed to work well enough, image stabilisation and the auto flash. On the top of the phone you’ll find the "shutter" button as well as zoom (which double as volume controls), up to 16x.

There are also plenty of scene modes and BestPic, which takes a series of photos so you can pick the exact moment you wanted to capture. Selection of these options is via a series of blue highlighted touch controls around the edge of the screen. Although the icons are small, selection is not a problem, but more advanced settings hide within the menus, which also includes an information option to find out what everything does.

Some sample shots can be found included with this review and given the right lighting it is possible to get some decent snaps. Lens flare, however, seems a particular problem when you get close to a light source; equally, the biggest blight of the camera seems to be an inability to deal with high contrast scenes or anything too bright. Purple fringing is common around the edges of most light or white scenes.

Whilst you can capture that 5-megapixel picture, you can’t zoom and crop as you might be able to with a standard compact camera because the detail just isn’t there. Get too close and you’ll find that pictures are very noisy – even when taken with plenty of light, in otherwise "ideal" conditions. For using on the web, this isn’t really a problem however, but if you want to show off these images on your HDTV back home, you’ll start to see why you should have packed a real camera.

The 16x zoom is also worth avoiding, as the results are very poor - see the horse’s head on the merry-go-round which was taken at 16x zoom. Colours however are pretty good, and in general use you’ll get some surprising results. The LED flash gives a very cold result and tends to blow out most of the colour too, so something of a mixed blessing. The screen, whilst nice and crisp, doesn’t do the images justice and it is too small to really judge the results of your photo taking, although an accelerometer does auto rotate images for you.

As a phone, however, it sticks to that tried and tested Sony Ericsson formula, so there is little different here from other models. That said, the icon-based main menu instantly lets you get to the things you want. A shortcut from the home page will let you go straight to your media folder, but unlike the Walkman line of phones, there are no dedicated control buttons so if you are a heavy music listener then it is not the best.

Also, you get that annoying dongle connector for the charger and headset, so there is no 3.5mm jack on the phone once again. As normal the headset is in two pieces, which does feature a 3.5mm jack, so if you can handle the excess cable, then you could use your own headphones. Which is good move because the C902 comes with the standard headphones which leave a lot to be desired.

As the C902 features HSDPA connectivity you’ll be able to get fast access to the Internet on the move, as well as use the forward facing camera for any video calling you want to do (does anyone do that?). You can also upload photos straight to your blog via the included Blogger tool, you get RSS feeds and email to take advantage of your high speed data.

You get the normal TrackID, MusicDJ, VideoDJ and PhotoDJ tools, but missing from this version is the Google Maps software that you’ll find on other handsets. The onboard browser is reasonable, but the real restriction here is the screen size. If you are serious about surfing the Internet on the move, you’ll want to opt for something with a bigger screen.

Of course you get the normal Bluetooth support, but there is no Wi-Fi in this handset. Internal memory gives you 160MB, whilst that 1GB M2 card sits in a slot under the back cover. The external speaker is pretty good too and overall the call quality we found to be very good - callers were loud and clear.

Some may take issue with the keypad as the shaped keys can be a little uncomfortable to use when you dive into fast texting and we found miss-keying was common. Those who are moving from another Sony Ericsson handset will probably not have this complaint.

You'll get 9 hours talk time on GSM networks, but HSDPA will drop you down to about 4 hours. Still, in standby mode you shouldn't have to charge every day.

Verdict

The thing that we found most amusing about the James Bond edition C902 was the quality of the bundle's 007 theme ringtone, as we tended to listen to the music, rather than answer the phone – doh!

Overall the C902 packs in many of the important tech specs and if you are a blogger on the move looking for a camera to grab those in-the-moment shots, then this is a phone to look at. If you want to take advantage of the full fat Internet, then you’ll struggle with the screen size. This is not a portable internet device: it’s a phone with a camera.

Camera performance won’t replace your compact camera, not if you are interested in much other than internet use and although there are plenty of camera settings, you can’t help but feel it is a little over the top given the final results.



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