It seems that Sony Ericsson have been hard at work on their latest batch of handsets announcing no less than seven new models at the recent UK press event. Always the chameleon, Sony Ericsson seem to have perfected the art of squeezing the same technology into suitably different shells, so that four of the handsets being cat-walked were in fact two different chassis with two sets of bodywork on each.
The K750i and D750i are effectively the same phone with the ‘K’ being the unbranded original and the ‘D’ the bespoke version created for T-mobile in the UK. To be clear from the outset, besides a slight difference to the shape of the keys and a variation on a theme for the lens cover on the phones reverse, the handsets are identical. The D750i naturally carries T-Mobile’s trademark User-Interface, with a white background to reflect the sunny deposition of the baby-blue body with silver edging, while the K750i carries the darker, broodier, go-nastier-stripes of black and silver.
The 750i is designed as an update to the K700i, launched mid-way through last year to much screaming and shouting from the press, but in our case only when we came to use it. Roll forward almost 12 months and looking at the K750i almost every aspect, of everything, is improved, working, and making us enjoy playing with a mobile handsets again.
The VGA camera on the K700i was superseded later in 2004 with a 1.3Megapixel camera on the S700, now a 2.0Megapixel camera, complete with 4x digital zoom and active auto-focus, on the 750i’s. A phone that actually takes decent pictures! Wonderful. But it’s not just the quality that makes the camera useable; it’s the bodywork as well, the lens is protected by a sliding cover (this is manually moved on the K and moved by a flick-switch on the D). When the cover is moved to reveal the lens the camera function activates and is ready to shoot. There is a shutter release button is mounted on the right hand side of the body, so that when the phone is rotated 90degrees anti-clockwise the release in on the right hand side of the lens….just like a real camera. The cherry on the cake is that the shutter release button has been so designed that light from the keyboard’s LED escapes around its edges so you can find it more easily in the dark. We think that’s a stroke of genius! A double super-bright LED has been included next to the lens so you can throw a little more illumination onto the subject and the photo-capture options are more advanced than on some cameras we’ve reviewed.
Sony Ericsson even offer an additional flash unit (MXE-60) that clips onto the base, via the fast port. Apparently the Xenon light of the flash, in conjunction with the phones LED’s, can eliminate red-eye, but since no phone has ever been powerful enough to generate red-eye, it’s impressive they’re trying even if they fail.
The design of the body is compact, even though the 750i’s form has bulked up a little from that of the K700i, gaining 1mm in length and depth and 6g in weight. But the additional mass is worn with style. The screen has stayed the same size, 176x220pixels, but risen in resolution from 65K to a 262K colour TFT. The battery has also been extended to 400hours stand-by or 9 hours of talk-time, although with the number of media options crammed in there is the very real danger that you will have ‘funned’ the battery flat before you ever get a chance to answer any calls. On the subject of the battery, another ‘well done’ to Sony Ericsson for one of the simplest design of battery compartment, simply pull off the small cover at the base of the body and the battery can be slipped out, revealing the docking point for the SIM, so no straining to remove awkward body covers.
Operating systems and user interfaces have been refined, offering greater clarity and the 5-way ‘navi-key’, in the centre of the body, has evolved into something really useful from its messy prior incarnation. The designers persist with the removal of the red and green phone operation buttons, opting instead to use the top two quick-keys, which now seem to better suit the general décor of the phone.
Connectivity is available in every flavour conceivable, with GPRS, tri-band GSM, e-mail, Web, Bluetooth, Infra-red, and USB sync cable. The memory of the last time I tried to configure a Sony Ericsson handset was still at the forefront of my mind as I tried to get online to download a tune, and initially I was confronted by the same bewildering set of menus and options. It seems though that this has been universally acknowledged by the service providers and even Sony Ericsson themselves are now providing a one-stop set-up service. A simple service update from the Vodafone website transforming the phone from an unconnected-brick to an internet-feather in a single SMS, although e-mail and IM functions do still need to be had configured into life.
For those who need constant entertainment the 750i supports the latest Java-based games, and even though the graphics are stunning, the screen size and the sleek keys does make game-play a little like ballroom dancing in a garden shed. The RDS FM radio is impressive, picking up good strength signals, from 87.5MHz - 108.0Mhz, from well within large buildings. The hands-free headset needs to be attached to activate the radio function, acting as the antenna, but one working the radio can be played through the speaker. The built in MP3 player allows you to annoy your fellow passengers on London public transport with impressively loud 40 voice polyphonic sounds from the same micro-speaker, as the radio uses, mounted below the camera lens. The handset comes with 37Mb of embedded memory but also ships with a 64Mb Sony Memory Stick Duo, which locates itself snugly in the bottom right hand side of the body, and can be upgraded to 2Gb. Getting files onto the handset can either be done by downloading them from the web, with the standard double-whammy of charges for content and data applying. They can also be transferred by Bluetooth, infrared or Sync. The Sync works with both PC and Mac, although in the case of the latter the phone simply appears as a drive on the Mac desktop. The K750i ships with its own Sync software, to allow the handset to tie-in with office applications such as Outlook, although this advanced system is solely for PC’s.
We’ve got a lot less gripes with this update than with the K700i. The shutter release is very slow, but it’s a phone so really, you should consider yourself lucky to have a shutter release in the first place! The handset can be charged by USB, while it’s attached to a computer to transfer data, but the literature seems to omit the amount of time this will take to charge the battery. During the trial I left a K750i attached to my Mac overnight and discovered it was still virtually flat in the morning. Directly connecting to a socket will charge the battery in 4 hours. The Sync software refused to work once installed. The installation appeared to be successful but the PC, running XP Professional, refused to recognize the phone was attached via the dedicated USB cable. Finally, Sony Ericsson have gone and changed the charger point on the base of the handset to their new ‘Fast Port’ system, which is only annoying if you’ve already got a existing Sony Ericsson handset and wanted to have chargers in two places to use with a newer version.
Overall the K750i is a fantastic. The downsides seem like quibbles when compared with the dramatic improvements made over the K700i. The camera alone would almost sell it to me but combine that with the MP3, the radio, the all-points covered connectivity and the simple Internet set-up and I'm really sold. The technology comers at a price, but Sony Ericsson have always charged a premium for offering a SIM free purchase service, but if you are already a fan of the design as you've got an upgrade coming up, this handset will easily see you thought the next few years of multi-media evolution and smart-device wars until the next generation of do-everything handhelds emerge.