Many camera phones have come and gone in the Australian mobile phone market since they became popular more than two years ago. Some were sub-standard, some were good merely for messaging, while others were able to take reasonable quality pictures for printing.
The Sony Ericsson K750i however, leaves all these phones far behind. With a two megapixel camera, complete with mechanical auto-focus and flash lamp, it showcases just how far camera phones have come, and just how small they can be as well. But don’t just look at the camera – the K750i is feature packed with things such as an FM radio, media player for music and video, memory card slot and Bluetooth. It is certainly Sony Ericsson’s finest handset on the market today.
By far and large, the two megapixel camera is a first for Sony Ericsson, and indeed, a first for the Australian mobile phone market. It is a CMOS sensor capable of capturing images at 1632x1224 pixels, more than enough for a good quality printout. Another first is that of mechanical auto-focus. The camera will focus on almost anything it is aimed at. You operate it the same way as you would a real digital camera – simply press the dedicated shutter button half way, and the camera will focus, beeping once it’s locked in. Press the button all the way, and the photo is taken.
Another feature is the FM radio. It is one of the best in a phone I have used yet. The radio has support for twenty different channels and has RDS support, allowing the phone to receive information from the radio station about the current music track playing, among other things. A few FM stations in Sydney, such as Nova 96.9 and MIX 106.5, use RDS to identify their radio stations, and the K750i displays that information on-screen.
The media player built into the K750i is top notch. It supports multiple playlists as well as repeat and shuffle functions, and an equaliser option for changing the way the music sounds. I was quite amazed and impressed at the quality of sound the media player produced when using certain equaliser presets.
The K750i is a compact candy-bar style phone using Sony Ericsson’s dual-front philosophy of having the look of a camera on one side and a phone on the other. With the antenna being internal, the phone measures 100 x 46 x 25 millimetres and weighs 99 grams. What with all the functionality that the K750i offers, these specifications are nothing short of impressive.
Starting with the front of the phone – what Sony Ericsson likes to refer to as the phone look – you’ll find your standard set of keys and screen. The 1.8 inch TFT screen dominates the top half of the phone, allowing little room for the phone’s speaker and company logo to fit at the top. On the bottom half you’ll find the keypad, in typical Sony Ericsson fashion. You have the soft keys on the top, with return and clear keys below them. They flank the central five-way joystick, with the new addition of a shortcut key located just above the joystick. Below is the standard 12 key number pad.
I’ve never been a fan of joysticks in phones. I’ve always found them to be flimsy and quite annoying to use. I’m sure most people will have experiences of trying to push the joystick inwards to confirm an on-screen menu option, and have pushed the joystick up or down by accident instead. While the K750i’s joystick is not perfect, it is one of the better ones I have used. It is easy to grip and in most cases, goes where you want it to. I can’t say the same for the phone’s keypad though. With the small amount of space, the buttons are small and cramped, and are fairly stiff too, inconveniencing mail creation.
On the back of the phone you’ll find the ‘camera look’. The camera is protected by a cover that slides open with a slight push to reveal the camera and boot up the camera application automatically. Among the external speaker and flashlamp, the socket for an external antenna cable is also here, protected by a plastic cap. The battery is accessible by removing a small cover on the bottom part, and the battery itself is removed by sliding it out, revealing the SIM card slot beneath.
The left hand side of the phone has the dedicated music play/stop button and the Memory Stick Pro Duo slot. The right hand side of the phone has the two way volume/zoom keys and the dedicated camera shutter button. The power button and infra-red port are on the top, while the bottom has the new Fast Port socket for charging, handsfree and other accessory connections.
User Interface & display
The 1.8 inch display used by the K750i supports up to 262,144 colours and has a resolution of 176x220 pixels. This is the industry average these days and not the best. Considering what kind of imaging the K750i is capable of, I would have liked to see a QVGA (240x320) pixel display, or something similar here. Nonetheless the screen is a good one, displaying brightly indoors but fading in sunlight, as most other phone LCDs do. Unfortunately text size is a problem. The screen only displays six menu lines, and only four lines of text show up when composing a message. Four lines of text is quite surprising and laughable, and a setting to change the text size when composing would be a great addition to this handset.
The menu interface is the tried and trusted row of grids – three rows by four columns for a total of 12 icons. These menu icons are, from the top left and going right – PlayNow, Internet Services, Entertainment, Camera, Messaging, Media Player, File Manager, Contacts, Radio, Calls, Organiser, Settings. Menus beneath that are organised in lists of text options. All menu items are accessible through number short cuts, although the phone won’t tell you what number shortcut accesses what, so you’ll need to work that out for yourself.
Making and receiving calls
The call quality on the K750i is average and not the best, with reception particularly patchy in some areas. Particularly in the local shopping centre that I use as a weak reception test area, the K750i quite often had trouble getting any signal at all. If you live in an area with patchy reception, you may have trouble with the K750i. However the audio quality from the internal speaker is very good, and the same can be said for the audio coming out on the other end. Speakerphone is also very good, with the audio coming through clearly on both sides of the telephone call.
The wired, stereo handsfree provided excellent audio quality for both ends of the call, although its design proved problematic and its connector would sometimes not firmly attach to the Fast Port, resulting in one ear phone losing audio completely. More on that in the Problems/Issues section.
Bluetooth headsets can also be used with the K750i and setting them up is relatively easy. It’s done from the Bluetooth menu under connectivity settings in the settings menu. Pairing takes a few minutes and after the connection is done, when you receive calls the audio is diverted to the headset and calls go through. I had no problems pairing my Motorola HS-801 headset with the phone.
In terms of ringtones, the K750i supports 40 tone polyphonics as well as MP3 ringtones. It might be because of MP3 ringtone support, but Sony Ericsson didn’t include many ringtones on the phone at all. The ones that were included were average. Sony Ericsson’s PlayNow service allows you to download ringtones based on real songs to expand the phone’s library, but at a whopping $6.50 each they aren’t exactly value for money. I can imagine most people resorting to using their own music files as ringtones instead.
The phonebook stores up to 500 contacts, with five numbers and one email address assignable to each contact. Contacts stored on the SIM card will not show up in the main address book, so storing contacts on the SIM card isn’t recommended here. Other fields attachable to contacts include separate address fields (suburb, postcode, etc.), web address, and thumbnail pictures.
Messaging support is fully featured here. SMS, MMS and POP3/IMAP4 email are all supported and implemented well. SMS of hundreds of characters (long SMS) can be sent and received, although Sony Ericsson don’t put a specific number on how many messages can be linked together. There is no display for the number of characters entered either, so it’s very difficult to keep track of how many linked messages you are sending. As mentioned earlier, the lack of text lines (a mere four) when composing messages is inconvenient.
Text input is very fast, with the phone using T9 predictive text input and having a good custom dictionary for adding unknown words to the database. The phone shows little delay in entering letters, although the stiffness of the keypad limits quick character entry.
The MMS composer supports multiple slides and allows you to add a text, picture, sound and video item to each slide, provided the message stays below the limit of 100 kilobytes. MMS can be sent to phone numbers or email addresses.
The email client supports POP3 and IMAP4 email standards and has multiple options including encryption, periodic email checking and header only download.
The K750i is a tri-band GSM phone, supporting 900, 1800 and 1900 MHz bands, allowing it to be used in most continents of the world. It has GPRS Class 10 support, meaning reasonable access speeds to the internet. The browser is a WAP 2.0 compliant one, and loads xHTML pages with relative ease. One particular surprise, as I was testing the phone on Vodafone, was that it was able to access all the content on the Vodafone live! portal, even though it was not the Vodafone version of the phone.
As well as this, there is USB, IrDA (infra-red) and Bluetooth for local area connectivity. A USB cable was included in the package, and can be used to synchronise the phone with a PC, connect the PC to the internet using the phone, and allow the Memory Stick Duo card inserted in the phone to act as a USB mass storage device. With the included software, you can also transfer files between the phone’s internal memory. Infra-red and Bluetooth can also be used for similar functions, but as the USB cable is included in the package I don’t expect many people to do so.
Infra-red is useful for transferring contacts from the phonebook to other phones, while Bluetooth is good for headsets and remote controlling your computer. This is a gimmick that Sony Ericsson has included in their recent phones where the phone is capable of controlling certain parts of a Windows desktop. It’s fun to do at first but it’s not very practical with the small screen that the phone has.
The build quality of the K750i was excellent. As there are no moving parts or exchangeable covers, the body of the phone felt very rigid and durable. The battery cover is also firmly fastened, although not to the point that you’ll have problems removing it. Nothing wrong at all to report here.
The battery life of the phone is dependable and lasts long. The battery itself is a Lithium-Polymer battery with 900mAh capacity. Sony Ericsson claims maximum standby and talk times of 400 hours and 9 hours respectively. In the real world, I was able to get two and a half days usage out of it before recharging. This was with about 30 minutes of calls, 30 minutes of web browsing, and small amounts of playing games and listening to the music player or FM radio each day.