Sony Ericsson have come a long way in 3G compatible handsets. From the first Sony Ericsson 3G handsets with the same features as their 2G partners, 3G handsets from Sony Ericsson are now high-end handsets with the latest features and technology.
The K800i is just an example of a high-end Sony Ericsson 3G handset; encompassing the latest technology with high quality standards from a brand that is trusted around the globe.
3G services in Australia have continued to grow and grow, with now three (pun!) providers of the high speed mobile telecommunications network. More and more consumers are making the change to 3G services, from the entry level user and the high end consumer looking for the latest technology.
The K800i’s most outstanding feature has to be the Cyber-Shot™ digital camera built into the back of the handset. I remember not long ago when 2mpx cameras in our mobile phones were the beez-neez and an amazing feature for a device that used to just make phone calls remotely! Sony Ericsson have gone one step better and teamed up with the Cyber-Shot™ range of digital cameras from Sony to provide a 3.2mpx digital camera with dedicated Xenon flash.
The digital camera is of the highest quality and as well as looking awesome on the 320 x 240 pixel TFT LCD (262,144 colours) of the K800i, when printed out on professional photographic paper they look just as if taken by a ‘real’ camera. The Xenon flash is unlike anything you’ve ever seen on a mobile phone, and the advanced landscape oriented camera application has a host of advanced features.
A new feature on the K800i is the new Memory Stick Micro memory card support. The M2 memory card port can be found on the left hand side of the handset, and is therefore hot-swappable for ease of use. The USB Mass Storage Device profile can be used with a compatible PC for easy drag & drop file transfer. 64MB of internal memory is supplied, along with a 64MB M2 card in the sales pack.
Other assorted features on the K800i include a stereo FM radio tuner with RDS, Bluetooth and infrared, RSS feed reader and xHTML/HTML browser, and our favourite SMS/EMS/MMS/e-mail messaging format support withT9 predictive text.
The K800i isn’t the smallest mobile phone on the market, but it’s also not the largest. The handset is a standard candy-bar form factor mobile.
The lens cover on the back of the handset protects the 3.2mpx lens from damage, but is also unlike your usual lens cover. Instead of being built into the handset, the K800i’s lens cover is completely ‘out’ of the handset, for lack of a better word. It slides over the rest of the handset when opening/closing. The top of the K800i is already thicker than the bottom due to the camera module, and the lens cover just adds more to it. I personally didn’t like this design and would have preferred the K750i approach where the lens is more a part of the handset than a separate entity.
Overall the K800i measures 105 x 47 x 22 mm and weighs 115 grams. The weight isn’t a huge issue with most handsets coming in at around 115-120grams, but the size may be a little off putting for some. Your best bet is to pop into a phone store and feel the K800i in hand and in your pocket before making any hasty decisions!
The numerical section of the keypad on the K800i is made of a weird sort of material; it’s almost rubbery to the touch. Unlike your usual plastic keypad the K800i’s was a little harder to use because your fingers wouldn’t slide along the keys, instead getting stuck. The buttons themselves are large but it takes some getting used to lifting your fingers instead of sliding them. The 5-way joystick and other keys aren’t as hard to use.
The M2 slot on the left hand side of the handset is quite hard to get open, but that can be taken as a good thing. Memory cards these days are cheaper than they used to be, but still expensive little pieces of technology. The M2 cards sit securely in their slot and the slot cover is made of hard plastic which is permanently attached to the handset.
At the top of the K800i you’ll find two small soft keys. These buttons are used for things like gallery viewing in landscape view and in some Java games.
User interface & display
The same graphical user interface we’ve been using on all the latest Sony Ericsson handsets is present in the K800i. The handsets’ 5-way navigational pad and two soft keys are the main buttons used to operate the menus. Below each soft key and off is an additional key which has a specific function – the left key is the web browser and the right hand key is for the Quick Launch/Shortcut menu.
If you used the K750i’s Quick Launch application you’ll notice some changes in the version found in the K800i. There are a couple of new tabs in the K800i, one which contains currently running applications and another named “Internet”. Your bookmarks and other links will appear here. The usual events (displays things like unread messages, missed calls) and my shortcuts (just as the name suggests!) tabs are still included. The running applications will display things like new messages that you have quit (by holding down the return button). This tab was the most interesting because it could possibly be a hint towards a new Sony Ericsson UI with the ability to minimize/hide applications like you do on a PC? Only the future can tell!
The main menu is your usual 3 x 4 row of animated icons. Underneath these you will find either lists or tabbed menus. I really like the concept of the tabbed menus because you can quickly jump from one entirely different section to another by moving the joystick once. In true Sony Ericsson style the interface is fully themeable.
The LCD on the K800i is a 320 x 240 pixel TFT LCD with 262,144 colour capability. For the most part the user interface is portrait-oriented, but when you turn on the camera application or view an image full screen the UI becomes landscape-oriented. The K800i’s display is top-quality, just as we would expect from Sony Ericsson. The 320 x 240 pixel resolution is the standard for high-end handsets these days and is a perfect choice for this handset.
Unfortunately not everything concerning the UI is good news. Unlike most Sony Ericsson handsets the K800i has quite a bit of lag, especially around things like the camera application and moving quickly through menus. The camera is one of the most ‘laggy’ applications but if you know where you want to go in the menu and try to get there fast you will notice some delay while the phone catches up.
One feature that is faster than in previous handsets is the gallery viewer. The K800i’s image thumbnails are much lower quality and therefore are quicker to render than those on the K750i. Can you imagine what it would be like waiting for the handset to render possibly hundreds of 3.2mpx images without reducing the quality?!
Making and receiving calls
On top of the usual audio calls the K800i, the handset also has video call support thanks to the inward-facing VGA digital camera and high speed 3G network compatibility. A stereo headset comes in the sales package which can also be used for hands free conversations, and a built in loudspeaker can also be activated if need be.
Like most Sony Ericsson handsets you won’t find dedicated pick-up/hang-up buttons on the keypad. The soft keys are used for this and it works just as good as handsets with the dedicated buttons. If you want to audio call someone in your phonebook just browse to them and select call – if you want video call you’ll have to browse to “options” and press “video call”. The same goes for inputting numbers at the idle screen, one soft key will say call but to get to video call the options menu needs to be opened first.
The video call screen is quite simply laid out. There are two tabs – the first and default tab shows two square boxes, the smaller one on the left hand side contains the video coming from the K800i. The larger will be grey when not in a call, but otherwise will display the video of the other party. If you move to the second tab you can choose an image from the gallery to share with your caller. The image will show up as if it was video streaming from your handset.
The K800i offers a heap of in-call options for video calling: you can switch camera (inward facing VGA camera is default), stop sending your video, save a picture of the other caller, adjust camera brightness or turn on night mode, turn off the sound, mute the microphone, transfer a sound file, switch the layout of video boxes, hide the smaller video box, produce a mirror image, edit the video streaming quality, and more.
If at any time during a conversation you need to adjust the volume there are two dedicated keys (they’re the same ones used for zooming in/out in the camera application) on the right hand side of the handset. The 5-way navigational stick can also be used (left or right) to adjust the volume in call.
Audio quality through the ear piece and the loudspeaker was excellent. I never went over around ¾ loudness on the ear piece so there were no issues there.
All the usuals make their appearance here: SMS/EMS, MMS, and e-mail messaging. Our favourite predictive text input, T9 text, is also installed with a range of European languages as standard. I mentioned in the Physical Aspects section (and again in the Problems/Issues section) that the numerical keypad, which of course plays a major part in messaging, is hard to use because of the material the keys are coated in. This is as evident as ever when messaging, as you’ll have to actually lift you finger right off the keys before moving to another – you can’t just slide from one to another.
The good news is, unlike some sections of the UI, messaging on the K800i has little to no input lag.
There have been no major changes in the messaging interface of the K800i; so most ex-Sony Ericsson users will have no trouble when messaging. The e-mail application is a separate application to the main SMS/EMS/MMS application, but they’re laid out almost the same as each other (in terms of folders and so forth).
The K800i’s 3.2mpx camera captures still images that are way too big to put into an MMS message. To combat this, when you select a high resolution image from the gallery the handset will automatically resize it (usually to VGA – 640 x 480 pixels) so it will fit into an MMS messages’ size restrictions. In the case of video clips, you can set the camera application to record at MMS quality, and the handset will attempt to keep the video below maximum MMS size.
The K800i can connect to local devices via Bluetooth, Infrared, or USB; and remote devices via 3G WCDMA data and the 2G GPRS protocol. A USB data-cable in the sales package ensures that right from the get go you can sync, transfer files, install applications, make firmware upgrades and more with your PC or laptop. The sales pack also has a CD with software required to get the handset and your computer communicating.
Bluetooth on the K800i comes with the A2DP profile. This profile supports the streaming of high quality stereo audio from the handset to a compatible headphone module. More and more Bluetooth headphones are popping up on the market but your handset must support the A2DP (or similar) Bluetooth profile to operate with such devices. Bluetooth can also be used for connectivity to headsets, PC’s/laptops, and other accessories.
The Fast-Port™ at the bottom of the K800i is USB 2.0 compliant, and has support for the Mass Storage Device Profile. This profile allows you to plug in the handset and then see the memory as a “drive” under My Computer (Windows XP). You can then click on it like you would a logical drive and drag & drop files onto the memory at high speeds.
When the PC Suite software is installed on your computer, it will prompt you to plug in the handset. The K800i will ask you to select from “Phone Mode” or “File Transfer mode” when the data-cable is plugged in. The Phone Mode is used for connectivity with the actual PC Suite software – and the File Transfer mode is only used for the USB Mass Storage Device profile connectivity. I didn’t have the M2 memory card installed so when I selected File Transfer Mode nothing was shown as a removable drive. I’m not quite sure if the internal memory should have been showing or not…
The PC Suite software does have its own file transfer application which is a little clunky but still gets the job done.
Infrared can be used for connecting to a PC or transferring files from the K800i to another handset/device directly. The context menu of most files in the file browser has “Sent via”, where you can select Bluetooth, Infrared, or MMS message.
The 3G OTA connectivity on the K800i allows you to download files up to speeds of 384kbp/s! This is great for watching streaming video, downloading music, sending MMS and E-mail messages – anything that you need internet connectivity for! The K800i has an integrated xHTML/HTML browser with support for RSS feeds. When 3G connectivity isn’t available the K800i will automatically drop back down to 2G and use GRPS as the OTA protocol (speeds up to 48kbp/s).
HSCSD can be used if you need to use the K800i as a modem for your computer to connect to the internet.
The K800i is a well built handset and feels solid all over. The camera lens cover could have had a slightly better ‘locking’ mechanism, as sometimes if I pulled the handset out of my pocket the cover would open and that causes the camera application to open. The K750i’s camera lens cover clicks into place and locks well; something like that on the K800i would have been great.
The K800i’s back battery cover comes off by pushing the middle of it and sliding downwards. The actual battery slides in somewhat like the K750i, and the USIM card sits underneath the battery.
The K800i’s battery life is quite reasonable – 7 hours talk time on GSM (2G) and 2.5 hours on UTMS (3G). 350 hours is the estimated standby time for both 3G and 3G. Using the 3.2mpx doesn’t chew up the battery life as much as I thought it would, but it will most probably be the most battery consuming application on the handset.
It seems that Sony Ericsson have been listening to their consumer, and the charger that comes in the box of the K800i is different to most others. It’s still got the (now) regular FastPort™ but on the rear side there is a female FastPort™, so you can plug in your other accessories while the handset charges. The K800i will also charge when plugged into a PC via USB.
A little side note, the K800i’s keypad fades in/out when charging which is a nice little effect.