This new mobile handset from Sony Ericsson has been manufactured with the mobile gamer in mind. For those who doesn’t need all the extra features that more expensive handsets have. The K500i handset is just this, it has gaming support with that little bit more, but doesn’t fall behind with a lack of other features.
As most mobile gamers would be in the teenage age bracket, messaging is a must for this mobile phone. Then there’s the display – does it allow the games to be brought to life without making the handset bulky and a hassle to carry? What about the other features… anything new or the same old things?
You may get the K500i and the F500i confused – but there’s a simple way to make sure you don’t! The F500i is a modified version of the K500i for the Vodafone network, without some features that the K500i has. The F500i is the Vodafone colours and the UI matched to the Vodafone live! colour scheme. Simple!
The Sony Ericsson K500i isn’t really an entry-level handset like their T230 and some upcoming models, but that said it’s also not one of the company’s most advanced and high-end handsets. The K500i includes all the basic features and some upgraded features for more comfortable mobile gaming. The K500i also has a VGA digital camera, MP3 player, PIM applications, infrared and 12mB of internet memory. New features? – not really, but the features it does have are enough for the aimed user market.
For gaming the display on the handset must be top notch. As always with all Sony Ericsson phones the display on the K500i is top notch. A 65,536 colour TFT LCD at a nice gaming resolution of 128 x 160 pixels is used and is the perfect partner for the handset. If a 262k colour display was used in this handset the price would have been raised significantly and because of the size of the display it wouldn’t have been a big advantage to the user. The 65,536 colour TFT LCD does its job perfectly in this model.
The VGA camera on the K500i is a great touch for an MMS enabled handset – and with the main market teenagers/young adults, it’s going to be used quite a bit! The camera can capture images at up to 640 x 480 pixels and also supports video capture with an amazing 4x digital zoom. 12mB of memory is offered to the user, but remember you’ve got to have space for games!
Speaking of games, the K500i has an integrated 3D Graphics enhancement engine which ensures your games look and run the best they can. Links can be found to Sony Ericsson’s WAP site which contains games custom made for the K500i which show off the full potential of the handset. Some games are pre-installed on the handset and as said you can download more from WAP sites, or transfer them to the handset using Infrared/data-cable connection.
SMS/EMS, MMS, and e-mail messaging is supported on the K500i and a GPRS browser is built into the handset. With T9 predictive text you can quickly message all your friends in a range of different formats about how you’ve just clocked the latest Java game! :P
The K500i is a small handset compared to most on the market, but it is also a very stylish one. Based lightly on the K700i, there are many resemblances to the other handset in this model. The trial handset I received was the silver and grey variety, named Virtual Silver; but there is another version which is based on the colour blue, and is called Cosmetic Blue. Using the K500i you cannot customize the way it looks with covers, which is a bit of a down side but if you’re lucky enough to get the blue version you should be happy.
The K500i has a very nice “feel” to it. And by that I mean a physical feel, the plastic is very soft and easy to hold, but not slippery. The same texture is used on all areas of the phone giving it a defined completeness. Whichever colour you get the middle section of the K500i is dark grey and this spans the length of the handset in the centre, and also the top and bottom of the handset.
At the top of the K500i you will find the power on/off button and the infrared port. Suddenly Sony Ericsson have realised (if only in this handset) that having the infrared port here is much more conventional then having it at the side – you can literally aim and shoot with the K500i’s infrared port! :) Speaking of buttons the dedicated camera button is on the left side of the handset, just above the rubber volume up/down panel. The right side houses only one button – and pressing it will launch the WAP browser. This button isn’t labelled which is no advantage in my opinion.
The numerical buttons on the K500i are clear and very soft to the touch. This makes them easy to use; but I did have some problems with the size, it was very similar to that of the P900, they’re thin and wide. The label of the button is embedded inside it and can be seen from any angle. The two soft keys, directional stick, return and cancel keys are all silver, and the directional stick has a chrome plate around it. The backlight of the keys is bright orange. Really… why?
The back of the K500i comes off totally. Not just a small battery cover, the whole back cover! It is one of the easiest to remove and is very strong and sturdy also. The back cover has a camera lens shutter, which is great to ensure that no extra material get into the camera which might interfere with your images. A small slider opens and closes the camera shutter and just below this is a chrome circle for self-portraits. Above the camera is the loudspeaker, right under the holes in the back cover. A more detailed description of the camera can be found on page two.
About ¾ of the K500i is built higher than the other fourth. The top part is the “high” part, by high I mean width when placed horizontally. The design slopes downwards where the soft keys are and that leaves the numerical keys lower than the rest of the handset. The K500i is slightly top-heavy because of this but it doesn’t affect usage of the handset and I found it to be a little more comfortable when messaging.
User Interface & display
The user interface in this Sony Ericsson handset is basically the same as any other – it’s colourful, easy to use and displayed neatly and in an organized fashion. There are downloadable themes to customize the UI as well, with four already built into the handset. The user interface in the K500i is much like that of the K700i handset and many of the newer Sony Ericsson handsets. The display on this handset is a single 65,536 colour TFT LCD, at a resolution of 128 x 160 pixels.
The user interface of the K500i is navigated around via a few different keys. There are two soft keys next to the directional stick which is in the middle of the “top section” of the handset. The functions of the two soft keys are labelled by text in a little bar at the bottom of the display. Below the left and right soft key is the return and cancel key respectively. The return key will go back a step, and the cancel key is mainly used during messaging or other input – it will erase one character to the left each time it’s pressed. The directional stick on the K500i can be manipulated in 5 different ways; up, down, left, right, and in. By pushing in the directional stick this usually represents “select” or “okay” – for example at the main menu you select by pushing the directional stick in or by pressing the left soft key.
Once you have unlocked the keypad (it’s (un)locked by pressing the ‘*’ key and the right soft key) you can access the menu by pressing the directional stick in. I like the design of this directional stick because it is concave at the top, not pointed. This allows your thumb to sit in it nicely – but back to the main menu. There are 12 main menu options, of which Messaging is first selected when you open it up. The icons are clearly representative of what the selection is, and when you hover on one the icon magnifies and a small spotlight moves around to highlight the selection. This was probably first seen in the K700i model from Sony Ericsson.
There are shortcuts available by moving the directional stick or using the soft keys when the handset is idle, and for example moving the directional stick to the left when idle will bring up the new text message option. These directional key movements and their functions can be changed through the Shortcuts option in the Settings menu. The left and right soft key jump to the “Calls” and “More” listings, respectively.
The 65,536 colour TFT LCD display is great for gaming and browsing WAP pages, and not forgetting great at bringing the new Sony Ericsson user interface to life. With the brightly coloured themes and ability to have wallpapers, screensavers, and playback of video the display has to be top-notch, and the K500i’s is right up there.
Making and receiving calls
The K500i has all three of the most widely used calling options, that is: earpiece up to your ear, loudspeaker hands free, or wired headset. Bluetooth isn’t built into the K500i so unless you use an accessory wireless connections can not be used for making and receiving calls. The K500i has support for a whole range of ring tones, and includes a special Play now™ service which I had heaps of fun with!
The Play now™ service is launched from the main menu of the K500i – it opens up a WAP browser window and connects to Sony Ericsson. A page is then displayed with a heap of the latest new/most popular songs. You can select a song and then a small file will be downloaded which plays to give you a taste of what the full song sounds like. These files are in MP3 format and are optimized for the K500i so they sound perfect. If you like what you hear in the preview you can download the full song for a small fee. These MP3 ring tones can be then used as message alert tones and any other customizable tone on the K500i. This service is offered only to users of the K500i and other supported handsets and is one of the best I have used for MP3 ring tones!
The handset also supports basic polyphonic MIDI ring tones and your own recorded files. The included sound recorder can be used to record real life sounds which are put into the AMR format. With infrared and data-cable connectivity available ring tones downloaded onto your home PC can be transferred to the handset for (probably) a much cheaper price than downloading from WAP sites.
The hands free speaker phone can be activated any time during a call and turned off whenever you wish. There are small buttons on the left side of the handset for volume adjustment when you need it. A wired hands free headset isn’t bundled in the sales package but can be purchased from almost anywhere these days.
Quality of the audio coming in and being broadcast out of the K500i was top quality.
The K500i has messaging capabilities in four different types – SMS/EMS, MMS, and e-mail. The handset has T9 predictive text support for quick messaging, and with the
integrated VGA still and video camera you can personalize your MMS and e-mail messages for their recipients. Messaging is the first feature selected when you bring up the main menu of the K500i – so it’s easy to access.
From the messaging main menu a list of text options are shown. You can select new message, inbox, e-mail, voicemail, and the other folders (drafts, templates, outbox, sent items, and saved items). All of the messaging settings are under the settings option, you can set up MMS, your message alert tone, and much more – e-mail boxes and settings are found under the actual e-mail option in the main menu. When you select create message you are prompted to select from text message or picture message. Picture message isn’t EMS message, it is MMS message. You can compose SMS and EMS messages by selecting the text message option.
The create message window has been changed in the K500i slightly. Instead of having the icon up in the top left hand corner this has been replaced with the background from your selected theme – and a shaded white area with rounded corners makes up the input window where your text is inserted. In the top left-hand corner are small icons which indicate how the text is being inserted – T9 will be displayed if activated, and “Aa” for sentence case, “a” for lowercase and of course “A” for uppercase. When you get to 140 characters the K500i displays a small text box in the top right hand corner which counts down to tell you when your message makes up more than a single text message.
The MMS message composer in this handset is pretty straight forward. When opening up a new message the left soft key is used to add items to the MMS message. You can select from picture, text, sound, video, or even go straight to the camera and capture or video without leaving the message you’re composing. Previews are available so you can get a taste as to what the message will look like when you’ve finished it and sent it off to either an e-mail address or mobile phone number.
T9 predictive text support is available with all messaging formats on the K500i, and thankfully there is no lag and the K500i is very responsive. The K500i with SMS/EMS, MMS, and e-mail support, and the added advantage of T9 predictive text with no lag definitely give the K500i my tick of approval!
There are three ways to connect using the K500i. Two are for local connections, and one is for wireless over-the-air data connections. Infrared and USB/Serial data-cable are the local connections and good ol’ GPRS is the other!
A cable nor software is included in the K500i’s box, so if you’re thinking about connecting the K500i to your computer/laptop straight out of the box you’re going to have to already be equipped with a cable or infrared dongle. The handset supports both USB and Serial data-cables, and any Infrared dongle should work. Because the software isn’t bundled you can download it from Sony Ericsson’s website and install it – it comes with almost everything your handset and computer need.
Files can be sent via infrared to a computer/laptop or other device, but only one file at a time. You can mark as many files as you want but the send option is disabled when you mark more than one. This is very annoying especially when transferring a number of files like I have to do to get the images from the K500i into this review!
GPRS and an integrated WAP browser work hand-in-hand to bring the latest news and information to your handset. Play now™ also relies on this wireless data connection to bring MP3’s to your K500i!
Less mentioned but probably quite important for some is the HS/CSD data capabilities. The K500i supports HSCSD and CSD data for using the handset as a modem to connect a laptop or computer to the internet.
Excellent, as always! The K500i has probably one of the easiest-to-remove back covers I’ve found. The entire back cover comes off, not just a small section. There are also no buttons to press – but don’t despair, the cover is very firmly attached. You just need to insert your finger nail under a little indentation at the bottom of the cover and lift up – the cover completely removes.
Looking from the inside at the K500i’s camera lens protector it is very strong and isn’t going to break easily.
The battery and SIM card fit in simply so all in all there were no problems!
Comparing estimated times with the K700i and K500i you will notice that both handsets have the same standby time but a different talk time. The K700i had a disappointing talk time and the battery drained quite quickly – but this has been resurrected in the K500i.
You will find a 700mAh battery pack in the sales package, with an estimated talk time of 3-4 hours, and around 3-4 days of standby time. Remember though that excessive usage of more “advanced” features the K500i battery will drain faster – that is using the
integrated camera, playing games, watching videos etc. If you use these features heaps make sure your new best friend is the travel charger!