Over the recent months many manufacturers have come to the realisation that there are still mobile phone users out there that don’t need all the bells and whistles the latest and greatest mobile handset has. Sure, they probably don’t know what they’re missing out on – but they may only need their mobile phone for the occasional call or SMS message.
Mobile telecommunications giant Sony Ericsson is known for their high-end full featured handsets, but also on the other side they do produce very high quality low-end or entry level handsets. The K300i is an example of an entry level handset, with a basic set of communication and fun features – nothing special but definitely not a low quality handset.
The K300i is a classic camera phone for the entry level user. That is, a new user to the market or a user who only needs the handset for very few tasks – the tasks that the first mobile phones were capable of; like phone calls! The handset does have more features than just phone calling though! ;) The handset also has support for all messaging formats widely known, loudspeaker function, MP3 and polyphonic ring tones, Java games, Infrared, and also a 65,536 colour LCD display.
The K300i’s messaging features are as follows; SMS, EMS, MMS, and e-mail messaging. SMS and EMS are virtually the same although with EMS you have the capability of formatted messages including small black and white images. MMS includes video, image, and audio messages and e-mail is, well, e-mail! This Sony Ericsson handset has T9 predictive text too for all of the mentioned messaging formats.
The 65,536 colour LCD is only small, at the 128 x 128 pixel resolution mark. This is the generally accepted entry-level handset display size, just take a look at any of Nokia’s entry-level handsets! The 65,536 colours is certainly a great addition to the K300i, but don’t expect great things from the display – it’s only small and there is only so much it can do!
MP3 ring tones are as the top-of-the-range ring tones. They are true tones and sound exactly like the songs you hear on the radio – because they are! The K300i has support for Sony Ericsson’s PlayNow™ service, which brings MP3 ring tones designed especially for the handset to you. You can download the latest and greatest songs for a small price direct to the handset via the Multimedia menu. Polyphonic-40 MIDI ring tones are also supported.
Java applications and games can be found pre-installed on the K300i, and you’ve always got the choice to download more! Java games and applications bring some fun to your handset and also can add to what the handset is capable of out-of-the-box; extra features like more PIM applications and such.
The K300i is a small sized handset, but not too miniscule that you’re going to lose it at any time. Measuring only 99.9 x 45.2 x 19.4 mm and weighing 85 grams, this model isn’t a beast. You can easily fit it into your pants pocket or jacket pocket. The size of the K300i doesn’t mean that the buttons are going to be too small to even press, they’re quite large and long so even larger fingers can get to them. The navigational stick could have been pushed out of the handset a little further, but my rant about that is found in the Problems and Issues section.
The backlight of the K300i’s keys is bright orange which lights up every key except for the two soft keys and the navigational stick. The handset comes in two colour variations – Visual Blue or Smooth Silver. From the images accompanying this review you can tell that I received a Smooth Silver model for my review. I feel that the Visual Blue colour model is much more visually pleasing than the Smooth Silver model, perhaps that’s why they named it accordingly!
The K300i fits perfectly in your hand and you can hold it around your wrist with the wrist strap that hooks underneath the battery cover to the rest of the handset. On the back of the handset, above the camera lens you will find the loudspeaker. Below the camera lens is a small chrome mirror for self-portraits. The only external button on the K300i is the dedicated camera key on the left hand side. An extra key below the numerical pad is the web access button which will launch the embedded WAP browser when pressed.
The top of the K300i has a black panel which houses the on/off button and also the infrared window. The total black colouring gives the K300i a professional touch – as does the meshwork on the earpiece. The silver Sony Ericsson logo below the earpiece tops it all off. The “feel” of the K300i is simple but stylish.
User Interface & display
The K300i uses the same user interface as all new Sony Ericsson models, firstly introduced in the K700i handset – with the spotlight effect! The K300i has a 128 x 128 pixel 65,536 colour LCD to bring the handset to life. The user interface is easy to use and navigate with the 5-way directional key and two soft keys. Most menus are tabbed with self explanatory icons which add to the ease of use.
The idle screen of the K300i displays everything you need to know – time on the bottom left, date on the bottom right, battery level top right, and reception/profile/other indicators at the top left. The display also shows the current service provider in the centre with the cell info (if activated) below it. A small row at the bottom of the K300i displays the function of the key below it – the soft keys and the navigational stick.
The main menu is accessed by pushing the 5-way navigational stick inwards. 9 icons make up the main menu, with Messaging smack bang in the middle. The icons explain themselves and as you move over them with the navigational stick they expand and the spotlight moves about. The label of the icon is displayed at the top of screen just in case you can’t figure out what the icon means.
The K300i allows you to use the numerical keys to quickly jump to your favourite function – although it doesn’t show it. For example, to quickly jump to the camera function press the navigational stick inwards and press the ‘1’ key. The numbers for each main icon are as follows: Camera 1, Internet Services 2, Entertainment 3, File Manager 4, Messages 5, Organizer 6, Connectivity 7, Phonebook 8, and Settings 9. You can continue to use the numerical keys deeper than the main icons by pressing other numerical keys.
The K300i’s User Interface has downloadable themes which change the entire look of the user interface. They come with screensavers, wallpapers, and new colour schemes. Four are pre-installed, more available from Sony Ericsson and some other WAP or internet sites. They are quickly applied and change the look of the phone in seconds. Although you probably wouldn’t tell from looking at the K300i – animated wallpapers and screensavers are supported!
To apply the key lock press the star (*) key and then the right soft key. The same button combination is used to unlock the display. I enjoyed using the K300i’s user interface for the most part, especially when a funky theme was in use. The only problem I had was that at times the display looked, to me, a little blurry. More on this is found in the Problems and Issues section – but for the aimed market the incorporated user interface and display type is just what the K300i needs.
Making and receiving calls
The basic three methods of making and receiving calls are used on the K300i. That is, using the earpiece, a wired headset, or the integrated speakerphone. A headset isn’t included with the sales package, but the same connector is used in most Sony Ericsson handsets so if you have one from a previous handset you can use that one.
The phonebook on the K300i is fully featured with multiple entry capabilities, including e-mail, web address, picture, personalized ring tone, voice command function, work and home addresses and contact details, and any extra notes you wish to add. To achieve these extra functions on your contacts you will have to move them from your SIM card to the handset’s onboard memory. The K300i even has an option which automatically adds any entries added to the phone memory to the SIM memory.
When a call comes through their selected image (if any) or a rotating K300i image is displayed along with the contact or phone number calling. You can select to answer or reject the call using the left or right soft keys, respectively. Once answered, a timer at the bottom right of the screen shows how long you’ve been on call for. The left soft key will hold the call, and the right will end the call all together. Pushing in the directional key will launch the in-call menu, which allows you to record the call (cool, huh!), mute the microphone, add another caller, activate the loudspeaker and several other minor options. The loudspeaker is enabled and disabled through this in-call menu.
The quality of the earpiece was unsurpassed, as was the loudspeaker. The volume for the loudspeaker or the earpiece can be changed at any time using the navigational keys – there are no external volume keys.
Supporting SMS, EMS, MMS, and e-mail, the K300i is a true messaging device keeping you up to date with all of the latest formats. T9 predictive text ensures quick messaging, although you can switch to the older (and much slower!) multi-tap method if you wish.
The messaging menu is first up when you open the main menu. From here, you can choose to compose a message, visit you inbox, check on your friends presence, call voicemail, access your e-mail, view draft messages, view and edit templates, go to the outbox, sent items, saved items, and also access the settings. When you select Write New (message) you are prompted to select either Text message (SMS/EMS) or picture message (MMS). To send and receive e-mails just open the email application in the main messaging menu.
Typing messages on the K300i amazed me, as most low-end handsets have serious input lag. That is, the response time of the phone from a button press. There is no visible lag when typing messages which is great for this type of phone; it sets the mark for all other low-end handset manufacturer.
I don’t really like Sony Ericsson’s method of changing words; once you have typed in your letters you then have to use the navigational stick to select the word. Using the star key or hash key would be much easier in my opinion. To change case in your messages press the star (*) button. For symbols use the number 1 key and space is the hash (#) key. If you’ve not used a Sony Ericsson handset before and think this is way too difficult, it’s not once you get the hang of it (except for the changing of words, that bit is annoying!).
GPRS, HSCSD, Infrared, and USB/Serial data-cable are the connectivity options on the Sony Ericsson K300i. The first two options are for wireless data like WAP, and the latter two are for connecting to a PC/laptop or another mobile device. No data-cable is included in the sales package, so you’ll have to either already have one or purchase one separately. As said you can also use infrared if you have an adapter.
GPRS Class 10 is used on the K300i for data speeds up to 48kbp/s. Downloading Java applications & games, ring tones, images and videos is quick and much fun using the WAP 2.0 browser. Receiving and sending MMS/e-mail messages is also helped out by GPRS! ;)
HSCSD allows you to connect the K300i to your PC or laptop and use the phone as a modem to connect to the internet.
The infrared port on the K300i is located at the top of the handset – aim and fire! You can send files directly from their options menu, and receive files by activating the port from the settings menu. Infrared is quite an old connectivity method but still very easy to use and also wireless which is another incentive.
Data-cable support comes in the form of high-speed USB and the older Serial cable method. When connected with a USB data-cable, your data transfers are super quick. The data-cable connects to the bottom of the handset and can be used to send files to and from the handset, sync, and much more. Anything a data-cable can do, infrared can also do. Software designed especially for the K300i can be downloaded from the main Sony Ericsson website.
The build of the K300i was just as expected – great! The handset is very sturdy and strong, as well as light and small enough to fit into your jacket or pocket easily. The only removable part of the K300i the back battery/camera cover, which slides off easily. Just push down in the centre and slide downwards.
The included hand strap can be attached to the handset underneath the battery/camera cover, just near the interface ports. Loop the end on and slide the battery cover back on and you’re right to go.
The only problem I had in this section was with the navigational stick, and its length. Check out the Problems and Issues section for more.
The K300i had great battery life for such a little phone. The handset runs on a BST-35 battery pack at 700mAh. You can expect around 7 hours of talk time and 300 hours of standby time on a single charge. These figures will be altered with any phone usage and many other factors.
The handset takes about 3 hours for a full charge.