Mobile giant Sony Ericsson are very quickly becoming some of the best 3G enabled handsets that we’ve seen here in Australia. They know how to do things right over there, that’s for sure. Each time a Sony Ericsson is released everyone is wowed at the feature list, and most of the time, it performs. The 3G Sony Ericsson K608i is no exception, and is the latest on the 3G network Three here in Australia.
Sony Ericsson are doing a good job at balancing out what they’re giving the 3G users and what they’re giving the 2/2.5G users. Both markets have the very latest features (within reason, the 2/2.5G handsets aren’t going to have video calls of course) that impress both sides of the market. There are currently three Sony Ericsson handsets on the Three network.
A similar model, the K600i, is available on Telstra’s 3G (or ‘video services’) network; the K600i is basically the exact same handset. This review only focuses on the K608i handset as it’s the only one I had for review, but in general, what’s said for the K608i also counts for the K600i.
The smallest and lightest 3G handset to date, the K608i has a host of features set to impress. On the multimedia side of the Sony Ericsson K608i there’s the 1.3mpx digital camera and fully featured media player, and on the other side there’s fast local and remote data transfer thanks to USB, Bluetooth, Infrared, WCDMA data and GPRS. The K608i has the stereotypical Smartphone display at 176 x 220 pixels and 262,144 colours.
The 1.3mpx digital camera on the K608i is one of the biggest selling points. The familiar dual-front design of the K608i is clear, with one side looking like a normal mobile phone, the other like a proper digital camera. The K608i’s camera is operated with the handset held horizontally after the active camera shield has been opened. The camera application will launch and you hold the handset as you would a normal digital camera. The camera has a heap of great features including a flash light and panoramic effect – checkout the Camera Performance page for all the facts and example images!
Multimedia capable things are the next-best-thing. If your handset can’t play videos and MP3’s then you’re living in the past! The K608i has a Media Player application that supports a heap of file formats, most importantly MP3 and MPEG4 video. Downloaded and recorded videos can be played full screen for the perfect experience.
The Sony Ericsson K608i measures 105.1 x 45.4 x 18.8mm and weighs only 105 grams. Simply put, this is one of the smallest and lightest 3G handsets we’ve ever seen. These dimensions may seem quite big to some of us, but generally most 3G handsets are a bit heavier and larger than the average 2/2.5G handset. The K608i is the perfect shape and weight to fit smoothly into your pocket or bag.
The handset is only available in one colour scheme, that being silver. The only removable part of the K608i is the back cover, which is held together by two clips on the left hand side of the handset. When you wish to remove the back cover they must both be flicked into the unlocked position, and then you can lift the back cover off. Secure it back on later by pushing the two clips back into the locked position. The camera lens is covered by a mechanism like that seen in the K750i and W800i handsets. It is built into the actual phone and not the back cover, so it would be very difficult to break it. It slides smoothly over the camera lens to keep dust out.
The USB port on the left hand side of the handset is covered by a rubber stopper which is firmly attached to the handset. This cannot be removed and therefore won’t get lost in daily wear and tear. Like the camera lens cover this just makes sure nothing gets inside the port and also keeps the appearance of the handset up – there’s no gaping mini-USB plug and everything is kept sleek.
The K608i looks like an average handset (although it’s a bit longer than most) from the front, and from the other side it looks just like a camera. The K608i has the same buttons as you would find on any of the latest Sony Ericsson non-3G handsets, except for two extra buttons on either side of the display. The left hand side button is the dedicated video call button. If you input a number instead of pushing a soft key to get a voice call going, push this one to start a video call. The right hand side button is the dedicated WAP button which will launch 3’s homepage on the inbuilt WAP browser once pressed.
Other than those keys, there are the two soft keys, back key, cancel key, and 5-way navigational stick directly below the display, and then the numerical keys following below. The top of the handset has the infrared port (which makes it look like a TV remote), on/off button and also a small coloured LED. The LED lights up constantly when charging but does not flash when the handset is idle like the old Ericsson’s did! There are two volume control keys on the right hand side, as well as the dedicated 1.3mpx digital camera key!
User Interface & display
The K608i uses the same user interface found in all recent Sony Ericsson models. Of course there are some differences, most of them are only minor – for example the highlight on main menu icons is not always a spotlight anymore, it can be changed with themes on the handset. The display is the expected size at 176 x 220 pixels, and capable of over 262 thousand colours.
The main menu on the K608i consists of 12 icons. The top left icon has been changed from the normal PlayNow™ service icon to Three’s own content service: Planet 3. All other icons remain the same (from left to right, top to bottom) Quick links, Entertainment, Camera, Messages, FM Radio, File Manager, Contacts, Video Call, Calls, Organizer, and Settings. When you launch the main menu Messages is pre-selected and ready to go. You use the 5-way directional key and two soft keys to browse the menus. They are all pretty straight forward, with some using tabs to organize information (they can be accessed by using left/right joystick). Most menus’ have an “info” option (right soft key) which explains what the selected function will do.
Themes on Sony Ericsson handsets are by far the best that you can get in the mobile world. They make full use of the colour capabilities of your handset & display, and are readily available from thousands of different websites both WAP and on your home computer. The K608i comes with 5 pre-installed (including the default 3 Mobile theme), and they only take seconds to apply. They completely change the look of the user interface, almost everything is changed except for the main menu icons – these stay the same no matter what theme you have applied.
The K608i supports animated backgrounds and screensavers, and you can even modify start-up graphic/animation to your own file. The 262,144 colour display has a brightness control with 5 increments, and can be seen in most lighting conditions with no hassles. The display is perfect for using as a viewfinder with the 1.3mpx digital camera, as well as viewing images and video full screen!
The navigational stick can be used to jump to your favourite features when the handset is in idle mode – that is, when you are back at the wallpaper display. You can modify the links for the right, left, and down keys to whatever function you like. The up key cannot be modified as it jumps to the My Shortcuts menu. The My Shortcuts menu contains other most-used features, and you can add your own or rearrange the items to your own listing. The left and right soft keys cannot be changed: the left key is “Calls” (call register), and the right is “Planet 3”.
The idle mode of the K608i displays everything you need to know about the status of the handset. The bottom left shows the current time, and the right shows the current date. At the top of the screen several small icons indicate active functions/timers, and so forth. For example a Bluetooth or Infrared icon indicates… well, it’s obvious isn’t it!
Making and receiving calls
The K608i can make and receive calls in several different ways – a Bluetooth headset, a wired headset (included in the sales package), using the loudspeaker, using the normal earpiece, and also support for video calling! Video calling is supported by the high speed WCDMA network that allows for both streaming video and data outbound and inbound.
The K608i has its own dedicated video call button on the left hand side of the handset. It makes it easy to input a number and press the video call button for a video call, or press the left soft key for a normal voice call. The video call window (by default) shows the inward facing VGA camera (the dedicated video calling camera) in the bottom left hand corner, with the rest of the screen occupied by the other callers incoming video.
During a video call there are a heap of in-call options. The left soft key will start sending out the outward facing 1.3mpx camera video instead of the inward facing camera. This is a bit weird, considering you can’t use the camera application to take pictures with the inward camera! Back onto subject thought; the left soft key will end the call and pushing the navigational stick will option the options menu. In the options window you can stop the camera all together, turn off the speaker, mute your outgoing audio, switch your small picture to the big window, turn on the cameras night mode, or access advanced options. Advanced options are mostly related to the camera functions, like displaying an alternative static picture, showing a mirror image, and so on. You can also access your contacts and other phone features when in a video call from this menu.
When video calling, it’s best to use a Bluetooth headset or the wired stereo headset in the sales package. The loudspeaker works perfectly fine if you’re in a quiet situation, but if you use it in a busy place (like walking down the street for example) the other party might find it a little hard to hear what you’re saying!
The Sony Ericsson K608i has support for messaging formats this side of the moon – there’s MMS, SMS/EMS, and not to forget e-mail messaging. The entire setup is aided by T9 predictive text support, large numerical keys and a massive 262k colour display.
With the 1.3mpx digital camera built in, taking photos and sending them by MMS is simple. The images are automatically resized to fit into a normal MMS message, leaving space for text, audio, and other elements of an MMS message. Small video clips can also be captured with the K608i and sent via video-MMS at amazing speeds – and you can thank the WCDMA 3G network for that one!
SMS/EMS messages can be extra long; as we’d expect from any handset created in the last few years. You can send one long message spread between several SMS messages, which will be split up and the rejoined back on the recipient’s handset. The T9 predictive text dictionary has a couple of inbuilt languages if English isn’t your best, and the dictionary is very easy to add words to.
The K608i’s predictive text works as follows: Once you’ve turned the dictionary on, you can start pressing the keys to create your words, as you would on any other handset. If the word you require is not automatically selected, move the navigational stick up/down to select between the different word combinations. If your word is not there, type it in using the multi-tap method and it will be added to the dictionary. To change between input methods press and hold the ‘*’ key – to change case (upper, lower, sentence) press the ‘*’ key once. The ‘#’ key is used on the Sony Ericsson handsets as space, which may differ from your previous handset if this is your first Sony Ericsson.
Messaging is the first selected main menu icon when you launch it. From here, you can access a list of messaging-related features. There are separate folders for all your messages; Inbox, drafts, outbox, sent items, saved items, and templates. When you select to “write new,” you are prompted to select either text message, picture message (aka MMS), or voice message. The e-mail messaging is separate to the rest of the messaging function and is found under the Email heading.
There is no lag with text messaging on the K608i, which is just great any way you look at it! If you want to quickly jump to a new message from the idle screen, just push the navigational stick left. It will bring up the same prompt as if you went all the way via the messaging window.
Like all Sony Ericsson’s these days, the K608i comes out-of-the-box ready to plug into your home computer to transfer data to and from the handset. A fast USB data-cable comes in the sales package with all the software needed to get started in an instant. The handset also comes with inbuilt Bluetooth technology, an infrared port for wireless transfers of data, and high-speed WCDMA and GPRS OTA protocols.
Sony Ericsson’s PC Suite comes with software enabling you to do the following: transfer images, video clips, messages, and more to and from the handset; use the K608i as a broadband modem for internet access; and synchronize your contacts, calendar, and other important data with your PC applications. You can connect the K608i with a computer using either the supplied USB data-cable (which is probably the easiest and most effective connection), with a Bluetooth adapter or an Infrared adapter (you’ll have to purchase one of these separately).
The connectivity abilities of the K608i are incorporated into the file manager application, which means you can quickly find that file you’re after and send it to a friend within seconds. From the options menu of any file sorted on the K608i’s 33MB internal memory, you can select (among other things): Send via Bluetooth, and Send via Infrared. The infrared port is located at the top of the handset, which gave off the vibe to some of my friends that the K608i was a TV remote control! When you have paired with a Bluetooth device you can send files to/from with ease. If the K608 is plugged into a PC with the USB data-cable you can browse the memory explorer-style with the included software.
Being a 3G-enabled handset, which has a main focus around high-speed data, the K608i is capable of many great over-the-air downloads. These include such things as streaming video and audio clips. You can download the latest video clip of the newest song direct to your handset. Or how about the 4:30 headlines from Sky News? The media player and inbuilt WAP 2.0 xHTML/HTML multimode capable browser are capable of all this. The WCDMA data reaches about 384kbp/s – faster than some low-grade internet connections. This will only occur when you are in 3G range, which you will have to check Three’s website for.
If you’re not in 3G range, you’ll be roaming on 2/2.5G service towers. These don’t offer speeds that you’ll get with WCDMA data, but do offer standard GPRS speeds. This means you can still access the web with the K608i, but it will be remarkably slower and some features may not be available.
The K608i has you covered in both elements of connectivity – local and remote (over-the-air).
I was a bit unimpressed with the battery life from this Sony Ericsson – all other handsets I’ve had from them have had perfect battery quality, the K608i isn’t as good as I expected.
The handset has a lithium-ion 900mAh battery pack in the sales package. The estimated times given from Sony Ericsson are 180hours standby time, 176 minutes of voice talk time, and 125 minutes of video talk time. That equates to about 3 hours voice and just over two hours video time. I could only get about 2-2.5 hours voice talk time and average daily use out of the handset without it becoming very low on battery. For me, this meant charging the handset every two or three days.
The standby time for the Sony Ericsson Z800i (also 3G enabled) was a whopping 240 hours. I guess the size of the K608i must be taken into account, and this probably is one factor influencing the battery life of the handset.