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Sony Ericsson T610 Camera Phone Review

by Todd Ogasawara
12/11/2003

Sony Ericsson calls the T610 camera phone an image and entertainment phone instead of a smartphone. They reserve the smartphone designation for the higher-end and higher-priced, PDA (Personal Digital Assistant)-like P800 and P900 series. The T610 is, however, a very capable and relatively tiny Bluetooth-enabled GSM/GPRS wireless phone.

The T610 is not based on Linux, the Microsoft Smartphone, Palm OS, or Symbian OS platforms. Nor does it have the larger storage memory (4 to 16MB RAM) associated with phones typically categorized as smartphones. Instead, it is based on the proprietary Sony Ericsson OS. And it can run applications written in Java.

This Sony phone has a 65536-color screen, 2MB of internal RAM, a built-in camera capable of taking small still photos, a WAP/XHTML browser, and support for both infrared and Bluetooth personal-area wireless communications.

Voice Features

The T610 does not present many surprises in its core function: serving as a wireless telephone. Its speaker volume is sufficient for most conditions. Pressing the left soft button when viewing the main screen takes you to a call list with easily interpreted icons that represent incoming, outgoing, and missed calls. Pressing the right soft button takes you to a menu to let you quickly toggle ring tones, Bluetooth, and infrared. The same menu also lets you create a quick note in the notepad.

The only major phone feature shortcoming is the lack of a speakerphone.

Hardware Information and End-User Features

  Sony Ericsson T610 Specifications
Wireless Capabilities GSM (Tri-band 900/1800/1900MHz)
GPRS
Infrared
Bluetooth
Size & Weight 4.09 by 2.17 by 0.75 inches (102 by 44 by 19mm)
3.35 ounces (95 grams)
Screen STN
65536 colors
128 by 160 pixels
1.38 by 1.63 inches
Audio Speaker/Microphone
Headset Jack
Camera: Still 352 by 288 maximum image size
Fixed lens
No flash
10 to 31KB observed typical still-image file size
Camera: Video NA
Memory 2MB internal RAM
Power 315 hours standby
14 hours of talk time
4 hour charge time for lithium-ion battery

 

An Ounce or Two Makes a Big Difference

The Denso Touchpoint 2200 shown to the left of the Sony Ericsson T610 in Figure 1 below weighs 4.5 ounces and is 4.8 inches long, 2 inches wide, and 0.8 inches thick. The Siemens SX56 Pocket PC Phone Edition to the right of the T610 weighs 5.9 ounces. The T610 weighs a mere 3.35 ounces. You might not think that an ounce or two would make much of a difference; however, the low weight and small size of the T610 lets you slip the phone into a pants or shirt pocket much more comfortably than even only slightly larger phones.

Denso Touchpoint 2200, Sony Ericsson T610, and Siemens SX56
Figure 1. Denso Touchpoint 2200, Sony Ericsson T610, and Siemens SX56 Pocket PC Phone Edition
Exposed T610 back
Figure 2. Sony Ericsson T610 exposed back

 

The Physical Shell

Despite its light weight, the T610 feels very solid and sturdy. The battery cover of some phones feel like they might slip off by accident. The T610's battery cover, in contrast, was actually very difficult for me to remove.

The keypad keys are unlit when the phone is idle. However, they become brightly lit and easy to see in the dark when the phone is active. I found that pressing the right soft-key activates the key lights when the phone is idle. They keys are relatively small and stiff. However, the small key size did not cause much problem for my relatively large fingers. I found that the keys were often accidentally depressed while in my pocket. This prompted me to turn on the Auto Keylock feature that locks the keypad when the phone is idle. You can unlock the phone by pressing the right softkey and then the asterisk (*) button on the keypad.

Battery Life

The T610 is rated at 315 standby hours and 14 hours of talk time. After using the evaluation unit for three weeks, I tend to believe this claim. The battery charge did not seem to drop more than 20 percent or so on days of heavy voice, GPRS (data), and Bluetooth usage. This included one-hour sessions of web surfing from a Pocket PC accessing the phone's GPRS data communications feature over a wireless Bluetooth link. I used the phone for two- or three-day stretches without recharging the battery. With normal usage, the battery did not drop below the 50 percent level.

Color Display

The T610 has 128 by 160 pixel 65536 color screen. It appears clear and bright in indoor or darkened settings. However, the SuperTwisted Nematic (STN) passive-matrix LCD is difficult to see outdoors in bright sunlight. The upcoming T630 model uses a Thin Film Transistor (TFT) active-matrix LCD screen that should be much easier to read in bright sunlight.

The Camera

The T610's 352 by 288 camera resolution (101,376 pixels) is one-third of the typical 640 by 480 (307,200 pixels) VGA resolution found in some other camera phones or PDA add-on CompactFlash or Secure Digital card cameras. However, you can see in photo examples 1 and 2 that photographs taken by a T610 produce reasonably satisfying results.

Flower close-up
Photo 1. Full-size (288 by 352 pixels) close-up photographed using a T610.
Sunset photo
Photo 2. Full-size (352 by 288 pixels) photograph taken near sunset

You can find other photographs taken by the T610 compared to other camera phones and PDA add-on cameras on an on-going comparison article on my personal web site: Comparison of other Pocket PC add-on cameras and camera phones.

The major problem for those use want to take a lot of photographs with the T610 is the relatively small 2MB RAM storage space and the lack of a storage-card facility like the MMC storage-card option for the Nokia 3650 camera phone. The T610 ran out of storage space after taking 16 photos. Another issue arises from the T610's file-naming scheme. The T610 reuses file names after a photo file is deleted. This can lead to accidentally overwriting files when copying the files to a desktop, notebook, or PDA. Other camera phones, like the Nokia 3650, use an ascension number file-naming scheme that prevents this problem.

Bluetooth Makes the T610 a Great PDA or Notebook PC Accessory

The T610 Bluetooth was very easy to configure to work with a Pocket PC (an HP iPAQ 2215 with a built-in Bluetooth radio) and two notebook PCs (one running Windows 2000 Professional and the other running Windows XP Home Edition). I used the same Belkin Bluetooth USB Adapter with both notebook PCs.

The T610 makes a near perfect accessory for a Bluetooth-enabled Pocket PC or desktop PC. I used this combination extensively during the evaluation period for:

  • Reading and sending email from my Pocket PC.
  • Surfing the Web from my Pocket PC.
  • Transferring digital photographs from the phone to the Pocket PC.
  • Dialing the phone from the Pocket PC's Pocket Outlook Contacts.

You can see a file transfer in progress in Figure 3.

Copying a file from the T610 to an HP iPAQ 2215 Pocket PC
Figure 3. Copying a file from the T610 to an HP iPAQ 2215 Pocket PC

Figure 4 shows the Pocket PC browsing a web page by using the T610 as a wireless modem. This is done by configuring the Pocket PC Bluetooth dial-up settings. The only piece of information I needed to use it with T-Mobile USA was T-Mobile's special GPRS phone number (*99#). This, of course, assumes that you subscribe to your wireless phone service provider's voice (GSM in my case) and data (GPRS in my case) services, which are generally offered as separate services. The Pocket PC's higher pixel density (76,800 vs. 20,480) lets you see more of a web page while still having the advantage of instant-on and ultra-portability. If you focus your browsing on sites formatted for Palm OS or Pocket PC devices, you can eliminate horizontal scrolling.

Pocket PC using Bluetooth to connect to the T610 and using it as a wireless GPRS modem
Figure 4. Pocket PC using Bluetooth to connect to the T610 and using it as a wireless GPRS modem

Adding Software

A brief check of online mobile software retailer Handango showed that a number of interesting games, utilities, and applications are available for the T610. The T610 section of the Sony Ericsson Fun & Downloads site provides a source of wallpapers, ring tones, games, and themes. The Sony Ericsson Applications shop linked on this page is managed by Handango.

Developer Information

You can find information related to developing software for the Sony Ericsson T610 on the sites listed below:

Summary

I had the T610 on evaluation loan from the local T-Mobile business office for three weeks. During that period, I found its most important aspects were:

  • Small size and low weight.
  • Good battery life.
  • Extremely easy Bluetooth access configuration.

The wireless phone and PDA markets are converging on two distinct form factors. There are devices that are primarily PDAs that have phone features added to them. The other set of devices that seems to be getting more attention are the so-called smartphones that provide PDA functionality to devices that are primarily phones. The Sony Ericsson T610 provides us, I believe, with a third convergence alternative.

The T610 performs fewer functions than either the PDA-phones or the smartphones. However, it delivers these fewer functions extremely well and with excellent battery-power efficiency. Its excellent and easy-to-configure Bluetooth capability lets you easily pair it with whatever Bluetooth-enabled PDA or notebook PC for a custom-fit mobile computing environment. It may be, then, that this kind of best-of-breed individual components provides a better mobile-computing model for some of us by providing a simpler and timelier upgrade path for different phone and PDA features.

Where to Find More Information About the Sony Ericsson T610

Todd Ogasawara is the editor of MobileAppsToday.com. He has been named a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) in the Mobile Devices category for the past several years. You can find his personal website focusing on Mobile Device Technology at www.mobileviews.com.


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