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Gear Eye: Sony Ericsson's K700i

Adam Nielson

There seems to be a certain type of girl in every school or every movie about high school. She's not the absolute hottest girl in class, but she's hot enough that no dude would ever turn her down for a date. She's not just good looking, but she's smart too. Not like Angelina Jolie in Hackers smart, but still smart enough to be an honor student kicking most people's ass GPA-wise. If you were a nerd, you wanted to hate this girl - she was too pretty to be that smart and too smart to be that pretty - but you couldn't because she was nice too. She would talk to you like you weren't a loser. She might have even done something really nice for you once or twice. She was hot and smart, and somehow it didn't all go to her head - she was your dream date.

The K700 is that girl. Some people may not like the new style compared to the T610/T630 but it's still good looking. Sony Ericsson has beefed up the camera, the processor and the software, so it's smart. And to put the phone over the top, Sony Ericsson has added a hundred helpful touches to the interface, making it the kindest phone in the English-speaking world. It's not fair.

The K700i is available through many importers like Expansys, and soon it will be available directly through Sony Ericsson's US online store.

K700 Back horiz
The Bod: Oh Yah!
Some people think that the K700 is a step back from uninterrupted clean lines of the T610/T630 series. The bottom is now gently curved instead of square. Normally we have a thing against phones with curved bottoms, because if you put them in your front pocket instead of your change pocket, they fall over and make an ugly bulge. The K700 is so small it easily slips into a Levi's change pocket, so we didn't find the curved bottom annoying. We also did not find the bulge on the containing the camera lens loudspeaker a problem because the phone is still plenty small despite it. Both factors make the K700 more comfortable than its predecessors, so we can't hold the shape against it.

The keyboard is equally well designed. The large keys on the face, as well as the keys on the sides are all easy to press and distinguish from each other. The only thing i didn't love about the physical part of the phone was the joystick. it was so small that it took a little while until i could get the pressure right for it. Until then I'd wind up just brushing over it or pressing in on it or just generally not getting it to go where I wanted it to go half the time. Still I haven't used a phone I would complain about less than this one (and that's a big compliment).

Battery Life:
The battery life hasn't improved much on these new Sony Ericssons. The K700 still gets about 4 days of use per charge (3 if you get online all the time). You could probably take the phone with you for a long weekend and leave the charger at home, but I would pack it if you're going to be gone longer than 3 days just in case. As with previous Sony Ericsson models, the battery meter is awfully deceptive. The first half takes forever to drain and the last half goes in like 36 hours.

Sound and Signal: Oh Yah!
The K700 locks on to a signal and doesn't let go. It's got a pitbull for an antenna — and it's totally internal — nothing to poke you while it's in your pocket. I got good reception everywhere I took this phone, it even did well deeper into dead zones than most other phones I've tried.

The speaker is crisp, clean and loud. As a testament to just how awesome the speaker and microphone on the K700, I took this phone to the kart track (What you think we sit inside and stare at the computer all day long?) and was able to hold a normal conversation over the din of 2-stroke engines screaming along at 8000 rpm or wherever it is that we try to keep those things (there's no tachs in our karts).

K700 Front Menus: Oh Yah!
This is the first phone that literally kisses your ass. Pretty much every time you click on something, the phone tries will ask if you want to jump two steps ahead because it thinks you want to, and you know what? It's right almost every time. The SMS addressing screen keeps a list of recently used phone numbers handy. The contacts list lets you dial without clicking into a contact's entry. The web jump screen has a Google search box. I honestly have never used a more user friendly phone. And if you ever manage to get stuck despite the thoughtful interface, the left softkey is "Help" in most places. sony Ericsson should get an award for this. Seriously. It's the first UI to beat Nokia's Series 40 for ease of use.

Calling: Yup
We can't keep giving the K700 an "Oh Yah!" rating if it doesn't do anything exceptional. As for calling, this phone doesn't do any better than most other GSM phones. Everything — voice mail, redial, Call, End, Hold — it's all exactly where you'd expect it to be. That's good, just not out of this world.

Politeness: Yup
There are at least 2 ways to set the K700 from the home screen, both of them are obvious if you look at the screen of the keys at all. It has profiles (which you can assign voice commands to). Silencing an incoming call is also obvious. The only thing keeping this phone from getting an "Oh Yah!" in politeness is the fact that the volume keys do not control the ringer volume (they never have on Sony Ericssons). They only control the volume during a call.

Oh Yah!
The K700 can hold a multitude of phone numbers for each contact, plus an email address. Despite that we still wish it could store a postal address, especially since it can accept vCards and sync to Outlook or the Mac Address Book. When you first use the phone, a wizard will ask if you want to copy the numbers from your SIM into the phone (See? We told you this phone is constantly kissing your butt.) so they are easier to get to from the Contacts menu. The Contacts menu itself is well thought out and it's equally easy to add numbers from the Contacts or from the Call list or wherever.

Messages: Oh Yah!
Composing an SMS or MMS on the T610 was one of the things I hated most. It was circuitous and involved way too many extra key presses. The K700 has not only brought this task in line with how easy it is on all other phones, it has surpassed the rest. There are two simple reasons why it's so easy. First when you push left on the joystick, the K700 brings up a simple selector : new text message or new picture message. Only Nokia Series 60 has been this friendly until now. After composing your message, the K700 really shines. On the screen that contains the usual dialog asking where you'd like to select a destination from, the phone actually populates the screen with a list of recently messaged and recently called contacts. so nine times out of 10 the person you want to send a message to is already on that screen.  It's genius. Setting up an email account is the same as on the previous models - you can tell the phone how many days' mail to poll for and compose replies to messages pretty easily.

Calendar: Oh Yah!
Although it's confusing, Sony Ericsson uses 4 different classifications for their appointments in the Calendar application; each one offers slightly different options. However once you get to know them all, the Calendar is very powerful and has an excellent alarm manager. It syncs events from Outlook or iCal including their alarms equally well. The alarm clock is easy to set once you find it, and it will wake you (albeit with a dangerous "snooze" option on screen, even if the phone is powered off.

k700 back Browsing: Yup
The K700 has a button on the right side of the handset that quickly jumps to the browser. The home screen includes a few handy links, including a quick link to Google's WAP page. These are nice touches, but it's just not much fun to browse on the small screen I mean the screen's not really small — it's the smartphone standard 176 x 220, but for some reason it just feels small. Pages also seem to load a little slower than they do on other handsets. We're not sure if this is due to the browser itself or to some GPRS issues. Either way it's perfectly acceptable, but it's not snappy.

Pictures: Yup
After what seems like a very long press on the camera button that lives above the volume controls, the camera application launches. It takes you right to the viewfinder (good so far) and it's easy to use the camera from there. Despite the fact that Sony Ericsson beefed the camera up from previous models (it's finally VGA), the pictures are still mediocre. They are washed out during the day and the night mode is still really noisy. However I will say that I always have caught amazing sunsets in all their glory with Sony Ericsson phones and the K700 is no different. This phone rules at dusk and dawn.

Oh Yah!
The K700 can play ringtones in just about any format, including MP3. You can download, or even make your own themes, including animated home screens and screen savers. You can also customize short cuts using the joystick as well as voice commands. But you're stuck with the silver body — no faceplates or covers for this phone. Ha!

Other Stuff:
The games on the phone are ok, but you can download better ones. There is an IM / presence program, but it uses the global village protocol, so it can't really connect you to any IMs you care about. It's got IR and Bluetooth. The Bluetooth must have something weird going because it doesn't particularly like Macs.

In order to connect the phone to the new version of iSync, you must first initiate a Bluetooth pairing from the phone. Once that is complete, initiate a new pairing to the phone from your Mac. On the second pairing, the Mac will prompt you to add the phone to your iSync devices. This is the only way users (including us) have been able to get iSync to work with the K700i.

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