The S710a is nearly the same as the SO505i, Sony Ericsson's first spinner that made a splash when it came out 18
months ago for DoCoMo. Spinners (and sliders) are all the rage these days, and the S710a does the design right. All the
navigation controls are on the same part of the body as the screen, so you can do just about everything other than
compose a text message without opening the phone up. The screen, by the way, is a huge, bright QVGA affair that make
all the other screens jealous. They will hide in shame and envy. When the keypad is spun out, the phone is still
comfortable to hold and the buttons are still close enough together that you can use the keypad and navigation with one
A few cool bonus features Sony Ericsson added because of the spinner design: when the phone is spun open, the side
mounted volume keys are reversed so that the one on top is still louder. Also, they have replaced the 2 button press
keylock dance with a simple hold slider. It doesn't quite work the same as on your Discman or iPod because it only
works from the home screen, but still, they get kudos for eliminating the annoying key combo.
On the back side of the unit is a small
cover that open to reveal the 1.3 megapixel CCD lens. CCDs are the same type of sensor used on digital cameras, so it's
worth protecting. A small, but powerful LED flash is positioned close to the lens, as is the speakerphone. When the
phone is closed and held horizontally like a camera, there is a shutter button on the side which will fall right under
the right index finger.
Everyone who picks up the S710a either remarks that it's heavier or lighter than they expected. It is heavier because
the phone is metal, not plastic, which gives it not only heft but a feeling of solid craftsmanship and durability. It
seems lighter because like a good motorcycle, the phone has excellent balance. It sits comfortably in your hand thanks
to a well curved shaped and careful distribution of weight.
The one problem with the S710a form factor is despite the excellent design, the phone is simply a bit too bulky to fit
comfortably in fashionably tight pants. In addition, it passes the Levi's change pocket test on loose fit jeans, but is
pretty uncomfortable in there (or any pocket, for that matter) on a tight pair. There is a minor issue with the D-Pad -
it is not a joystick like on the K700, but a joystick looking select button surround by a D-Pad. It's very easy to use,
but not until you teach yourself that the select button is just that.
Battery Life: Yup
Despite Sony Ericsson's best efforts, expect just two days of battery life from a charge. You could easily get more if
you left the phone alone, but the problem is between the great big screen, decent data speed, amazing CCD camera (CCDs
require more power), good Bluetooth, etc., you're going to use this phone non-stop. And when you do, you're going to
get an average of two days of life out of it.
Our personal best was 3 days, and that was when we were sick in bed. The worst was 20 hours, and that was during the
stress test known as Macworld, when we used a Bluetooth connection from our laptop to the S710a so we could use its
EDGE connection to get out to the internet and cover the keynote live for you. 3 hours of Bluetooth and EDGE is not
battery life friendly. Then afterwards, while we were waiting for our iPod shuffles at the Apple store, we showed the
phone off for a few hours, and then showed it off for another few hours that night at another meeting. Needless to say
the phone up and died around 11 pm that night.
Signal and Sound: Oh Yah!
Remember when we said we wish there was a "hell yah" for the Nokia 7610 messaging category because it surpassed
everything else? Well the s710's performance here makes us wish that again, but we're still not breaking our own rules.
However, if we were writing Gear Eye in Italian, we'd give this phone "il capo di tutti capi." We have yet to use
another phone with reception as good as the S710a. It is the first handset that we can hold a call on in the
radio-proof dungeon we call home.
The sound rivals that of the K700 and other handsets, however it manages to be louder.
Menus and everything else: See K700...
Nearly everything else we evaluated in our K700 review
is the same for the S710a, since they use the same software. Because of the S710's larger screen and its faster data
capabilities thanks to EDGE, it is worth noting that both the email and browsing experience are improved, the rest are
the same. Also, although the S710 includes an MP3 player, if forgoes an FM radio. We didn't miss it at all.
The only other significant difference between the two comes down to the camera. Although its sensor, lens and the
resulting pictures blow away pretty much every other cameraphone available in the States, the S710 still cannot replace
your high end digicam. Still, it's perfect for snapshot from a day, or (thanks to the flash and CCD) even a night out
on the town. Be warned though, a day of picture taking will destroy your battery life, however a snapshot here and
there doesn't seem to have any significant effect.
Also, this phone has the same problems with iSync that the K700 did. However, once you use the same trick to get it
working, it too works like a champ. It also shows up as a K700, not an S700, since there is no iSync support for the