Way back when, I mentioned that I had my eye on a new cell phone. A (literally) shiny new Sony Ericsson T637 camera phone. Its color is described as "Liquid Black", and the designers used black, clear, and mirrored surfaces to great effect: this is one snappy gadget. Yeah, I gave in last Thursday and traded up from my "old" Nokia 3560.
Overview: Ostensibly, I traded up because I wanted to switch to a Cingular Wireless calling plan with Rollover Minutes (what you don't use this month carries over for use in subsequent months), and the only way they'll put you on a new plan these days is if you purchase a GSM phone, as they're trying to migrate their subscriber base over to the better technology. (I'm not actually sure it's newer -- the US is seriously lagging in this regard, with the rest of the world having standardized on GSM years ago.) But I also moved because of the more obvious Java support (like a big Java Powered logo that takes the screen when you launch a Java app, and a smaller logo in what would be the menu bar area on a PC), and the included killer Java app, a real Instant Messenging client. The whole network connection model (GPRS) is different and better, with usage based on packet transfer rather than the sort of clock-is-ticking, "dialup connection" provided by the older Nokia. Also... just look at the two of them. No brainer doesn't begin to cover it. Looking at the Nokia is like looking at my leisure suit high school graduation picture from... em... a while back. What was I thinking?! (Let me be fair, though. The Nokia did what it did flawlessly, and I had it thoroughly customized to my tastes and preferences. And at the time I got it, which was not all that long ago, it really was state of the art, including Java. I'm sure if I compared the new phone with last year's Sony Ericcson, their older phone would suffer equally by comparison.)
Migration Issues: It took a couple of days to get (mostly) migrated over to the new phone. The bulk of the transition was obviated by the VoiceConnect service I described in an earlier posting; i.e., with the exception of the ten or so entries I keep stored on the phone itself, everything else in my Pilot address book is in sync with the VoiceConnect service. One glitch: when they moved me from my current calling plan to the new one, they initially neglected to transfer VoiceConnect to the new contract. (Not for lack of asking on my part. :) While it only took one call to customer service to reenable me, I appeared to VoiceConnect to be a new customer -- i.e., empty address book. Would have been a big bummer if it wasn't all in my Pilot, quickly restored upon the first new sync. You can tell VoiceConnect to confirm any changes and deletions prior to completing the sync, which is always a good idea. (My nightmare scenario was VoiceConnect 'updating' the Pilot to a clean slate, but it did the right thing and worked flawlessly.)
On the down side: I miss the one-touch dialing Nokia offered, for nine select numbers in my phone book. You could press and hold the numbers 2 through 9 and the linked entries would be automatically dialed. With the Sony Ericsson, you hit 2 through 9 and then press the Call button and the same thing happens, but it's two touches instead of one. If you press and hold 2 through 9, the phone book opens up to the entry beginning with the associated letter of the alphabet. I.e., press 2, and the phone book opens to 'A'. On both the Nokia and the Sony Ericsson, pressing and holding 1 connects you to your voice mail. Which brings me to the second thing I didn't like, or at least struggled with. There's no documentation on how to enter a 'p' (short pause) in your dialing string. Without said 'p', retrieving your voicemail means that after auto-dialing the phone number, you have to enter the rest of the lengthy sequence by hand. Not good, especially with me behind the wheel, and all the problems I have walking and chewing gum and such. Fortunately, the second guy I talked to at Sony Ericsson (Cingular and the first S.E. tech support rep had no idea) told me to press and hold the number 7 (which is associated with 'p' on the phone pad), and it worked like a charm. Would have been so much easier to include it in the documentation. And the third thing, though this is just a nit: when the code sequence is being transmitted -- i.e., any numbers following the 'p' -- you can't hear them. It's silent... and you wait, not knowing if the right thing is happening in the background, or if you've been disconnected. I prefer to hear the comforting chirps in the background. Minor nit, like I said.
On the up side: In every other way, though, I much prefer this phone to the older Nokia. There's room for more of everything: voice commands, voice dialing names, phone book entries, everything. The screen is much easier to read in any kind of light (the Nokia's was impossible to read without the backlight on), and its color and resolution are beautiful. The quality of the games is resultingly much higher; though they only include one, it's practically arcade quality. There are plenty of links to Cingular's site for downloads of games, ringtones, graphics, etc., so it's quite a solvable problem. I downloaded a snappy polyphonic ringtone (ZZ Top's "Cheap Sunglasses"), and the Cingular service is kind enough to let you take failed attempts off your direct bill yourself via their My Wireless Window portal, without having to wait for customer service to open (assuming you do this all late at night, like I do!) or navigate the voicemail tree. In fact, the portal is the only way to do it; customer service will send you there when you finally do get through to them. The WAP browser is tolerable -- faster under this network service than the Nokia's, and again, you're connecting and paying by the volume of data transfered, not by the minutes connected.
Instant Messaging: The Instant Messenging client, which offers two or three alternative services in addition to AIM, works well, or at least as well as the AIM service itself. (I have occasional trouble connecting with the AIM servers via my TIK and GAIM clients, and my success rate is similar over the phone.) But seeing my buddy list, and who's on line at any given moment, is a thing of beauty. You can even tell AIM to forward incoming messages to your phone, and it puts up a special phone icon next to your name on your friends' buddy lists when you're logged in. (Again, because it's a packet transfer scheme vs. a dialup connection, you can stay logged in relatively indefinitely without running up the national debt on your phone bill.) You are automatically provided with a "Mobile Device" category on your AIM buddy list, and any screen names you list there will appear on your phone. It's a relatively decent way to deal with the lack of screen real estate on the phone, vs. the hundreds of names you may keep on your PC. (And by the way, when I say PC, I mean in the generic sense. I use Java Desktop System today, and I'm a Mac guy from way back, former Apple higher ed reseller, former Apple employee. My favorite desktop, bar none, is a JavaCard on SunRay, but if I have to be my own sysadmin, I'd take JDS or a Mac any day of the week. Actually, with JDS's new centralized software management and configuration capabilities, I can use a whizzy laptop and still leave the driving to somebody else -- the best of both worlds.)
Camera Features: Finally, it is a camera phone, so if you're buying it for its photographic capabilities, I should mention that... em... National Geographic is not going to be publishing what you shoot with it. There are three choices of resolution, 120x160, 288x352, and a (whopping :) 480x640, and a number of special effects including black & white and sepia. They include a little convex mirror right next to the lens, so if you are inclined to shoot arm's length pictures of your own mug, they make it possible not to cut anything off. Weird, but handy, I suppose, if you're short on willing and capable friends. There is a flash unit available as an add-on, but I suspect that would be overkill. This is great for snapping pictures of your friends and associating them with names in your phone book (matched to Caller ID), so that when so-and-so is calling, their face shows up on your screen. I would not ditch the Nikon and trash the Kodachrome just yet if you are serious about photography.
But let's be reasonable here. After a $50 rebate, the phone costs $80 -- and for that, it provides a wealth of convenience, utility and fun in a very small, very stylish package.
This one's a keeper.