SonyEricsson T68i w/Communicam
By Carlo Longino, Thu Aug 29 00:00:00 GMT 2002

Flashy design, tiny package, high performance - and an add-on camera. Have SonyEricsson finally got it right?

The latest in SonyEricsson's T68 family retains key elements of previous models - strong design, great performance, and an improved user interface - and builds on them, adding new features like MMS support.

Ease of use: 5/6stars

The T68i's graphical user interface is much improved over previous Ericsson phones. Perhaps deep familiarity with Nokia's easy-to-use UI colors judgment, but some features on Ericsson's rival do seem more intrinsically understood, but no aspect of the UI is clumsy or too hard to figure out.

Navigation is straightforward thanks to a joystick and simple "yes" and "no" buttons. Synchronization is pretty simple with software downloadable from the SonyEricsson site, and the phone book and organizer functions are quite easy to use, allowing the T68i to function as a basic PDA.

The T68i has several other features that make it a joy to use, not the least of which its amazing battery life (12 hours talk time/390 hours standby time). It features T9 predictive text input, and entry is simplified even more with the available Chatboard accessory. The T68i also features easy to set up IMAP and POP3 e-mail, as well as one of the most resilient WAP browsers yet. Notably, it's also one of the first mass-market "global" GSM phones to hit the US market at a reasonable price point.

Design/style: 6/6 stars

The T68i's design is similar to its familial predecessors, but again improved. It takes the ubiquitous design pioneered by the Nokia 8210, but improves on it with rounded lines and snazzy color elements. The matte finish of the body contrasted with the chrome-like face ensure the T68i will turn heads and the 84-gram weight with the standard battery weighs in 5 grams heavier than the 8210 and 2 grams more stout than the Motorola V70, although the wide advantage in battery life makes the difference negligible.

The lack of interchangeable covers or faceplate works against the phone here, but the T68i is easily personalized in plenty of other ways, most involving the beautiful 256-color screen.

Another feature that can be lumped under the design heading is the T68i's beautiful 256-color screen. Users can select from a large number of included background images and screensavers, or upload their own via the infrared or Bluetooth links or download them via WAP. This takes the personalized ring a step further than tiny 2-color black and white drawings and group ring tones; when someone calls, you can set the phone to flash a full-screen picture or photo and play a specific tune, which is pretty damn cool.

Vital statistics: 6/6stars

Network: GSM 900/1800/1900/GPRS/HSCSD
Dimensions: 100mm x 48mm x 20mm
Weight: 84g
Talk time: 12 hours
Standby time: 390 hours
WAP 2.0
WTLS class 3 security
EMS (Enhanced Messaging Services)
MMS (Multimedia Messaging Services)
Mobile chat
Built-in modem
Voice dialing
Picture phonebook
Picture editor
Sound recorder
Customizable ringtones
Customizable backgrounds and screensavers
8 games
Multiple language support (English, French, Spanish)

Mobile Internet browsing 5/6 stars

Browsing is a joy with the T68's speedy GPRS connection and ample screen size. Text size is adjustable, and the T68i features WAP 2.0 compatibility, allowing the extended features of the standard such as color and animation. Navigation is also improved over previous browsers with the addition of menu-based shortcuts to a site's home page and so on.

Mobile Internet-related features - 6/6 stars

MMS is a breeze with the T68i's built-in templates and suberb image capabilities. Images can be downloaded from WAP sites or transferred to the phone from computer, or taken right from the phone with the optional Communicam accessory. The Communicam is simple to use - just plug it in to the bottom of the phone, and it is automatically selected. Using the phone's screen as the viewfinder, you simply line up your shot and press the only button on the camera, then you're presented with the option to discard the image, save it, or send it via MMS or e-mail.

The Communicam takes pretty decent pictures (see examples). Not really good enough to use it as a regular digital camera, but more than sufficient for MMS or e-mailed "look what I'm doing" photos. It has 4 settings, from 640x480 down to an MMS size of 80x60, and the camera itself can store between 14 and 208 images, dependent on that size setting. The phone can store images as well, dependent on the other data stored in it.

Overall - 6/6 stars

SonyEricsson have a real winner in the T68i. Its design is top-notch, and solid features that are a marked improvement over prior T68 models and prior Ericsson models in general. The T68i is best result to date of Ericsson's communications expertise and Sony's consumer electronics brilliance, and bodes well for their future products.