Thoughts On The Sony Ericsson C905a - InformationWeek

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Commentary
8/13/2009
05:48 PM
Marin Perez
Marin Perez
Commentary
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Thoughts On The Sony Ericsson C905a

I've been meaning to talk about Sony Ericsson's C905a cameraphone for a while now, as the handset is one of the few 8-megapixel cameras to come out in the United States. But with the proliferation of smartphones, I don't see this garnering much interest beyond die-hard shutterbugs.

I've been meaning to talk about Sony Ericsson's C905a cameraphone for a while now, as the handset is one of the few 8-megapixel cameras to come out in the United States. But with the proliferation of smartphones, I don't see this garnering much interest beyond die-hard shutterbugs.Hardware

This definitely looks more like a camera than a phone, and it is by no means a fashion phone. It's quite a chunky device, especially compared to similar devices like the sleek Samsung Memoir. There's a noticeable bump on the body for the camera module, but the handset is still comfortably pocketable unless you wear hipster-tight pants. For all of its chunkiness, the C905a is not very heavy, and it does feel good in the hand as a phone, or horizontally as a camera.

On the back, the camera has its own sliding hatch to protect the lens, and it gives a comfortable snap when it locks in. The C905a is a vertically-sliding phone, and the slider mechanism is really good, and feels like it will last a long time. The 2.4-inch screen looks nice, and it makes for a solid viewfinder for snapping pictures, or even browsing the Web.

I hated the keypad on this thing, as I've been used to some form of a full QWERTY for the last three years. The keypad on this is completely flat yet mushy, and there are ridges between them to help you find the numbers. You can swap between T9 or multi-press input when typing, and I'm just completely over both methods. Still, a non-jaded person could be able to use the keypad comfortably though, I suppose. There are some keypad shortcuts too, which do help out a lot. Also, the other buttons on the face feel cheap, but are responsive. I did like the responsiveness and usability of the d-pad.

Software

I was not enamored with the hardware, and the software is also kind of a "meh." Nothing really wrong with it, but it's competent in a boring way. It does a half decent job of bringing some smartphone functionality to a feature phone. It doesn't stray too far from other current Sony Ericsson user interfaces, and AT&T has put its charm on it with a few applications. The AT&T apps are decent too, as there's the somewhat-expensive turn-by-turn AT&T Navigator, Video Share, and the Cellular Video app.

You can get your e-mails from Web-based providers like Yahoo Mail, Hotmail, and others, but I have no interest responding to e-mails on a standard keypad. There's also Exchange ActiveSync support, but I doubt IT departments are going to be overrun with workers wanting this phone on the corporate network. The NetFront Web browser gets the job done, but it's not even close to what one expects from a smartphone. I do like that there's desktop syncing software with this, and you can easily mount it as a drive. It's a very menu-driven interface that's a bit clunky but usable thanks to the good d-pad.

Call Quality, Data, Multimedia

The camera's the main appeal of this device, and it is the best cameraphone I've ever used. There are a plethora of features to make you a better shooter including face detection, four different resolution settings, image stabilizer, digital zoom, and more. The flash rocks, there's hardly any shutter lag, and photos show up bright, crisp, and vibrant. The 3G makes it easy to upload photos to Facebook, Flickr, or sending e-mails, and the GPS chip can be used to geo-tag your pics. The camera can also record video, but this is just okay. You won't be making your next cinematic masterpiece with the C905a, but the videos will be fine for YouTube or other video-sharing sites.

Voice quality was superb, but I couldn't say the same for 3G data reception. In San Francisco, AT&T has a bad rep for 3G (mainly because of the unofficial law that every San Franciscan has to own an iPhone), and the network dragged quite often. It would switch between 3G and EDGE often, and seemingly randomly. When I did get a strong signal, the data connection was pretty strong.

Of course, being this is a Sony Ericsson device, you have to use the cruddy Memory Stick Micro (M2) for expandable storage. The memory cards themselves are fine, I just hate the proprietary lock-in, particularly because the photos take up so much space (about 1.4 to 1.9 megs). Battery life was excellent, as I got multiple days out of it with average usage.

AT&T included their Mobile Music service on the handset, and you can download songs, get XM radio, and other things. Songs are about $1.99 a pop, so I stayed clear and just side-loaded some tunes. The multimedia player has a clear, logical interface that I really like. Unfortunately, there's no standard headphone jack on this, which angers me to no end.

The Final Take

This phone wasn't made for someone like me, as it's clearly a mass-market, casual device with some high-end bells and whistles. I need my phone to help me be productive first and foremost, but I also want/need some of the entertainment and photo capabilities that the C905a excels at. Additionally, this thing costs $179.99 with a new two-year contract on AT&T, and I could not justify getting this when an iPhone 3GS, Palm Pre, or BlackBerry Curve 8900 can be had for $20 more. I don't know if this phone will grab a large market share because it's aiming for an increasingly shrinking market: serious photographers already have their DSLR equipment, teens want a keyboard for texting, and mobile professionals want a smartphone platform to help them get work done on the go.

Sony Ericsson became the major player it is thanks to its stylish and sleek feature phones like the C905a, but I think that smartphones will make their way down and destroy the feature phone market. Already, we're seeing Samsung and Motorola saying they'll use Android to bring full-fledged smartphone capabilities to devices that cost less than $100, and that could spell doom for devices like the C905a.

Any questions about the C905a? Am I completely wrong about the coming demise of feature phones? Feel free to leave a comment here, shoot me an e-mail at [email protected], or tweet me @marinperez. Sorry about the delay with this review, but I'll have more impressions up soon on more popular devices.

(Full C905a device specs)

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