A few months ago, when
I was looking for a "cool" replacement to
my Nokia 8290 cell phone, I looked through all the
possibilities that would fit my needs. First came
the Nokias, but they haven’t moved along in years.
In fact, it seemed like my phone was still almost
top of the line for them, more than 2 years after
it was first introduced. With the Nokia possibilities
exhausted, I started looking at the Ericsson models.
At first, I didn’t know much about them, but as I
read more and more about their phone options, they
grew on me. What got me really interested was the
fact that they offered small, affordable phones that
featured Tri-Band, an uncommon options only found
in a few phones around the world. Tri-Band is a GSM
functionality that allows the phone to connect to
ANY GSM network around the entire world! Want to visit
China? No problem! Brazil? Sure, go for it! In fact,
it’ll even work right here in the good old US of A,
where the phone networks are a few years behind the
Europeans and standards are as hard to come by as
water in a desert.
Anyhow, as I looked through the Ericsson
phone lineup, I discovered the R520! Now this, I thought,
was the phone I’ve been waiting for. It had everything,
every feature I could think of: looked cool, wasn’t
large as a brick, and, of course, it had Bluetooth
and GPRS support. What can possibly be better?
I stumbled on to the newly formed Sony-Ericsson. Sony
had been in the phone business for a while prior to
joining forces with Ericsson, but it had met with
very limited success. The phones just didn’t sell
as well as Sony’s other products. But combined with
Ericsson, it seemed there were a lot of synergies
that they two companies can benefit from: while Sony
had the expertise of developing great-looking, high
end, full-featured products, Ericsson had the experience
in the telephony space. The combination would T68.
Will this phone be the phone of my dreams? Read on
to find out!
Everything. But more specifically,
this phone supports always-on Internet access, via
the GPRS data service. It has a nifty 256 color screen.
It also supports full the Bluetooth 1.1, allowing
you to connect the phone to your Pocket PC, laptop,
or in the future, your kitchen toaster if you so desire
and be able to communicate with all of them from a
few meters away. In addition, the phone tiny. Yes,
so tiny that even most of my girl friends complained
they felt strange talking on a phone where the microphone
didn’t reach down to their mouths. The girls didn’t
seem to mind being addicted to Tetris on a color screen,
IN THE BOX
As can be expected with a cell
phone, the box isn’t much. It includes all the standard
items, such as a full manual, a charger (plugs in
directly to the phone, no stand), a blue "velvet-like"
pouch (for the phone) and the phone itself. Not many
perks here. The real goodies are in the phone itself,
so there doesn’t need to be much else in the box.
setback that I ran into was that since the phone was
sent for review by a Blue
Unplugged, a British company, the AC adapter (charger)
had a UK plug on it, and as such, could not be used
in the US. The solution was to purchase a generic
Chinese after-market charger for Ericsson. As far
as I can tell, it works just as well at the original
Ericsson piece would have. In fact, when I plug the
phone into it, the phone announces that "Ericsson
Optimized Charging" is activated.
box is pretty neat. Compact and colorful.
We know you are just here for the pics (well, hopefully not…), so here they are, in all their raw, natural beauty. We shot a ton of pictures for this review, of pretty much any aspect of the phone. We know you’ll enjoy perusing them.
We know you are just here for the pics
(well, hopefully not…), so here they are, in all
their raw, natural beauty. We shot a ton of pictures
for this review, of pretty much any aspect of the
phone. We know you’ll enjoy perusing them.
The phone itself, in all its glory! The time you see
is a screensaver it runs when it’s idle.
Here it is, from the top. The one
we are looking at is silver. It also comes in gold.
Before you think that the covers are interchangeable,
like the Nokias, we should tell you that they not.
The color you buy is the phone you keep.
on the phone is similar to the Nokia 8290. While the
buttons on my phone don’t stand out very much, these
are even more recessed in the phone. If you have large
fingers, this phone will be hard for you to use. On
the bright side: there is always voice activated dialing!
This is a nifty
little idea by Sony Ericsson (SE): it’s a thumb-stick.
(Or so I called it.) You can move this joystick in
any of the four directions – up, down, left and right.
The up/down functionality mirrors that of the Nokia
up/down arrows, while the left and right allows you
to access the menu icons on the T68.
If you push
straight down on the thumb-stick, it acts like an
"Enter"/"OK" key. The one minor
issue I ran into is that it’s hard to press right
down on the thumb-stick. It seems to err in favor
of the up/down functionality instead of "Enter".
we see the connector panel of the T68. It’s located
at the bottom of the phone. From left to right, you
see the headphone/data plug followed by the power
plug. On the leftmost side you also see a small oval
hole, diagonally positioned. While I am not 100% sure,
it seems to be the microphone. At least, that’s the
only place that a mic can be positioned in this phone.
On the right, next to the power connector, is just
an engraved lightning, a symbol SE chose for power.
The two LEDs you
see above are very bright. SE picked a really "high-tech"
pale blue to symbolize when the phone is in Bluetooth
enabled mode, with the indicator being on the right.
On the left is the red AC power/charging indicator.
The only thing on
the left side of the phone is the sliding switch.
It can go up and down, and control various aspects
of the phone operation, such as the volume in the
call and the ringer. Unfortunately, the switch is
very flaky, and broke within 3 days of regular use.
Who needs volume control anyway? :) Right now, it’s
just sliding up and down without being attached to
any of the internal gadgetry of the phone, so it’s
making clicking noises when it moves around. I hope
SE address this QA issue with their next revision.
Also, if you’ve read other sites info about T68, you’d
know that this happens to quite a few of the users.
On this side, we
see the infrared window on the phone. It’s just one
of the 4 available data communications methods. The
others are Bluetooth, Serial/USB cable and SMS/GPRS.
back of the T68 is rubberized, and so is the battery.
Gives the phone a great grip.
is a picture that gives you a good idea of how small
the phone really is. It’s tiny when compared to the
gives you some idea of the width of the phone as compared
to the iPAQ.
The initial setup process for
the T68 is very simple. Just slide in the SIM (Subscriber
Identification Module) smart card into the phone,
by popping the battery.
slide the SIM card under the little holders as shown
pop the battery in and hold the "No" button.
The phone should turn itself on in a few seconds.
If it doesn’t turn on in a few seconds, you probably
didn’t charge it enough.
Continue to Product Operation . . .
When the phone is first
turned on, you will see a rising sun. That’s the first
awesome thing about the phone – it displays a COLOR
For those of you who
don’t yet know, you can connect this phone to your
iPAQ, using either Bluetooth or Infrared. As of March
2002, there were only a few utilities on the market
to interact with the phone over BT to perform various
functionality, but they are beginning to pop up like
mushrooms after a rainy day. Soon, there should be
hundreds of utilities that will allow users to do
everything from sending SMS and e-mail from the Pocket PCs
to changing the operator logos, and anything in between.
Here is a simple step
by step manually to getting BT working with an iPAQ.
First, move the thumb-stick (TS) either to the left
or to the right, once. This brings you to a color
menu that looks like this:
the TS down twice and to the right once, to get to
the "two arrows" icon. It will be labeled
connections. Press either Yes or "down"
on the TS to enter the functionality.
press 2 to open BT.
make your phone phone discoverable.
run whatever discovery program your Pocket PC uses,
and you are all set. Once you discover the device,
you can also bond to it by opening up "Paired
Devices" in the BT menu:
here, you can either have the T68 initiate or the
PPC. Once the pairing is complete, you’ll need to
enter the SAME password on both sides. For simplicity
sake, I usually enter "1" as the password,
since it’s quick and easy to type in on the phone.
From using the
phone’s BT functionality for a while, I can tell you
it’s a pleasure. When I am accessing the phone using
a phonebook manager SW, the phone is usually sitting
in my bag, a couple of feet away from me, and everything
still works like a charm. Ahhhh, the power of wireless!
THE PHONE EXPERIENCE
In this section, we will present a walk-through through
most of the functionality offered by the phone, in
a menu by menu fashion. So read on and enjoy…
Menu, Phone book selected
adding. This should look very familiar to any PPC
user, since the fields are a subset of the PPC contact
e-mail menu! You can interface your T68 with a "real"
POP mailbox, and SMTP server.
calls list. Note the red icons on the left indicating
that these are missed calls. Also note that the T68
lists the number of times a particular caller was
is where the fun begins.
selection menu. As you see from the background image
on the "desktop" of the phone and the colors
in the pictures above, the theme I picked is Psychedelic.
the background you think is good. You can even receive
pictures over both MMS and BT!
didn’t think Sony-Ericsson would miss out on the games,
is a game called Game (can you tell the silliness
of this?). It looks much nicer in color on the T68
all be grateful that SE included Ripple, which is
actually Othello, or Reversi to most of us.
the old Russian tradition continues. Tetris is back!
are even multiple versions of Solitare!
game of Q.
Menu allows you to manage pictures you currently have
in the phone.
can control most features on the phone via voice!
more than one language? Want to practice another language?
What better way to do so than by interacting with
a device that speaks this language all day long?
can adjust the contrast of the phone screen.
Shortcuts", you can place often used items. These
are the ones I put in here.
like the PPC, the T68 allows you to have calendaring
and task capabilities.
option: allows you to get reminders even when the
phone is OFF.
indicator on top shows that you currently have a BT
connection established with another device.
Those are pretty much
most of the interesting menus I found that I think
readers should see to be able to decide whether or
not they want to try the T68. By now, if you’ve looked
at every picture above, you are probably more experienced
with the T68 than most real T68 users!
The phone is supported
by a standard Ericsson warranty. If you need help
with it, just call a toll-free 800 number and Sony-Ericsson
will take care of the problem. Nice and simple.
If you want to use the
BT functionality of the phone, you’ll need a BT adapter
on the peer device. For example, we used the iPAQ
with the built in BT as well as the iPAQ BT sleeve,
BT CF card, a Socket
BT CF card and various other devices. All seem to
work just fine with the phone.
One important note is that you have to subscribe to
GPRS separately from your voice service. Voicestream
sells it as an "add-on service", similar
to the way features on calling plans are offered.
It is also quite pricey since it is targeted towards
business users. But if you want "decent"
speeds almost anywhere on the go, you don’t have much
choice in the US right now. Hopefully, AT&T Wireless
will follow through on their promise of a quick migration
to GSM/GPRS, and Sprint claims to be launching a 3G
(actually, 2.5G, but they won’t tell you that) network
this July. Just food for thought…
BUGS AND WISHES
Note: the one I tested
has the firmware version R1A. This is the first revision
of the firmware, and as such, it has certain issues
that I will discuss in this section. I have heard
users mention that the newer firmware revisions solve
most if not all of these issues.
While testing this phone, almost
from day one I have been running into software issues.
It seems that the phone decides to sporadically "restart"
itself, and while no data is lost through this, it
is very annoying when you are just scrolling the phone
book or playing a game. Another issue that I have
come across is that the sliding toggle switch on the
top left side of the phone seems to have broken off
from the internal mechanism and now just slides up
and down at whim. It was intended to be used for scrolling
and switching volume during calls.
When I compare this phone to my Nokia 8290, it also
seems that the responsively of the keys is slightly
less in the Ericsson. This is not a major issue but
it is certainly something to be aware of.
The last major issue I have discovered is that the
phone refuses to send GPRS data over the BT link to
any of the 4 BT devices I have tried for this review.
The posts on the web seem to indicate that this is
again a firmware issue and has already been alleviated
by newer revisions. However, since we have not gotten
this to work, we feel it is important to warn our
readers of this possibility.
Since we were some of
the first sites to get a T68, we received ours directly
from England, from a site called Blue Unplugged, which
specializes in Bluetooth products. They seem to carry
most BT products of which we are aware today. You
link. The current price is around 340 British
Pounds for the phone, which is approximately 483 US$.
Thanks so much to Blue Unplugged for the review device!
Our sources also inform us that the T68 will soon
be "officially" rolled out by Sony-Ericsson
in the USA, and that Voicestream
will begin selling these phones as soon as that happens.
Be aware that company subsidized phones are usually
much cheaper than so called "unlocked" (any-company
- Color to
brighten up your day
to get your Internet fix of the day
to allow you to become a totally wireless guru
- Tiny size
- GPRS over BT didn’t work as advertised
- Phone restarted
- Slow response
times on keystrokes
BT and GPRS implementations
Even though some of the
technologies showcased by the phone (like GPRS and
Bluetooth) are still in their infancy, this phone
is clearly a step in the right direction. With the
elimination of wires and support for both long range
WAN (through GPRS) short range PAN (through BT), it
has everything a phone needs in today’s competitive
phone market. I believe that with this entry, Sony-Ericsson
will once again put itself on the map of cellular
I for one, will upgrade this phone to the latest firmware
ASAP and enjoying using the "just released"
additions that Sony-Ericsson have made. If you need
more info about where these additions are heading,
take a look at their recently released models: color,
GPRS and Bluetooth are all standard. With these releases,
one thing is for sure: it will be interesting to see
where things go when Nokia responds to the threat
posed by SE to its market share.