Sony Ericsson P910i

· general ·

I mentioned, in an off-hand way, when talking about Backpack a couple of weeks ago that I had got a Sony Ericsson P910i. Those with long memories and high boredom thresholds might remember that I used to have a Treo 600, and might be thinking, "Oh, that Bsag, she's been hankering after new gadgets again". Well, it wasn't quite like that, but it wasn't far off.

In our house, the Technology Trickle-Down Process (TTDP) operates. Mr. Bsag isn't a great one for gadgets and tends to give them quite a hard life, so I get the new gadgets, and when his wear out or break down I pass mine down to him and the whole TTDP starts again. He had an ancient Palm which had developed a very irritating habit of emptying its memory when the batteries were changed. This was fine if he had remembered to back up as the levels were getting low, but he often didn't remember. He also had an old Sony Ericsson phone (another of my hand-me-downs), which had inexplicably died, and the consensus from our local phone shop was that it couldn't be fixed^1^.

So, in the spirit of killing two birds with one stone, we agreed that I would give him my Treo (which would mean he would have to carry one less thing around), and I would get a new phone/PDA. Orange (with whom I have a contract) no longer stock the Treo 600, and they haven't yet got the 650 in. I'd been eyeing the P910 for a while, but refused to pay the extortionate prices they charge for new units. So, hit eBay and managed to get a really corking deal for a second-hand model which was locked to Orange.

I've been using it for a few months now, and I'm really pleased with it. The huge, high resolution screen is the biggest plus point. Once you've opened out the keyboard flip, there's a very comfortable area for browsing the web or writing emails. The P910 has three ways to input text: using the numeric keyboard on the front of the flip with T9; using the keyboard on the underside of the flip; using handwriting recognition on the screen. All work quite well for different situations, though I feel a bit foolish tapping away on the opened flip — it's like holding a snooker cue by the thin end.

There are some very nice applications included, like the Quickoffice suite that lets you create, view and edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint files. I try to avoid Office files, but it's not possible all the time, and it's handy to just read or edit a file on the train. PDF+ is also very useful for viewing PDF files natively on the P910. I've loaded up Opera for UIQ which must be one of the best browsers for handhelds around. It does a great job of rendering text and images on the relatively small screen, and I often use it on the train to surf BBC News.

The PIM applications are fine (if nothing special), and with iSync 2.0, the P910 syncs beautifully with iCal and Address Book. Which brings me to the thing that I like most about the P910 over the Treo 600: Bluetooth. I used to be really lazy about syncing up my Treo, which meant that I couldn't really rely on having the latest version of my calendar and contacts on the phone. It sounds lazy (and it is) but the effort of hauling the cable out of my bag, plugging it in and syncing it up seemed like too much trouble. With Bluetooth, I can just launch iSync automatically at a certain time, and as long as my phone is in range, everything gets synced. Bluetooth is also useful for blipping text files, Word files and PDFs back and forth, making it much more convenient as a mobile text entry platform.

The only thing that I didn't like was the Orange Homescreen application. This opens when you switch on the phone and open the flip, and has a few shortcuts down the left side to the calendar (including a rather minimal listing of today's appointments), contacts and so on. This sounds great, and it would be if it worked properly. However, it's slow, buggy and you can't remove it because it's part of the Orange-supplied firmware. Because it launches automatically, you also can't replace it with other launcher applications, which is really annoying. I discovered that there are companies which can 'debrand' your phone and load back the Sony Ericsson firmware, so I decided to get that done rather than being irritated by Homescreen. They are also unlocking it at the same time, which is always handy if you go abroad and want to use a local, pay-as-you-go SIM card. I get it back today, and I'm itching to try my Homescreen-less phone.

^1^ Which probably meant that it could be fixed but it would cost more than buying a new one, and they really couldn't be bothered to deal with it.