At long, long last, I have gotten my COLOR screen mobile phone. Something that I was hearing about for the past 6 months is finally here! More importantly, it’s a tri-band (GSM 900/1800/1900) phone so practically the whole world can soon enjoy it. According to the US Sony-Ericsson mobile phone page, there is no mention of the T68 being rolled out in the US. Well, if anyone in the US is making a trip to Asia, you have to buy one of these (sort of gave away my rating huh?).
First of all, it’s one of the first color handsets available for GSM. Second it’s just outstanding. I realize I just got a new handset a few months ago, but I just couldn’t resist myself.
This is a really amazing looking phone. The dark gray color (the T68 also comes in a weird gold/yellow color) is accentuated by chrome buttons and a nice silver outline around the screen. This is also Ericsson’s first non-antenna phone, a small but often overlooked irritation with mobile phones (which was actually one of the major selling points of Nokia phones).
It is also amazingly light and it is neither too fat nor too thick. Maybe it’s the “Sony” influence here (the mobile venture of Ericsson is now a JV with Sony) but the way the phone is curved, with the screen area slightly wider than the buttons, makes this a very nicely designed phone (or should I just refer to the T68 as “her” with all of its curves?).
The back of the phone (including the battery) has a rubber padding on it. This is particularly useful so that the phone doesn’t accidentally get bumped off a table and crashing onto the floor (yup, I’ve done that). Of course, sliding it across the table is now much more difficult as well. But, it’s probably going to last a lot longer this way and scratches will not be as apparent.
One of the really neat new add-ons is the pointing device in the middle of the phone. You use it to navigate the menus, play games, select text, etc. It’s a wonderful add-on and I wonder why no one thought to use it earlier. Still, with Sony’s influence, I’m surprised this phone does not have a jog-dial too.
Of course the biggest selling point is the screen and I can’t sing enough praises about it. It is crisp, bright, clear, and in COLOR. Yeah!
Well as mobile phones go, you’d expect the same quality from most of the newer models. Well that’s not always true. The “quality” of the voice call was the number one question I got from people. Why? Because older Ericsson phones had pretty poor reception. Actually most phones in the past had pretty poor reception. But to be fair, I think most people blamed the phones when they should have blamed the network. Anyway, I’m on one of the best networks in Hong Kong and this phone sounds great. On a relative basis to other phones and as a standalone, the T68 performs really well. The earpiece is really loud, so much so that I have to turn it down to zero sometimes so I can actually put the phone next to my ear. Reception and clarity is great.
Yes it’s bluetooth so my headset works! The headset, ala Tomb Raider, that I got with my T39 can also be connected to the T68. However, the headset turned out to be a bit disappointing. The reception from my perspective is great, but listeners on the receiving end tended to complain that they either couldn’t hear me very well or that it sounded like I was talking in a tunnel. Either way, not good. Still it looks cool.
Color screen. Did I mention the color screen? It is so bright and much larger than past screens. The menus are really cool. Almost all the traditional options that you would normally have are available. There are lots of new games including Tetris, cool ways to change the “themes” (really just the colors) of the screen, different backgrounds, ringing tones, text size, etc. You end up spending quite some time fooling around with it just to customize your phone.
It does not, as far as I know, have the T9 predictive text function, but truthfully, I hate T9. It totally screws up every word that I try to write. Anyway, inputting text in the T68 is as easy (or difficult) as any other phone. Works for me though.
There’s a infrared port which you can use (or you can opt for bluetooth) to synchronize with a computer for all of your contact information. You can download from the Ericsson home page a program that you can install into your computer to help manage your contacts. I haven’t tried it but I’m not too excited about adding another PIM to my computer. I’m actually pretty bad at entering names into the phone because I had to do it all with my PDA, I didn’t want to have to do it again.
It’s also GPRS enabled, that means 2.5G data services. But 2.5G data content here in Hong Kong is pretty poor. Actually it’s pretty poor in almost any GSM market. As this is one of the first color phones in many more to come, I expect that it will get better — though I’m still waiting.
It’s been a while since I have had a phone that didn’t have some sort of covering for the keypad (either a sliding or a flip cover). This was always a problem for me in the past because buttons tend to get pushed accidentally while in my pocket (including the ‘Send’ button). But, Ericsson has done a good job of recognizing the pain of having to ‘lock’ down your keypad all the time and they offer an automatic ‘lock’ down of the keypad after 20 seconds of inactivity. That’s actually very useful. You still have to ‘unlock’ the keypad when you want to use it but at least they are trying to make the process easier. Exposed keypads tend to have the buttons wear down more easily but I won’t know till later if that’s true of the T68.
Now for the one bit of potential downside. I’ve been using the phone for nearly a week now and I am a bit baffled about the battery life. It is somewhat sporadic, which could mean that I still need to run it through a few more charging cycles. Any one who gets a T68 should set the light mode to ‘Automatic’ which automatically adjusts the brightness of the screen so that when it’s on standby, it runs at a lower power. I should mention that the screen on the T68 jumps to this ‘screen-saver’ like mode after awhile in which a big digital clock appears.
On the 3rd day of having the phone, I spent about 40 minutes on the phone, but I had the phone with the light mode set to ‘On’, and by the time I got home (about 14 hours after I took it off the charger) it only had about a third of its power left. The next day, I set the light mode to ‘Automatic’ and used the phone for about 15 minutes and when I got home, there was still ¾ of the charge still available. So I’m a bit mixed and confused.
Is battery life good or bad? I can’t tell you for sure yet. But as danchan has correctly pointed out to me in the past, the screen is probably a huge power-eater, and given that it is a nice, bright, color screen, I wouldn’t be surprised if battery life was less than what we’ve become used to with our tiny B&W screens. Still I believe it will more than adequately last for a full day’s use – it has so thus far. I charge my phone pretty much everyday anyway so this isn’t too much of an issue for me. You can always buy an extra battery pack.
Could you tell that I love this phone? No? Well then let me make it clear, sell your mobile phone to any used dealer and go buy this one. It is definitely the ESSENTIAL mobile phone to have. It pretty much does it all. The one important swing factor that I probably forgot to mention is the price. The T68 cost me HK$3299 or about US$420. That may sound like a lot but compared to the past mobile phones and even some of the other new models available today, it’s a bargain.
I have never been much of a fan of Ericsson and I still think Nokia menus are easier to use, but the T68 is swaying my opinion. Given that Nokia won’t have their color screen phone available till NEXT year (probably not till the summer), I hate to admit it but Nokia seems to have dropped the ball. The Nokia 7650 is also only dual-band GSM (non-US) and is much, much bigger than the mobile phones we are used to (or the T68). Still, you know theVooner, I’ll probably buy it.