As we browse around the right side of the phone we see the camera button.
As long as you have the lens cover open, a click of the button and the phone is
ready to take pictures. A nice touch is
when the camera is activated the little camera symbol glows. It should also be
noted that the moment you open the lens cover it will also activate the camera
functions as well.
Next to the camera button is the memory stick slot. It uses the memory stick duo format and at the time
of purchase the phone came with a 1GB card.
Next we have the @ button, which is the shortcut to the web
browser. It will activate the browser
when the phone flip is open. To avoid
accidental activation it requires a sustained press of the button for the browser
to start up.
Below that is the scroll wheel. This was something I missed when switching
from the P900 to the Mini O2. Sadly the
wheel is slightly different to the P900 as it is missing the forward/back axis.
Perhaps the back button which lies just
below the scroll wheel is an attempt to make up for this omission.
Below that we see a mechanical lock key. Key lock can also be activated by pressing *
and Unlock on the number pad, but when the flip is removed the mechanical lock
key is very useful.
Finally the P-series phone gets a 320x 240 screen. The screen dimensions are identical to the
Atom as the shop only had Atom screen protectors in stock and luckily fit
Lastly we see the signature flip number pad. A flick downwards reveals the built in QWERTY
keyboard. If you prefer the phone to be setup Blackberry-style, SE supplies you with the
tools to remove the flip.
In terms of text input the P990i has it all. T9 is available with the number pad and then
open the flip and a QWERTY keyboard is available to you. For the stylus users a virtual keyboard is
still present and finally handwriting recognition is also available for direct
writing on to the screen.
After starting up the P990, we get a Standby screen. It is quite neat and simple with just five
icons in the middle of the screen. Each button is linked to the buttons on the
direction pad. By default the icons take
you to the Messaging, Calendar, Contacts, Today and Menu screen. You cannot add further icons to the screen,
although the default icons (with the exception of the middle menu button) can
opening screen looks clean and uncluttered.
This is in stark contrast to my Today screen on the Atom. Admittedly it was not like that to begin
with, but the option is there to add additional components to it as you see
fit. I like to think that my additions
are all useful shortcuts to get me to other areas of the operating system, so in reality my Today screen is my Shortcut
With the P990 the Standby screen does deliver a few
shortcuts to you, but to get the others you need to go down one more layer by
clicking on the Menu icon or the More button.
My Atom today Screen
On comparing the built-in
software of the P990i with the Atom you find that there appears to be a
standard collection of programs that we come to expect on a PDA
nowadays. The P990i categorizes them within 6 main menus.
Camera, Web, Application
Shop, RSS feeds, PlayNow, Picture Gallery, Sound recorder
- Media player
Radio, Music, Video,
Phone, Call log, Video
phone, Speed Contacts
Quickoffice, PDF+, Notes, Tasks, Business Card Scanner
Control Panel, File
Manager, Connections Manager, Remote Sync, Calculator, Converter, Stopwatch,
My experience with all these programs is far from
thorough, but I have been through the
programs that I would commonly use on the Atom as well as features that are on
the P990i that I would have liked on the Atom.
Below is a quick overview of what I have experienced so far.
In terms of typing out a number to call someone, having a
tactile phone pad sure makes it easier. On occasion I will do phone banking and
to type out the bank account number on a LCD screen can be quite tedious. A virtual keypad is still available on the
P990i. I guess you have a choice of using this if you decide to take the flip
off the phone.
Sound quality on the phone is quite good and I was quite
happy with the speaker phone as well. Trying
out video calls have been quite fun. Both cameras can be used for video. If you
have the camera cover at the back closed the camera at the front will work and
your face will be in view. Open the
camera cover and the other camera is activated and will video whatever is ahead
of you. Video quality was average, but would pixelate often.
Navigating through contacts is quite easy, as contact details
are set out neat and ordered. Synchronizing Outlook contacts to the
was straightforward. Additional notes
from Outlook were also transferred to the phone contacts as well. What
would have been nice is if searching for
a contact looked for both first and last names.
The office suite comes with the obligatory word processor
and spreadsheet. Both WM5 and Symbian
versions appear very similar. If you are familiar with one you should be
familiar with the other. Getting around
both programs was quite simple and straightforward. Sending a word file from
Quickword to my laptop was a matter of cut and paste from the file manager to
XP. The file looked fine on Word
The Messenging menu allows you to check for sms, mms, email
and your voicemail. Once again the
program is set out quite logically. The
SMS and MMS messages are kept separate from the email files. Configuring your
email accounts is as straightforward as you would set up for Outlook. Setting up for MMS, in my experience, can be
a nightmare. Conveniently SE can
autoconfig your phone through their
website. It is a matter of typing in your details and then waiting for SE to
send you a autosetup sms file.
To get music on to the P990i I had to use a program called
Disc2phone which is integrated into the Smartphone PC Suite. Most of
my music was in WMA format, and Disc2phone was able to convert my WMA file
Mp3 format for playing on the P990i. If
your music is already in Mp3 format you should be able to directly
your music through the file manager.
I used my R35 stereo Bluetooth headset to listen to the
music and to try out the A2DP. Bonding
with the phone was done quickly and the P990i was able to detect that the R35
had "advance audio", which I assume is A2DP.
I was pleasantly surprised with the sound that came out from
my head phones. The sound quality
appears deeper and richer than what comes out from the Atom. I was also quite happy to find that the
graphic equalizer worked with the headset.
On the Atom, the equalizer only worked with a wired headset.
Unfortunately I was not able to get the AVRCP controls on the BT
headset to work properly. I was only
able to control volume. I was not able to go forward or back on my playlist,
nor was I able to use the pause/play button.
I should also note than another problem I had was that my R35
headset appeared to die after only a few minutes of listening to music with the
p990i. This was after I fully charged the BT headset. After recharging again
and then using it on the Atom it seemed to play normally, but on connecting to
the P990i it also stopped working after a few minutes of listening. I can’t get
the BT headset to work again until I recharge it again. I am not exactly sure what is happening here,
but it leads me to believe that there may be some compatibility issues with
Starting up the web browser without a Wi-Fi connection will
automatically turn on the GPRS. GPRS
appears to connect much faster on a 3G network than 2G. Once it is connected it
automatically starts up the home WAP site for my Smartone-Vodafone network,
Smartone iN!. Using PIE on my Atom I was not able to log on to this website
without going through a third party website.
To get the P990i online you firstly need to enable the
Wi-Fi. When enabled a quick scan should
find your Wi-Fi router quite easily.
Once you have a connection you need to save it into an internet group
before you can start using it. After
these steps you should be able to browse with the wifi connection.
I find that the screen real
estate on the P990i browser similar to PIE on the Atom. Items of interest is the ability to do tab
browsing and bookmark RSS feeds.
Browser speed is quite
responsive although the Atom does seem to be a little faster. While using the browser I had two occasions
where I was warned that the phone was out of memory. On one occasion the phone suddenly just
turned off and restarted again: I got a
message that the phone was restarting and making changes to improve
The camera on the P990i was a
feature I was quite looking forward to testing.
A 2-megapixel autofocus camera
with a F2.8 lens sounded like a powerful tool to have on a phone.
Cameras on mobile phones are improving at a
rapid pace these days. They are well on
the way to being serious contenders to the individual point-and-shoot
cameras. At the time of writing this
article there are already 3.2-megapixel AF phone cameras available and
with a real built-in flash. Even so, the
P990i camera still appears to be a capable performer. Though the
flash is only a bright LED
light the F2.8 lens appears to help utilise the available light it
out. The large aperture also manages to
produce some nice background blur to close-up shots . The camera
does however have trouble in
capturing sharp photos where there is some movement, even with
the flashlight on. Zoom is only available in a digital
form, and this is probably something to avoid as the
picture quality suffers.
SE Smartphone PC Suite
I touched on the Smartphone
suite earlier with regards to the disc to phone program.
From the suite you can manage your files through File
Manager, as we see from the picture above. Other utilities include the Mobile
Networking Wizard that allows you to use your phone as a modem, a Backup
Manager, language packs which can be uploaded using the Download Language button and the
Application Installer that allows you to install third party software. Sony
Disc2phone was mentioned earlier for the transfer of music to the phone. Shortcuts to Adobe Photoshop SE and Quicktime
are included in the suite as well.
Lastly an update service is available for the phone as well.
Obviously the main feature for the suite is to be able to
synchronize phone with PC. I was happy
to see that synchronization worked flawlessly the first time I used it. Notes from Contacts were also transferred
across. Categories for synchronizing
include Contacts, Calendar, Tasks, Notes, Email and Bookmarks. You are able to
choose which ones to turn off/on through the sync manager options.
The other item of interest is the Mobile Network
Wizard. This utility allows you to hook
up your laptop to the 3G/GPRS network on your P990i. The wizard helps you setup the P990i to be
your modem. It is pretty straightforward if your phone is already setup for GPRS as you just use the default
settings on your phone. When the installation
is done the connect button will quickly get you online. My problem is that my package gives me 3mb of
free usage and then I get charged per kilobyte of data after that. It would be a fairly expensive alternative
The P990i comes well-optioned on the text input
department. For T9 text input users the number
pad works nicely. The keys are responsive and I found I could use it
or two hands. I think it is quite
comfortable to use with the keys clicking just enough to register
without affecting the speed of typing. The number keys are
arranged quite close to
one another so I can imagine it may be a little uncomfortable for
large hands and stubby fingers.
The same can be said for the QWERTY keyboard. They did well to
squeeze the keyboard into
the place provided, but the keys are spaced quite close together.
The keys feel solid and sturdy. They are firm
enough to avoid accidental pressing, but have a nice tactile feel to
typing. I can actually type quite quickly on it using two thumbs, but
the hands felt ramped when typing for an extended length of time.
Once again the keyboard may not be suitable
for everyone, especially those with big hands.
Finally, you have input methods using the screen. There is a virtual keyboard available
so people who prefer stylus tapping on the LCD they can still do so. Also I should add the Hong Kong version of
the P990i comes with both English and Simplified Chinese language pack. It probably would be a little easier to write
in Chinese using the virtual keyboard.
Lastly the touch-screen allows you to handwrite with
the stylus. With handwriting recognition
the whole screen is used. The screen is
separated in top and bottom halves with an arrow mid-screen. Letters are written at the bottom of the
screen while numbers and symbols are written on the top. If you want uppercase letters you write along
the mid part of the screen level with the arrow. Learning the handwriting technique is made
fairly simple as it is very much like writing in a normal printing style.
It sounds like an easy method to learn, but unfortunately
with this P990i I found it quite hard to master.
To be honest this was both surprising and puzzling to me. The handwriting recognition is the same as
what it was on my previous P900. I had
no trouble with it then and I actually enjoyed using it. Also I had tried it
recently on the SE M600 and found it worked very well then. One difference between the phones is the Hong
Kong release P990i is a bilingual phone where the previous phones I tried were
English language only. On this P990i
even though you choose the language pack you prefer there still seems to be
Chinese text recognition present. As a
result when trying to write I found the accuracy to be very low and on many
occasions Chinese characters would come up as well. I found that changing from multi-character
recognition to single letter recognition helped a little bit, but it slowed
down the handwriting speed and more errors than acceptable still occurred. Hopefully this means that the problems I
encountered are restricted to the Hong Kong release version only.
Overall it has been a fairly positive experience with the
P990i. The phone is well-made and well-finished. The
overall design does not
differ much to the other recent P series phones, but it still looks
attractive with clean lines. I
found the sound quality from the phone was crisp and clear. The
standard PDA features we come to expect
like office, contacts, calendars, messenger etc. appear to work well
seamlessly. I was quite impressed with the sound quality
from the MP3 player and was quite happy with the photos that were
the camera. I am not too sure what the problem is with the A2DP headset
and the Music player. I appear to be able to make calls with
it, but it still crashes when listening to music. I have a mono
Motorola bluetooth headset that I use when driving and it appears to
work fine when making calls.
I did come across a few low memory situations while using
the phone software. I even came
across a few instances where the phone would hang, restart and inform me that it was trying to
improve performance. Finally I have had
a few instances where the phone would just reset itself for no apparent
reason. Luckily the resets did not occur
at a time to cause any inconvenience. More
an annoyance, but if I sit back and think about it most of my other PDA phones
went through the same teething problems.
More importantly we should see that subsequent firmware upgrades will address the
Would this Symbian phone make me switch from WM5? Funny enough
is most annoying is I
can’t get the handwriting recognition to work properly with the
input is my choice of text input. I use block recognizer when
Atom. If you are someone who prefers to
type with a keyboard and use the stylus more as a pointer I guess it
seem such a big deal. I feel however,
that if you have the stylus out already anyway, you might as well also
use it to
write with. It’s a problem that’s annoying me enough to not give
up the Atom for the time being. As I mentioned before, the problem
I had with the handwriting recognition may not occur with the
P990i versions. I may have to check with
Hong Kong Sony Ericsson to confirm if they have such a version