The K300i is reminiscent of Sony Ericsson's popular T610 model in terms of design and button layout. In fact, the keypad is almost identical aside from the inclusion of a WAP shortcut key on the more recent K300i.
One thing we liked about the T610 was the blend of aluminium and smooth gloss case, even though it was prone to smudging. We're not as fond of the K300i's cheaper plastic case, yet its simplicity, size, and silver style still exude a graceful quality.
Sony Ericsson has stuck with a tiny thumb joystick for navigation on the K300i, which is surrounded by two shortcut keys, a back key and a clear/delete key. Numerical keys are again slivers in size, which is fine for dainty fingers but large thumbs may struggle.
The main menu is laid out in a grid, with nine icons available: Camera, Internet services, Entertainment, File manager, Messaging, Organiser, Phonebook and Settings.
For a recommended retail price of AU$329, we didn't expect to find many high-end features, such as a megapixel camera or Bluetooth. However, there is a 640 x 480-pixel VGA camera to take still shots or video, and an infrared port to transmit images wirelessly to PCs.
A wide range of cute frames and cut-out faces can be added to images, and the usual effects, like negative, black & white and sepia, can be applied. There is a night mode to assist shooting in the dark but this doesn't work nearly as well as an integrated flash, like the one on Sony Ericsson's 1.3-megapixel camera model, the S700i.
Under the Entertainment menu option are two midly amusing Java games, Darts and a puzzle game called FiveStones. Additional games can be downloaded from Sony Ericsson's Web site using WAP on the K300i.
We also find a voice recorder, a media player that supports MP3, MIDI, WAV and 3GP files, a ring tone creation application called MusicDJ and a download music service PlayNow. MusicDJ allows you to compose a melody by laying out pre-recorded samples across four tracks: drum, bass, keyboard and brass. These can be saved to use as ring tones, alarms or sent to a friend. PlayNow is a Sony Ericsson content service which has a distinct Australian Idol flavour, with tracks by Shannon Noll, Guy Sebastian and Anthony Callea available for download at AU$6.60 per song.
The K300i's file manager is where you can browse pictures, sounds, videos, games, applications and themes. WAP links are included in most of these categories to download additional content, such as ring tones and wallpaper.
Similar to most Sony Ericsson handsets made in the past few years, text and picture messaging is implemented well with T9 dictionary mode included. After you send a message, the recipient is added to a short list of frequently used contacts, which you can scroll through when sending subsequent messages. POP3 and IMAP e-mail accounts can also be set up on the K300i.
Organiser features include an alarm clock, calendar, tasks, notes, stopwatch and a calculator. Aside from GSM/GPRS, connectivity is limited to an infrared port on the top of the K300i, which can be used to send contact details to another phone or photos to a PC, for example.
Considering the growth in digital music services and third generation mobile networks, we see the potential of Sony Ericsson's PlayNow service, especially with the youth market. However, the slow speed of GPRS combined with a handset with a mere 12MB of memory prohitibs us from taking full advantage of PlayNow. It took over a minute for our review model to download a sample song, which sounded fine, but at AU$6.60 we figure most people will opt instead for an Australian online music service, which charges around AU$1.50 per single.
Up to 510 contacts can be stored in the K300i's phonebook with extra fields such as e-mail, URL, address and a photo. Sony Ericsson makes it simple to import existing contacts from a SIM card to the K300i's memory with a setup wizard that launches automatically the first time the handset is switched on. We found battery life to be adequate with an average of four days usage between charges during our test period.
Sony Ericsson has managed to squeeze a nice range of extras onto the K300i including a camera and a media player. It is an easy to use phone with a relatively modern silver design at a budget price. Other phones in this space include the Nokia 3220, which has lights on its case that can "write" messages at night, Motorola's cheap-as-chips V171, the Sharp GX15 (on Vodafone) and the Sony Ericsson T290i.