The K850i is the latest in the Sony Ericsson Cyber-shot camera phone lineage, succeeding the and . It is the first 5-megapixel model we've seen from Sony Ericsson, but its release trails almost a year behind its competition from the Nokia camp, the N95.
Cyber-shot camera phones have so far tended to be on the bulky side, and the K850i is no exception. Measuring 102mm by 48mm by 17mm, it is slightly cumbersome to put in your pocket, but it's no thicker than most compact cameras. It's available in two slightly different colour schemes, black with blue or black with green accents.
Sony Ericsson gives the K850i a dual-face design; the front looks like a phone and the back looks like a camera. The protruding lens cover from previous models is thankfully gone, meaning you can slide the K850i into your pocket without accidentally firing up the camera. On the side of the phone (or the top if you're holding it like a camera) are similar controls to those found on standalone Sony Cyber-shot cameras, with a dedicated power button and a switch for changing into video or still capture mode or to playback mode.
The battery, SIM card slot and microSD card slot are all behind a flip-down panel at the bottom. All the bits and bobs are spring-loaded so you don't have to worry about them falling out when you open the case.
While we like that Sony Ericsson has replaced the teeny joystick from previous models, which had a tendency to brake over time, it has been replaced with a rather odd square-navigation key that wraps around the number keys two and five (usually with a navigation pad there's a selection key for pressing OK in the middle). We still haven't gotten used to it while texting even after two weeks of using the phone.
Soft-keys under the screen have been replaced with touch-sensitive controls, which take a while to get used to. Our biggest gripe with the touch-keys is that they are a little too close to the tactile keys underneath them. After hitting, say, back instead of delete one too many times and losing your text message, it can get annoying.
With Cyber-shot branding, it's no surprise the K850i has a bunch of camera features onboard. Sony Ericsson has increased the resolution to 5 megapixels, the same as Nokia's all-in-one N95, but unlike its competition the K850i doesn't have a Carl Zeiss lens. It does, however, lead its class in terms of the built-in flash. The xenon flash next to the lens is great in low-light condition, and is a major advantage compared to camera phones with no flash or an LED flash. BestPic shooting mode allows you to choose the best of nine rapid-fire shots, while picture blogging allows you to quickly upload snaps to the Web.
Sony Ericsson's K850i should work on almost any mobile phone network in the world (including Telstra's Next G network, although the carrier hasn't added it to its catalogue at the time of writing). It is an HSDPA-enabled (3G) UMTS phone, with quad-band GSM support and Bluetooth for short-range connections.
There's a video and music player on board, but unfortunately you don't get the good set of headphones we've grown to love on Sony Ericsson Walkman phones. Instead there is a proprietary set of hard plastic earbuds that sit rather uncomfortably in your ears.
Despite the plethora of camera features, we were disappointed with many of our test photos. Even in daylight we noticed pictures tend to have a very soft focus to them and purple fringing around subjects. Another bugbear we have with the vast majority of camera phones is the lag time for the shutter release. Given the K850i has an auto-focus mechanism which aims to increase the sharpness of subjects, it still takes a couple of seconds from when you press the release button until the shot is actually captured. Move the camera phone too soon and you end up with a blurry picture.
With regular 3G usage and taking the occasional photo and video, we found we needed to charge the K850i every three days. If you find yourself regularly using the flash, watching a lot of video and playing music, expect less than this between charges.
Aside from the noticeable bulge it creates in your pocket, we like the look and styling of Sony Ericsson's latest camera phone. Navigation could be improved, although we imagine users will become accustomed to the quirky layout.