While we've spent a ton of ink talking about the and the , the fact remains that there are quite a few smart phone options out there. Take, for example, the Sony Ericsson P910a, the successor to the likable . Running on the Symbian 7.0 operating system, the P910a is a full-fledged GSM device that does almost everything you can ask for. But while some smart phones are more PDA than phone and others more phone than PDA, the P910a seems to be equal parts phone, PDA, and multimedia device. With a high-resolution display, an integrated (but only VGA) camera, Bluetooth support, and massive battery life, the only thing holding back the P910a is a hefty price tag of more than $700. Of course, this device is so chock-full of features that it may actually be worth it; also, the cost should come down once the handset is picked up by a carrier.
Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more. Compared to standalone mobiles, the Sony Ericsson P910a is on the large side. Of course, next to other smart phones, it's right in the mix, at 2.3 by 1 by 4.5 inches and 5.5 ounces. As evidenced by its , Sony Ericsson is good at putting together well-designed products, and in this regard, the P910a is no slouch. The generous 3-inch-diagonal touch screen is vibrant and crisp (262,000 colors), and it rotates to support Landscape mode. You can't change the text size itself, but a zoom feature effectively does the trick. And though it may take a bit of acclimation, the P910a is comfortable to hold while you're talking.
Aside from the great display, the P910a's most notable feature--and the most significant change from the P900--is the flip-down QWERTY keyboard (see below). In phone mode, when the flip is up, the backside of the QWERTY keyboard is a standard numerical keypad that also boasts an OK, Back, Clear, and Menu key. Like the phone itself, the keys are silver, and the letters and numbers are white. In darker situations, seeing your way around the keypad is simple, thanks to the backlighting. Furthermore, the keys are raised such that dialing by feel is a snap. That said, there are no Talk and End keys; you'll need to use the OK button instead. While this isn't a big deal, we prefer dedicated call buttons.
When the flip is opened, you're greeted with a full QWERTY keyboard that is bound to create conversation. Though surely usable, the tiny keys are crowded together, and the flip's construction worries us. There's no truly comfortable way to type while holding the phone, and the flip mechanism seems rather fragile. We didn't perform a complete torture test, but we could imagine a situation where the flip-down keyboard could be broken. If it worries you too much, however, you can remove the keyboard via the included screwdriver and use the touch screen or the Graffiti-like handwriting-recognition feature. Another pet peeve: Unlike the numeric keypad, the keys on the QWERTY are not backlit. We also were disappointed with the keyboard's Enter button. Because it doesn't activate the highlighted Done buttons on the screen, we had to type our messages, then use the stylus to tap Done or Send. This is not terribly inconvenient, but it is silly.
On the mobile's left spine, you'll find the power button, the headset jack, and a handy scrollwheel that not only adjusts volume during calls but also navigates through menu items on lists and the home screen. On the handset's right spine is the Memory Stick Duo slot, the stylus holder, a dedicated camera button, and a Home Screen button that fires up the integrated WAP 2.0 browser. As with the P900, the VGA camera lens and a self-portrait mirror are located on the handset's rear face.
The P910a ships with a saucer-shaped docking cradle that has a unique cable-management system for easy travel. The docking cradle has a USB 2.0 cable as well as a power cord. Once docked, the P910a sits at a nice angle that enables you to see it when it's on your desk. Unfortunately, the cradle was designed such that connecting it to the device is not a matter of simply sliding it into a slot. Instead, you must tilt the P910a to attach it to a recessed port.The Sony Ericsson P910a has a ton of features that should please the most demanding smart phone fanatics. The Symbian 7.0 OS involves a learning curve for newbies, but it is exceptionally easy to use after some practice. The dynamic 64MB of embedded memory--a particular boon compared to the Treo 650's 22MB of user-accessible memory--lets you store as many contacts as space will allow, with room in each entry for multiple phone numbers, addresses, and other information; you can hold an additional 250 names on the SIM card. Contacts can be assigned to caller groups or paired with any of 24 polyphonic ring tones or a picture for caller ID (where available). Furthermore, the phone ships with a 32MB Memory Stick Duo card. While this is a nice amount for storing photos and whatnot, anyone who plans on using the P910a as a mobile audio device will need to invest in a much larger Memory Stick Duo card (the slot can handle cards up to 1GB).
When it comes to staying connected, the P910a includes an infrared port and Bluetooth, as well as USB connectivity through the charging cradle. Any of these methods can transfer data between the device and a computer, and you can also use the Bluetooth to connect to a wireless headset or as a modem with a Bluetooth-enabled laptop. On the downside, the P910a doesn't support Wi-Fi, but since it's so easy to connect to the Web, it may ultimately not be a big issue.