With all the bells and whistles being touted in the latest wave of cell phones, it's good to remember that some people simply need a phone, not a camera/MP3 player/organizer combination. Behold the Sony Ericsson T226. While it offers a smattering of extras, including MMS support and photo caller ID, this compact mobile isn't imbued with much of a "wow" factor. But at $49, it makes for a decent basic phone.
The T226 sports what is becoming the Sony Ericsson trademark style: a boxy design. At 3.9 by 1.7 by 0.7 inches and weighing 2.8 ounces, this phone is small and light enough to slip into your pocket with little notice. The light-grayish-blue (the company dubs it Pacific Blue) case with dark blue trim is attractive, and the handset's slightly tapering sides are easy to grip.
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Bite-size: Not quite as large as the T616, the lower-end T226 fits comfortably in a pocket.
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Sensitive navigator: Some users may find the phone's joystick to be overzealous.
A four-way navigation button rests in between the display and the keypad. We weren't enamored with the joystick in the middle of the navigation key. It's too easy to hit one of the directional keys when pressing the joystick to make a selection. However, it worked well for gaming.
The 101x80-pixel, 512-color display isn't too vibrant, but it's sufficient in low-light scenarios. The backlighting for the keys, however, could be brighter. (If you're looking for a richer display with more colors, check out the larger T616.)
The T226's feature list won't blow anyone away, though it has all the basics you'd expect in the latest crop of phones. You can store up to 250 contacts in the handset's internal phone book, and you can copy contacts or add 250 more names to the SIM card. The organizer is rather crude; you manually enter the date and time of a scheduled event instead of selecting them from a calendar. On the plus side, this mobile takes call blocking a step further; you can choose to receive calls from not only certain numbers but certain groups, as well. If the phone number of an incoming call is not on the list, it gets automatically rejected by a busy tone.
If you toggle on the Minute Minder feature, the phone beeps every minute during your call to help keep track of your usage. That's useful, but we would have also liked the phone to display the remaining battery life the way the T300 does.
As for extras, the T226 supports Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) for sending messages with pictures and sounds to other mobile phones or e-mail addresses, and you can assign pictures to contacts for photo caller ID or save them as wallpaper. Although we didn't test this feature, the T226 is designed to work with the Communicam MCA-25 mobile camera. The T226 comes with three games (Ace of Spades, Deep Abyss, and Five Stones) and 32 polyphonic ring tones. You can download additional games and ring tones over the phone's GPRS connection, but the phone doesn't include J2ME support, so no Java games.
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Good performer: Standby battery life on this phone outlasts Sony Ericsson's predictions.
We tested the GSM (850/1900) phone in the Chicago area on AT&T Wireless (the mobile also works on the Cingular and T-Mobile networks). Call quality was satisfactory, though it exhibited some static and wasn't terribly loud. But there were no dropouts, and neither we nor our callers had to repeat ourselves too often.
Sony Ericsson rates the talk time at up to 11 hours. This is clearly inflated. By the company's standards, the 3.75 hours we achieved wasn't close to the handset's potential, but for a phone in this class, we consider that a decent performance. As for standby time, the T226 lasted 10 days, slightly ahead of the rated 9.4 days.