Apps and browser
The Web browser is full HTML, but we weren't impressed with the user experience. Web pages look good on the sparkling display, but we much prefer the light touch of a capacitive display when scanning around pages and selecting links. And don't even think about looking for multitouch. The scroll bar interface makes for a somewhat effective zoom, and you can save bookmarks, but we've been spoiled by too many better mobile browsers to really value this experience. Sorry.
Thanks to the Vivaz's Assisted-GPS, the handset comes integrated with a selection of location-based apps including Loopt, Where, AT&T Maps,, Yellow Pages Mobile, Where, AllSport GPS, and AT&T Family Locator. Just keep in mind that some apps will use data services.
The Vivaz also brings a full load of applications, but some are difficult to use on the resistive display. Onboard are Facebook, Wiki Mobile, My-Cast Weather, Mobile Banking, and AT&T Social Hub. Gamers get a selection of demo titles including Bubble Bash, YouTube, Brain Exercise, Tetris, Diner Dash, and Wheel of Fortune. You can Access AT&T's App Center to download more titles or buy the full versions for extended play.
The 8.1-megapixel camera takes pictures in six resolutions, including two "wide" resolutions and two quality settings. Other options are quite extensive. The Vivaz has four color effects, a self-timer, a macro setting, four white balance choices, exposure metering, a digital zoom, an image stabilizer, a light, a multishot and night mode, an option for taking panoramic shots, and four shutter sounds. An autorotate feature changes the orientation of the display as you tilt from portrait to landscape and you can geotag your photos to track your progress on a trip.
Sony Ericsson also added a few unique options. With face detection, the camera will shoot automatically when it detects a subject's face in the frame. And on a similar vein, the smile detection feature shoots automatically when it finds a smile. The infinite mode disables the autofocus for pictures taken at a distance and the touch capture feature is similar to the iPhone's tap to focus feature. When you tap the screen, it swill focus the shot on that point. Rounding out the selections are settings for night, landscape, twilight landscape, portrait, beach/snow, sports, and document shots.
The camcorder can record clips in four resolutions, from high-definition (HD) down to a simple option for multimedia messages. Other editing options are similar to the still camera, and you can use the light here as well. Clips meant for multimedia messages are capped at 1 minute, but the length of other videos will vary by the available memory. Unfortunately, integrated memory is quite small at just 75MB. We could only record 13 seconds of HD video and just 4 minutes even at a QVGA (320x240) resolution. It's essential that you use a microSD card slot to get the most use of your Vivaz. A 2GB card should come in the box, but the phone can accommodate cards up to 32GB.
Photo quality wasn't quite as good as we expected. Colors were muted, and objects in the background were rather fuzzy. Video quality was a bit better, but still below par for such a high-end shooter. As with most camera phones, you can use still shots as wallpaper, send them to a friend, and upload them to an online album. The Vivaz, however, also presents an option for sending shots to a printer.
Though it's not identified as such, the Vivaz has a Walkman music player. Sony Ericsson has a good track record with music handsets and the Vivaz is no exception. Settings include an airplane mode, an equalizer, playlists, shuffle and loop modes, and support for podcasts and audiobooks. The interface is minimalist, but functional. You can set visualizations and the player supports album art, as well. Just keep in mind that it won't recognize every song it plays.
You also get the standard FM radio, though you will need a wired antenna to act as an antenna. Fortunately, loading music on the phone is relatively easy with a USB cable or a memory card. We dropped in a couple of tracks quickly and without any hassles. Music quality is fine, though the speaker doesn't have the best output. Use a headset for the best experience.
We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) Sony Ericsson Vivaz world phone in San Francisco and New York City using AT&T service. Call quality was quite satisfying. The signal was strong, the audio was clear, and the volume was loud. We could even hear when we were on a busy street and we didn't encounter interference or feedback from other electronic devices. Our only complaint was that the Vivaz picks up a fair amount of wind noise.
On their end callers said we sounded fine. They also reported the wind noise, but that was the extent of their complaints. They could hear us if we were speaking in a loud place, though optimal conditions will be a quiet room. Yes, most of our friends could tell that we were using a cell phone, but that's not unusual.
Speakerphone calls weren't quite as sharp. The volume doesn't get terribly loud and the audio is distorted at the highest volumes. To be understood, we had to sit right next to the phone in a quiet room. The same goes for automated calling systems; you're better off making a standard voice calls. Happily, Bluetooth headset calls were better, though quality can vary by headset brand.
The Vivaz includes support for three UMTS/HSDPA bands (850/1,900/2,100) so you should be able to get 3G service at home and abroad. If a wireless broadband network is not available, the handset will drop back to EDGE automatically. Data service in both San Francisco and New York was shaky. Though we had full bars in most places, the connection was pretty slow. The full version of Airliners.net, for example, took more than a minute to load. Sites with more pictures and graphics will be slower, so you're better off sticking to mobile sites.
The Vivaz has a 720MHz processor under the hood. Though that isn't terrible for a phone of its caliber, internal performance was noticeably sluggish. At times it took a couple of seconds for the phone to perform an action after it registered our command. During our first minutes of use, we even pressed the command again because we weren't sure if it took.
The Vivaz has a battery life life of 5 hours, 20 minutes of 3G talk time and 13 hours of EDGE talk time. The promised standby time is up to 18.3 days. We were impressed with the tested talk time of 6 hours and 20 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the Vivaz has a digital SAR of 1.38 watts per kilogram.