Up until now, the Sony Ericsson T616 and T610 have enjoyed a loyal following. Even we liked them--so much so that we gave the T616 our Editors' Choice award. And now, Sony Ericsson fans have a new model else to cast their phone envy upon: the company's T637 camera phone for AT&T Wireless. Chock-full of features and wrapped in a pleasing package, the T637 should please anyone seeking to put their mobile to good use. Battery life wasn't the greatest, and the camera wasn't too impressive, but all in all, this handset is worth a look. At $269.99, the phone is a bit expensive for what you get, but you should be able to find it for less with service. Sporting a trim candy bar-style shape with an arresting gray and black color scheme, the Sony Ericsson T637 stands apart from most silver-hued cell phones. Both compact and light (4 by 1.7 by 0.7 inches; 3.3 ounces), it's exactly the same size as the T616 but weighs marginally less. With such a small form factor, it can fit in almost any pocket, and it's easy to carry around. Overall, its style is a bit sharper than its predecessor's.
The bright 65,536-color display is easy on the eyes and great for viewing the user-friendly graphical and text-based menus. Just be warned that it shows smudges easily, so watch for fingerprints. We especially enjoyed the ergonomic navigation controls and thought they matched the menu interface well. As with the T616, the five-way joystick moves through and lets you select from different options. In standby mode, it opens the menus with a single touch. There are two soft keys that give one-touch access to two user-defined functions, a Clear button, and a Back key. The keypad, however, didn't impress us. Crowded together and covered in a slippery material, the buttons made for easy misdials and were difficult to distinguish by feel. They're backlit, but we preferred the separated keys on the T616.
Other controls provide easy activation of various features. Particularly handy are two volume keys on the left spine; they can also be used to scroll thorough the menus, open the status menu, reject incoming calls, place a call with voice dialing, and turn off the ringer. A dedicated camera button sits just above, while a button that activates the Web browser is on the right spine. Though the placement is convenient, it struck us as a bit unusual. On the top of the mobile is the power switch and the infrared (IR) port, and the camera and a mirror for self-portraits sit on the center of the handset's backside. The Sony Ericsson T637 comes well equipped with features. The phone book can hold 500 contacts, each of which can accept five phone numbers and an e-mail address. Voice dialing is available for 14 names, and for caller ID purposes, you can pair contacts with pictures and any of the 32 polyphonic ring tones. You also get a calculator, a calendar, a stopwatch, a timer, a task list, an alarm clock, and voice memos. Options for the thumb-savvy are just as plentiful, with e-mail, instant messenger (AOL, Yahoo, and ICQ), text and multimedia messaging, and enhanced messaging. Business users will appreciate the T637's Bluetooth connectivity, ability to sync to both PCs and Macs, conference calling, and USB support, but a speakerphone was conspicuously absent. Business cards can be exchanged via the integrated IR port, and there's a WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser for use with GPRS data networks.
Unfortunately, the T637 faltered slightly with its integrated camera, as its features weren't as extensive as those found on other camera phones. On the upside, you get a choice of three resolutions (480x640, 288x352, and 120x160), a night mode, and a self-timer. Missing, however, are a flash, a zoom lens, and a multishot option. In addition to using photos for picture caller ID, you can save them as wallpaper or share them with friends via MMS. Sony Ericsson includes downloadable MMS Home Studio software in the box, which enables you to compose multimedia messages on your PC with sounds, pictures, and text. This is a welcome addition over the Sony Ericsson T616, but you need to purchase a USB cable separately. For saving pictures, there's 2MB of dynamic memory.
The handset can be thoroughly personalized with a variety of wallpaper, screensavers, color schemes, and sounds. If you're bored with those options, you always can download more ring tones and other selections. Artists and musicians can even design wallpaper using the handset's Image Editor or compose ring tones with the Music DJ composer. The phone comes with four Java (J2ME)-enabled games (Qubet, HoneyCave2, Mini-golf, and V-Rally2), though avid players can always get more. We tested the triband (GSM 850/1800/1900; GPRS) Sony Ericsson T637 in New York City. Signal strength and call quality were impressive, and callers said they couldn't tell we were using a cell phone. On our end, we could hear them clearly at all times.
Battery life was a bit off, however. We managed 3.75 hours of talk time, an hour less than the rated 5-hour talk time. Standby time also was short. We got 4 days, way below the rated time of 13 days.