In a mobile market flooded with spunky-looking phones vying for the attention of an increasingly cashed-up youth market, how does a manufacturer ensure their latest model gets talked about, coveted and purchased in sizeable quantities? For Sony Ericsson, the bling's the thing. The Z300i, with its accompanying sheet of adhesive crystals, is aimed squarely at the fashionable and unwrinkled, and zeros in on their penchant for customisation and things that twinkle and sparkle under the techno lighting system.
The standout design feature is of course the ability to customise the phone's look by adding crystals in a pattern of your choosing. If you're stuck for ideas on how to bling up the phone, Sony Ericsson offers an online gallery for inspiration. The crystal application process is a bit fiddly -- and best achieved with a steady hand and non-bitten-down fingernails -- but once the jewels are affixed, they tend to stay put.
Crystalline gimmickry may be the thing that pulls in the punters, but the general look of the Z300i is similarly slick. The clamshell has an appealing rounded design, is sturdy without being chunky and can easily be operated one-handed.
The look of the phone is easily changed by snapping on a different coloured "Style-Up" cover, which is included in the box.
An ugly and dated-looking external antenna, which has been showing up on a lot of lower-priced clamshells recently, is thankfully omitted in this model, giving the phone a lovely smooth silhouette.
The phone's 128 x 128-pixel, 65K-colour main display was sometimes difficult to read in daylight, and menu icon had jagged edges, but background graphics and games were pleasingly clear and colourful.
The monochrome external screen shows an analogue clock when the phone is closed, and when an incoming call registers, the name of the caller scrolls across the display. The scrolling speed is pretty slow though, meaning that we tended to hold the phone impatiently when calls came in, waiting to discover who was making the blinged thing ring.