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Funny stories, witty encounters and serious reflections from Malaysia as experienced by a vegetarian struggling to understand the world.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Sony Ericsson K618i review

After about two months of use, I think I’m ready to give a fair review on my new handphone, Sony Ericsson K618i (SEK618i). This is not a paid review and is mainly to share my personal experience and comments about the phone. But if you have any product you would like me to review, kindly drop me a comment. I believe I will be able to provide quite an fair report, unless you’re asking me to review a Nokia phone... heh heh... *kidding*

I had wanted to change to a new phone because:
1. my existing Siemens CX65 phone was dying on me (had dropped it like more than 20 times onto hard cold floor)
2. i wanted to pamper myself and my wife with something ‘nice’
3. have to finally tell myself that no matter how much I dislike technology, I have to stay on top of it if I wanna continue to be in the IT line.

My requirements were simple. I wanted a decent camera phone as I like to take photos and blog about them. Music is secondary as I don’t really have time to listen to music anyway... Only time is when I’m driving and my car has got CD player + casette player + radio. I wanted a decent organiser as well so I can keep track of my appointments, contacts, etc... And best if it has a drag-and-drop interface.

The SEK618i met all that... Or did it?

Sony Ericsson K618i - the front and the back

The phone comes in the candybar form. I am a sucker for this as I don’t think clamshell or even the slider suites me. Nokia was out because I have this love-hate reaction when it comes to Nokia. I just love to hate it. But if you really want me to review a Nokia phone, rest assured, it will be a ‘professional’ review. The SEK618i was also light enough for my wife and myself.

Software & Sync with PC
I installed the software on two similar DELL notebooks (D610) but somehow only one notebook was able to detect both phones. The other notebook could only detect my wife’s phone. I tried uninstalling and reinstalling the software and also the drivers, but somehow it did not work. I gave up after trying to get it detected on that notebook. I synchronised the phone with my Outlook contacts and it worked out quite well and quite fast too. The SEK618i is able to store the standard contact details such as home number, office number, birthdate, etc... But note that Contact Group is not synchronised. Yes, somehow the Group or Category is not really used effectively on the SEK618i. Software interface is quite simple and straight forward. When you plug in the phone, you have the option (on the phone) to connect as File Transfer mode or Phone mode. File transfer basically allows you to only transfer file. Phone mode allows you to do much more. For Sync, you have the usual Sync options, phone to PC, PC to phone or last update overides. You can also browse the phone when you’re connected in either mode. Everything is just a matter of drag and drop. What I like about connecting to the PC with the USB cable is that you can also charge your phone this way! Then again, I know many phones can do that these days.

Contacts
SEK618i uses tabs when storing or displaying information. For Contact details, you have the person’s details split into 4 tabs – general numbers, emails and website, photo and ringtone (for personalised call settings), home and office address and the last tab is for additonal notes and birthdate. Some may like it this way, but I personally prefer all of them displayed on one page – you can see all the information on one page rather than having to browse through the tabs and wondering what information in each tab. But the phone can store a lot. Up to 1000 contacts, I believe (It can store even more numbers – for those contacts with multiple numbers).

SMS
I got the phone at the ‘right’ time... Just before Christmas and New Year. So I used it to try and send out greetings to multiple recipients. I was quite disappointed to discover that SEK618i limits multiple recipients to only 20 at a time! Arrggghhh... Imagine having to forward the same text over and over again to 100+ recipients (I have more than 400 contacts on my phone). On my old phone, I could send to ALL my contacts! Maybe Sony Ericsson is worried their phones may be used for mobile spamming? The text message also does not actually display the word count. Only when you are about to go into the next message (each message is about 160 characters long, I believe) would the count appear. I prefer to know how many letters I have used so I can type accordingly, whether to use short forms or spell out the full word. I also noted that while in T9, I am unable to put place the (or next line). It is only available when T9 text is disabled.

Keypad
While many have told me the keypad is quite big, I still find it small for my liking. I had some problems typing my text messages and even playing the Tennis game that came with the phone. Many times I ended up pressing the adjacent buttons. But to be fair, maybe two weeks is still too little time to get adjusted to the keypads. But I find the location and design of the Internet and My Shortcut buttons to be un-friendly, especially the Internet button. Many times when I wanted to press Cancel or even Next (the left button), I find myself activating the browser instead. I think this is because the two buttons are ‘bigger’ and bulge out.

Ringtone
The ringtone can be set really loud and to my liking (what to do, getting old so sometimes can’t hear properly). The separate speaker located at the back can actually be very loud. Setting up the standard ringtones is quite simple. But when it came to the more ‘advanced’ options, I was quite disappointed. I cannot assign ringtones to a Group. I find this to be really useful as I like to assign different ringtones to different Groups – Office having one ringtone, Family having another, callers not in my phonebook having a different ringtone, etc. This way, I can tell who’s calling from just listening to the ringtones. I asked around other Sony Ericsson users (different models) and they said it is not possible to assign ringtones by the Group. You have to assign them manually. I have at least 100 office colleagues in my phone book. I am NOT going to assign a ringtone to each one of them individually. What more when I decide its time to use a new tone (maybe replace the file with a same named one instead?!?). So I gave up on that idea... You also cannot assign different ringtones for different profiles. Again, I think this would have been a nice feature. Sometimes we have certain ringtones that are suitable only outside of office... So it would have been great to be able to set a ringtone for Outdoor profile, one set of ringtone for Meeting profile and another for say... Home. After all, I don’t think this ringtone for text message would be suitable in office. For text message, I noticed there is not option to adjust the ring volume. Since the default volume is quite soft, I ended up setting a long ringtone for my text messages instead. Alarm for appointments was even worse. I wonder why bother to have alarm for appointments if the alarm is going to be so soft and so difficult to hear?

Sound
The separate speaker located at the back of the phone is quite decent. While the quality is not really as good as I has expected when it came to playing songs (on mp3, etc), I could hear the ringtones quite loudly. But when you use the stereo earphones that comes with the phone, I’m amazed by the change in quality. so if you really have to listen to songs, you definitely should use the earphones. They make a world of difference. For those who are wondering about the three speaker ‘holes’ at the back, only one speaker is directly behind it. The rest is just to make the phone look ‘nice’.

Photo
The SEK618i comes with a 2 megapixel camera. And having heard how ‘good’ Sony is when it comes to digital cameras, I was expecting decent photos from the phone. I was disappointed.

Think the photos above are good? Think again... The photos above were resized. At actual size, they would have looked like this:

Comparison photo (1MP vs 2MP) taken using normal mode


Comparison photo (1MP vs 2MP) taken using night mode

[The gun in the photos was given to me as a present by a colleague who had gone to Kunming, China for holidays. The gun 'shoots' rubber bands. I have been carrying it around with me - using it to shoot naughty kids.]

Aaarrrrgghhh!!! There goes the my main reason for getting a camera phone. I was not expecting super good photos. But this is really a disappointment. Hmmm... This means I will only get clear photos when I shrink them from 2MP to maybe 1MP or even less. This means printing the photos will not be really possible unless you want passport-size photos. On the computer, I guess it would still be ‘decent’, provided I shrink the photos first.

Photo taken at 1MP (MegaPixel)


Photo taken at 2MP(MegaPixel)

Video call
One other reason for me to get the phone is because of the Video Call. This is a 3G phone. My wife and I managed to test it out and it works great! If you don't move the phone too much, the video turns out to be quite alright. You can also alternate between the two cameras on the phone. One camera is for normal photo shooting located at the back of the phone. The other is meant for video calls and is located at the front.

Organiser
I find this good. It syncs well with Outlook and helps me to keep track of meetings and appointments. The only complain I have is the alarm for the meeting. Very short and very soft. Sometimes I can't even hear it! Would have been great if we could also customise the tone and volume.

Contact search
The contact search does not seem to work properly and I’m not too sure why. For some contacts, I am able to search by pressing the first few letters. For others, the search would only match the first letter. Example: I have Sam, Samantha, Sandy, Sly, Soo, Soon, Stanley, Szen in my address book. I may have pressed SZ but it would not display Szen. It could be displaying the match for only the first letter. I have a colleague using the same model SEK618i and he faces the same problem.

Misc.
What other little things that I don’t like about the phone...
1. The standard package comes with a 2-pin adaptor. Can’t they just give us the usual 3-pin ones? After all, the original units should have been customised for the local market. As it is, I have to carry a 2-pin adaptor each time I travel.
2. Manual does not tell you much about the phone functions and features. I would have preferred if they had two manuals – one for Quick Start and the other for Complete Manual. The manual didn’t really explain what the icons on the phone display mean. When I first got the phone, I was wondering how the 3G symbol looked like. Maxis customer service told me it looked like a globe, but I don’t think so. It looks like some round blue thing... OK, maybe that is a globe.
3. Sony Ericsson’s website FAQ (Frequesntly Asked Questions) has got nothing. I guess no one asked them any Questions. Or they just could not be bothered to populate the site with FAQs. They have got a list of FAQs now... This post took 2months to write. ;)
4. There is no way to have NO themes for the phone. I find the phone response to be a bit sluggish for my liking and wanted to disable the themes to see if performance would be better. No such luck.
5. No customisable keys. The 1-9 buttons are only meant as quick access for Contacts. I cannot assign them keys to do other things (like activate Bluetooth, open Calendar, etc). The only customisable buttons are the directional pad (up, down, left and right) and also the My Shortcut button. But placing shortcuts in the My Shortcut button still means pressing the button and then scrolling to to find the shortcut I want.
6. Code Memo can be easily deleted. Code Memo is an application that allows you to store personal information such as PIN number, etc... While it requires the correct password in order to view the contents, there is no protection against anyone deleting the contents (some sort of reset). I tested by entering some details and then trying to delete the file without entering the correct password. I was able to delete the file. So much for being safe and useful.

Click to view image at full size - comparison between 3 different photos

What I like
1. Free downloads from Sony Ericsson site
2. Complete package (charger, USB cable, 256MB external memory, stereo earphones)
3. All-in-one phone 3G phone
4. Can record conversation
5. Recurring alarms. The phone allows you to set up to 5 recurring alarms based on the days (good for wake-up alarms as you want them to only ring on weekdays)
6. Contacts management. The phone allows you to easily copy to/ from SIM. It also has got a feature to backup & restore your contacts from memory card. But I seriously wonder how many people do backups of their contacts. I won't be surprised if I am the only one who does this!
7. RSS reader. Need I say more?!
8. Voice command. You can use the voice command to activate features and make calls. But the interface was a bit messy and difficult to access (or maybe the instructions just seemed complicated). So I didn't really bother using this function.
9. The built-in Tennis game. I am never one who completes a game on the PC, PS2, etc... But the Tennis Multiplay is very addictive and I actually completed the game! Plus, as the name says it all, it is 'multiplay'. This means you can have a Tennis match via bluetooth.

Click to view image at full size - my Gerger, taken with my K618i

Labels:




Please leave your comments. There are 9 comment(s).

On 2/22/2007 01:04:00 PM Anonymous ice22 said:
Nice work, Adrian. I saw your comment on Mobile88 as I was checking on K618i for my boyfriend.

Being a user of K608i, I have anticipated cons presented in your review. I do think contact search is a problem. At least, you have contact search available in the menu. I can only type the initial letter for my contacts and browse through the list. My own speedy way when it comes long list under certain letters, I either start from the top or bottom. I get there faster. Eg, if I need to look for Szen, I would press for T and up. This is how you wanna be above the technology. So, this is a con if compared Nokia phones. Even 3310 has good name search. Goodness, that's only Nokia's 2nd antenna-less model.

As for your PC-phone detection, maybe you can rename the phone that one of the PCs cannot detect.

Then, on USB phone charging, are you positive? Did you really notice your power bar increases after plugging it to PC usb port for some time?

SE users have always dislike the joystick. I think K618i without joystick will make navigation work longer trouble-free.

I like K618i light weight. If you like good photos, K800i is the choice. If you have chosen K618i, you should have known what you are buying.

My recommendation to phone buyers is not to hesitate on phone testing in the shop prior to purchase. Try everything. Know the pros and cons before you buy, not after you buy. It is your right.
Try the navigation buttons. Is contact search convenient enough for you? Try photo taking, video taking. In the shop, I already knew K600 series front camera was only for video calling. In fact, the sales assistants did not know or pretended they did not know until I discovered it.

Before I forget, Adrian, the next time you wanna SMS to hundreds of contacts, I recommend that you use PC sync to do it.I do not know what kind of software was provided with the phone but if you only have File Manager, MMS Editor, etc...Go download Phone Explorer. I used it to SMS over 150 people for Chinese New year. Good!

The above was purely my humble opinion for sharing and out of good intention. No offence.
On 2/22/2007 03:54:00 PM Blogger adriantai said:
hi ice22.

for contact search, yup... dat's what i do as well. be one step ahead. if i want to look for szen, i type T instead. i still miss my Siemens (the got sold to the now bankrupt BenQ-Siemens).

nope, renaming it does not work. i think it has to do with either windows or something like that. decided i cannot be bothered by that. it works on the other notebook. so like above, think ahead. sync to Outlook on one PC, export the contacts and import on the other Outlook.

yes, it does charge on USB. in my notebook bag, i carry the usb cable. charger is left at home. :)

i was on a budget... in fact, originally din wanna pay more than rm1k. but coz of the 3G, i went with K618i. Else could have gotten the W series instead... one of the W that is now selling at around rm1k (or less). with auto-focus camera too... i think that's the problem with this camera, no auto-focus.

true about testing the phone. but many dun bother to take photos and then ask the shop fella to download picture onto the pc. we just view from the phone, which is a BIG mistake coz on the phone, everything looks alright.

yeah, i know abt the front camera for only video calls. did some research before buying it. but there are those who wanted the front camera to take photos as well, which i cannot understand why... why 2 cameras for the same purpose. just turn it around la... :) this is me being practical. :)

as for sms using the pc, the problem is... i dun like to turn on the pc. takes too long to load up. that's why i stopped playing games on PC (whenever i have the time, i use ps2 for gaming instead). plus, when i draft the message, i usually dun have the pc next to me. can be in toilet, living room, etc... :) ok, ok... i'm a bit lazy.

thanks for sharing. i think it was great sharing. and i guess u did some homework as well before buying it. :)

p/s: i think i should have gotten a samsung instead... if only they had more candybar designs.
On 2/22/2007 04:57:00 PM Anonymous Anonymous said:
I have to add that rather than pc sync you can always sync with Zyb Using your data connection you can save them online at Zyb an access it easily. Thought the tip may work.
On 2/23/2007 08:52:00 AM Blogger adriantai said:
hi anonymous...

i prefer to have 'full control' of my contacts, which i view as 'personal and confidential information'. try not to have too many copies around. as it is, i have 3-4 gmail accounts, 1 yahoo, 1 hotmail, 2 Outlook, a few from my personal sites, etc... i'm still sorting them out!

but i may look into Zyb. Thanks for the tips. :)
On 2/26/2007 01:35:00 PM Anonymous Anonymous said:
Hello there... Am a w800i user for a mere 10 months, and I would like to warn all Sony Ericsson users that their keypad and screen always gives me and my friends problems. No doubt that their walkman series are great, and camera quality is kinda good, but it jams alot as well.
On 2/27/2007 09:06:00 AM Blogger adriantai said:
yeah... i think for W series, the camera is better, though i thought W would be for Walkman series. :(

SW sux. Every now and then, I see weird menu options like F:2310... Think its the function code or something... :P
On 5/20/2007 12:31:00 AM Anonymous yeek said:
hi, i was just wondering if u know what is this squarish blue icon which appears on the top left corner of the phone sometimes? i just changed my hp to k618i and i find the user manual and SE website quite lousy in providing info about the phone :S
On 5/20/2007 09:50:00 PM Blogger Daniel said:
Hi Adrian and other K618i users, I updated the phone software and the contact search function was improved. I can now search the names. try to update the software.
Also, the blue icon is 3G signal indication. Cheers!
On 5/21/2007 09:29:00 AM Blogger adriantai said:
yeek, the blue icon is like what daniel said... its the 3G icon. :) i mentioned about this under the misc. #2... yes, dat's how lousy the documentations are.

daniel... thanks for the head-up. i guess i'll check upgrade the firmware. when i posted this, there were no new firmware. but i also worry, each time firmware, must back-up, etc in case everything gets wiped out... *sigh*
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