The Phone: Sony Ericsson T68i

The two main reasons that sold me on this phone were that the T68i features built-in Bluetooth support, opening up countless connectivity opportunities, as well as a built-in modem, allowing it to be used to connect to the Internet. Additional features in its favors were its light weight, attractive shape and layout, nice color screen, feature-rich software, as well as its popularity and proven track record.

Phone features:

  • 101×80 pixel 256 color LCD display
  • 700 mAH Li-Polymer Battery
  • 84 gram total weight with battery
  • 100x48x20 mm overall size with battery
  • Built-in antenna
  • Built-in modem
  • Calendar
  • Contacts
  • E-mail (POP3 & IMAP4)
  • Games
  • MMS (Multimedia Messaging Services)
  • MMS templates
  • Mobile chat
  • Picture Phonebook
  • Phonealbum
  • Sync ML
  • Synchronization with Windows PC
  • Vibrating Call Alert
  • Voice Dialing
  • Wallpaper download (optional software required)
  • Screensaver
  • Predictive text input

Network features:

  • Tri-band support – GSM 900, GSM 1800, GSM 1900
  • GPRS, General Packet Radio Services
  • WTLS class 3
  • EMS (Enhanced Messaging Services)
  • High Speed Circuit Switch Data (HSCSD)
  • SIM Application Toolkit
  • WAP 2.0

The phone is very light, small, and comfortably shaped. The keys, while small and oval, are easy to feel and press. The two buttons to make and end calls (as well as various other functions) are bigger and easy to operate with your thumb. New additions were an context-sensitive Options key which acts similar to the right mouse button context menu, and an innovative joystick for menu navigation.

The screen is not the biggest with a resolution of 101×80 pixels, but it displays information clear and bright, though in sunlight it is a little bit dim. The screen does not feel crammed at any time, and the text size is adjustable by profile to small, medium, or large. Both text and pictures are easy to distinguish.

The standard battery on the phone is a 700mAh Li-Polymer unit that charges fast, and delivers excellent performance. According to specs you can get up to 12 hours of talk time and up to 390 hours of standby time. Of course mileage will vary depending on use. Many conversations, constant use of the menu, frequent WAP access, and/or heavy use of Bluetooth will exhaust the battery at a higher rate. Charging time for the battery is a relatively short 2 hours and 15 minutes (approximately). Due to the already high capacity, upgrading the battery is not necessary.

The phone’s color LCD screen not only supports text but also games and images. It comes with 8 pre-programmed games. Unfortunately it does not have the capability of downloading more games or replacing the existing ones. There used to be two secret games in older versions of the phone, but they do not exist anymore. There are still “secret game codes” all over the Internet, but they only worked in really old firmware versions of the phone, they will not work in current versions.

Supported image types are regular JPG and GIF formats. The following components can be customized; Greeting (splash screen on startup), background (wallpaper in the main window and the menu), screensaver (image displayed for a few seconds before it goes into standby mode). You can either customize them individually, or download entire themes that include these images, as well as ringtones (another customizable feature) and different color schemes. More details and instructions for downloading information to the phone will follow later in this article.

The phone supports WAP functionality (Wireless Access Protocol), enabling access to WAP enabled webpages and email. You can browse for news, financial information, movie times, sports results, etc. on this “miniature” Internet. For email, the common POP3 and IMAP4 mail protocols are supported for easy access to POP and Exchange mail servers.

In addition to conversations by phone, you can also communicate by chat either via instant messaging over WAP, or the popular SMS, or MMS, an enhanced messaging mode that allows adding pictures, animations, and melodies to messages. Predictive writing mode helps you type by trying to guess the word you wish to type and offering possible suggestions to avoid having to type the entire word and saving keystrokes.

The phone supports the GSM 900, GSM 1800, and GSM 1900 network modes, making for versatile use almost around the globe. Enabling the phone in a different country is as simple as removing the battery and swapping the SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) card for a version that works where you are. Prepaid SIM cards can be easily purchased. One caveat to watch out for is that even though the phone supports all three network modes, the provider that sold you the phone might have locked it to work only with their network. This lock can be circumvented to reenable compatibility with all three network modes (more about unlocking the phone later).

Built-in Bluetooth support is a big step towards the next generation of networks called PAN (Personal Area Network). Bluetooth has a typical range of only up to 33 feet (10 Meters), but it is extremely versatile. This international standard allows devices within range to automatically identify each other, decide whether they should communicate, establish a connection, authenticate, and exchange data. Imagine the ability of walking into your office, and have your phone synchronize its data automatically with your Outlook calendar and address book without taking the phone out of your pocket. Or having a wireless headset for your phone. Or using your laptop to use the modem built into the phone to get online. All without wires, all without the need to configure devices or the need to manually initiate a connection first every single time. All using the same single technology irregardless of brand, make, or model. All with very low power consumption that doesn’t significantly drain the battery of the device. Futuristic crazy talk? Not at all. This phone can do all that out of the box. Later in this article you’ll read more about how it works and what it can do.

The phone also supports data transfer via a serial or USB data cable, as well as Infrared. Data cables have the disadvantage of having to deal with a cable, and Infrared has the disadvantage of requiring line of sight, making them undesirable for my scenario. While they are possible and work, this article will deal exclusively with data transfer via Bluetooth.

Another advanced feature is voice dialing, which allows establishing a connection with a simple voice command. This also works in conjunction with headsets and handsfree kits. I set up voice dialing for a few numbers, following the simple instructions in the manual, and tested it successfully with the Bluetooth headset. All commands were recorded properly during setup, and I was able to dial various numbers on the first try once I understood the sequence of interaction.

Synchronization with a Windows PC is another handy feature. The T68i is fully SyncML compliant. SyncML is an open standard designed for the exchange of calendars, files, phone books, and other important data between applications and devices via wired, Infrared, WAP or Bluetooth connections irregardless of brand or model. Included is a light version of Extended System’s XTNDConnect PC software that lets you sync contacts with Microsoft Outlook. To sync with other application such as Lotus Notes or Act!, an upgrade to the full version of the software for an additional fee is required. More in-depth information on synching follows later in this article.

Use of the phone has been very pleasant so far. Even though I switched from a Nokia phone with a completely different screen, layout, menu, and feel, it took almost no time to become familiar with how the T68i operates. Voice quality is good and consistent. Everything on the phone worked as advertised, I did not experience any bugs or crashes.

By now you probably get the idea. The T68i is a versatile phone, loaded with features and technology. It is light, attractive, and user-friendly, it is a quality device that delivers solid performance and takes a big step forward into the future of mobile computing.

Next, I will go a little bit more into detail about the provider I use the phone with, AT&T Wireless.


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