Product review: Sony Ericsson P1i

18 Dec 2007

It seems like a long time since Sony Ericsson has brought out a business smart phone device.

Everything else has been for the consumer market and despite its edge with a 3.2-megapixel camera – and lately a five-megapixel camera phone – it’s about time it got back into this market.

It hasn’t exactly been napping. Sony Ericsson has without a doubt achieved an edge in terms of camera technology. The last device I would have reviewed from its stable – the K800i – was ahead of the rest of the mobile market with its 3.2-megapixel technology, and lately its K850i comes with a five-megapixel camera.

Sony Ericsson isn’t really producing phones with cameras, it is producing cameras that incidentally are phones!

The new business phone, the P1i, which I’ve been playing with for the past few weeks, comes with a 3.2-megapixel camera. The device itself is quite chic for a business device. It comes with brushed steel and the keys light up red. There’s definitely some kind of minimalist Scandinavian influence there.

But business phones aren’t about cameras, they are about what productivity you can get from them. Indeed some corporate buyers actually specify you don’t have a camera on phones for security purposes.

For this reason the P1i is a mixed blessing. The camera technology is superb, aided and abetted by a large 262k-colour screen, and users can snap quality pictures and videos with impunity, storing up to 4GB with a memory card.

However, added into the device is a really cool business card scanning technology. You just snap a picture of a business card, hit ‘process’ and information like names and phone numbers populate the address book.

You can then synch this up with your PC back at the office and your personal database is fully up to date. As a person who loses business cards regularly, this is a blessing. But for security-conscious businesses, this opens the door to all kinds of possibilities. It could be the ultimate spy gadget.

The operating system on the device is straightforward to use, supported by a stylus and reasonably good handwriting recognition tool. However, navigation can be a little annoying – there’s a ‘back’ button on the side of the device as well as a scrolling wheel.

If you’re used to function buttons on the front of mobile phones, the learning curve could take a few days.

The device comes with a built-in Wi-Fi radio so you can access wireless local area networks from hotels, airports or on your couch at home.

Another function that came in quite handy was the metric converter – I was able to convert feet and inches into square yards instantly without having to revert to my long-lost schooling.

It is clear that Sony Ericsson has managed to make a device that functions as a business phone without looking as clunky, cold or discreet as most of these products by using the design experience gained over the past four years of innovative consumer devices. It’s a business phone that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

By John Kennedy