Sony Ericsson T290i

28 Apr 2005

Product: Mobile phone
Price: €79
Similar to cheesy pop songs, this phone’s a grower. Having been spoiled for months writing reviews of top-end and top-dollar mobile phones for businesspeople I thought someone was having a laugh when I was handed Sony Ericsson’s latest offering, the T290i (pictured).

First reaction — this one’s the runt of the litter. I figured that this phone was unashamedly aimed at the inexpensive and cheerful end of the mobile market and judging by its price I was right.

While Sony Ericsson might be at the top notch in terms of designing intelligent multimedia phones with excellent 1.5 and 2 megapixel cameras, ones you would expect to be expensive — consider them the Mercedes Benz of mobile phones for now — the T290i could be termed the Skoda in the family and you will see why.

Picking up the phone, it was extraordinary light and it felt unfinished as if it had been rushed off the assembly line. A slight shelving of plastic jutting out either side of the phone only adds to this feeling. In other words, it felt to me like a pretend phone that might find its way out of a Christmas cracker. To add insult to injury, it was probably the first non-camera phone I’ve seen from Sony Ericsson.

But similar to the Skoda — endlessly ragged as an inexpensive import from the former Communist bloc — a look under the bonnet reveals a sturdy little machine capable of taking a beating and offering endless reliability.

In fact, I wasn’t the person originally meant to be reviewing this phone, but upon receiving it I just slipped in my SIM and forgot about it. Three hours later I realised that I had been using a phone that ought to have been alien to me and yet everything about it was intuitive.
The predictive text messaging and input mode was a revelation insofar as I didn’t have to spend a good 10 minutes trying to find out how to switch on the T9 dictionary mode. Every time you send a message you are given the option of using the T9 dictionary or going manual.

Another nice feature was the phone’s alarm clock system. Most phones, when you set an alarm call, unless you deactivate it you will find yourself being woken every day. The T290i allows you to select specific days for your alarm call, which was a nice touch.

Browsing through the specifications is a brusque reminder of how much advanced technology can now be crammed into a tiny space. I initially thought the phone was solely aimed at teenagers but it can function perfectly as a GPRS business phone with its capacity for internet, email and business card exchange.

For the sporty types among you — especially joggers who hate carrying bulky mobiles that will just bounce around in your pocket — the lightness of the device (79 grams) coupled with a stop watch feature make it a must have.

What surprised me most about this phone was how attached I became to it in a relatively short period of time. The only real downsides from my perspective were the closeness and smallness of the keys and the screen was much smaller than what I’m used to. But my initial impression of this device has changed. It is no longer a piece of kit rushed off the assembly line to fill what seemed like an obvious market gap. It is possibly the forerunner of a market-breaking device if a version with a built-in camera becomes available.

The Sony Ericsson T290i comes in two colours, Frosty White and Misty Black (who makes up these names?). The product is available now in most mobile phone stores for €79.

By John Kennedy