Sony Ericsson K850i – My Experience

Turning on the K850i.I’ve had my new Sony Ericsson K850i which I bought on the $49 Maxi Cap account with Vodafone for a bit over a month, so I think now is the time to write up how I have found the phone, and how I have found the transition to Vodafone from Optus pre-paid. I’ll break this up into a couple of posts, this one being focussed on the phone.

K850i 5.0 Megapixel Cybershot Camera

I’ll start with the camera, because that’s one of the big market points of the k850i. It has a 5 megapixel camera as well as a standard camera flash. It is smaller than most basic digital camera’s, including my 7 megapixel Olympus FE-210.

The camera quality is excellent, for a phone. It is definitely not comparable to my Olympus at all, or even my parents older Sony Cybershot digital camera’s. It is however still decent quality, and once the images are scaled down for the web like many of my photo’s are, the quality difference is negligible anyway.

For some untouched comparisons have a look at the following four photo’s, two taken from the K850i and two taken from the FE-210. I used the top quality settings on the K850i and the second from the top on the FE-210 (the top quality settings double the file size of second from the top, but the quality difference is negligible unless there is poor lighting). Note that the K850i photo’s are around 1.4mb each and the FE-210 photo’s are around 1.7mb each.

K850i FE-210
Photo off my parents balcony 1 using my K850i. Photo off my parents balcony 1 using my FE-210.
Photo off my parents balcony 2 using my K850i. Photo off my parents balcony 2 using my FE-210.

The camera is accessible the same way as your regular digital camera, you do not have to access the standard phone functions at all to get into it. There is a button on the side, press it and you are in camera mode.

Camera mode turns the screen on its side so that you have a larger view and also so that it is the standard aspect ratio for photo’s (320×240). Turn the phone on it’s side and it is just like using any other camera. You have a button that, when pushed half way will focus, and pressed completely will take a photo, as well as a switch to change between photo’s, video and viewing the photo gallery.

The K850i Camera and Bluetooth

The bluetooth capabilities of the phone are extremely useful, so useful in fact that it makes me wish all digital cameras were bluetooth capable. All I have to do is take photo’s. Then whenever I need the photo’s on my computer, all I have to do is tell my MacBook Pro to sync with the phone and I can copy the photo’s straight across. No fiddling with cables or installing software, it just works. Of course the first time I did it I had to set the phone to allow the MacBook to sync without asking, but thats easy to do being an option on the phone when it syncs. Now even better is the bluetooth range seems to be around 15m including going from inside my car, through 3 brick walls, 1 of them double brick (yeah I accidentally left my phone in the car, I couldn’t find it but I could get the Mac to sync so at least I knew it had to be somewhere around the house). So this means not only do I not need cables, but I can sync with the phone from pretty much anywhere in the house, and as the phone is always on, I don’t have to worry about finding it to turn it on either. Be great if I could do that with my digital camera.

K850i Storage

It came with a 512mb Sandisk Memory Stick Micro (M2), which I find kind of odd. Since it is a Sony phone, I expected it to be a Sony Memory Stick Micro (M2), but hey, I’m not complaining.

The built-in phone memory is nothing special at only 40mb, but this is compensated for since the memory stick reader supports up to 4gb. It is part of Sony’s Cybershot range, so it is meant to be able to be used the same way you would a digital camera (i.e. removing the memory sticks to go get photo’s printed and so on), compared to the Walkman range that have large quantities of built in memory and behave similarly to an MP3 player.

The K850i Media Player

Just because the main focus of the K850i is on the digital camera side doesn’t mean it doesn’t have other nifty features. It has a media player that is reminiscient of the PSP and is similar to the Walkman series of phones. It plays back music and video’s with no trouble at all. However, if you want to use headphones, you have to use the provided stereo handsfree headphones. Audio won’t be sent to a bluetooth handsfree and it doesn’t have a normal headphone jack. The included headphones are pretty decent though, the audio quality is well above average for ear buds.

The loudspeaker is fairly loud and the audio playback quality on it is quite good as well.

As I mentioned earlier, when in camera mode, the screen is rotated. When you are in the media player, be it just in the menu, viewing a video, listening to music, or going through the photo gallery, it has a sensor so that if you turn the phone on it’s side, the screen will rotate so you have a wider viewing screen. Turn it back upright and it will rotate back to normal.

K850i Navigation

One of the things that was most confusing to me at first (having not read the manual) was the partial touch screen. The 3 items along the bottom of the screen are touch, whereas the rest of the menu is navigated via the keypad.

When I go to use other phones now though, I almost always go to touch the screen for those menu items before realising it’s just mine that works like that.

In saying that its touch, I’m not entirely sure how true that is. Sony do not seem to market this or make this claim at all, and in experimenting with it, it isn’t exactly true. If you are careful to press just the screen and move your finger down over the buttons apparent location, it doesn’t seem to do anything. The plastic strip where the 3 white dots that indicate the menu items are is pressable, but just pressing it down doesn’t seem to activate the menu item either. It seems to be something to do with the little white dots, you just have to touch over them softly and the menu item will be pressed. The dots also glow in the dark, just to look even cooler.

In general the operating system on the K850i is pretty quick, occasionally when you try to open something just as you get a message it will confuse it a little, but that doesn’t happen often.

K850i Shortcut Navigation and Keypad

The K850i has shortcut keys galore, most of which are customisable. As I mentioned earlier, the camera is accessible via a separate camera button on the side of the phone, so that’s that taken care of. Then there are three buttons along the bottom of the touch screen, these three are not customisable. The one on the left is a shortcut to the media player, the one on the right is a shortcut to Vodafone Live, and the centre button is the menu button.

The keypad has five shortcut keys. The first four of these are located on the blue (or green) navigation square, one for each direction. These four are completely customisable. The fifth is next to the call/answer button. The button is the toolbar button which opens up the toolbar. The toolbar has four sub-sections, New Events, Running Apps, My Shortcuts and Vodafone Live. If you have a new message, missed calls and so on, they show up under New Events. If you have any applications running, they show up in Running Apps. The My Shortcuts section opens by default if there are no New Events, and is completely customisable. You can add as many shortcuts to here as you like. The Vodafone Live menu has links to various Vodafone Live sections.

So if you like shortcuts theres plenty available. I personally don’t use the toolbar shortcuts often, but the others I find to be very useful. The only annoying one is the Vodafone Live shortcut on the right of the touch screen as this is the same button as the lock keypad button, so as you can imagine, it gets bumped quite often. Luckily Vodafone don’t charge you to access Vodafone Live as long as you don’t download any paid content.

The keypad uses smallish square buttons which can be a little annoying to start with as they are quite firm and can be a pain for text messaging, but you get used to them fairly quick and they soften up soon enough.

K850i Alarms

The K850i has slots for five different save-able alarm times which I find extremely useful coming from a phone that only had one alarm available that had to be set prior to use every time. Mind you, now that I’ve gotten used to it, I think another one or two would be even more useful. Each alarm can be set to repeat by day. So I have an alarm that repeats every week, such as 5:30am for Wednesdays and Thursdays. Then I have three set for other common times I would use, such as 7:30am, 8am, and 9am. The fifth alarm I use for any other time that I don’t have set. If I want to use one of these non-recurring alarms, all I have to do is go into alarms using my shortcut key and turn on the one I want. Simple as that. Each alarm can have it’s alarm sound customised as well, should you want to.

K850i Profiles

As with most phones, the K850i supports multiple profiles, so you can have your normal profile where the ringer is on, silent where the ringer is off but vibrate is on and so on. I don’t know how many people use more than these two, but I use a third on a regular basis so support for more than these is important for me. I have had a phone on silent get a call during a lecture, it was surprising how loud it was. So I have a third profile where the phone does nothing but display a visual notification that I use in lectures.

Other K850i Applications

It also has the other usual things like a calendar, stopwatch, timer, calculator etc, one novel feature I came across by accident is the “Remote Control” feature. When synced via bluetooth, I can use the phone as a remote control for my computer. Not just DVD menu functions either, I can move the mouse and left and right click as well. The phone has a few remote control profiles that specify different buttons for different things depending on what you are doing, but they all do basically the same things, they are just different names.

Another interesting little application it comes with is “FaceWarp” which allows you to take a photo and then warp it with any of the many built in warp effects:

  • Upnose
  • Twister
  • Small Nose
  • Wide Smile
  • Grit
  • Big Face
  • Professor
  • Alien
  • Big Nose
  • Alien Hybrid
  • Gobbler
  • Square
  • Sharpchin
  • Long-faced
  • Happy Fool
  • Insect
  • Boring

Some of these are quite similar or don’t do much, but there are also some interesting ones, such as Professor.

Other K850i Features

The K850i supports uploading photos or video’s straight to a Blogger account and writing blogs from your phone, however I have not used this as of yet and probably won’t since I have moved over to WordPress.

Another big plus is that my Bluetrek Tattoo bluetooth hands-free works perfectly with it, so I have been able to give it a decent test and will be able to give a proper review of it soon. It’s a wonderful little device to have now that I have a phone to use it with.

K850i Battery Life

I have found the battery-life of the K850i to be reasonable. Depending on usage it seems to last from 3 to 5 days which also seems to match the Bluetrek Tattoo’s battery life. This is quite nice since it means I can put them both on to charge at the same time and know that as long as the phone battery is fine the Bluetrek Tattoo will be as well (it doesn’t have a battery indicator).

K850i Negatives

The K850i has a built-in radio, but unfortunately, the antenna is built into the provided hands-free, and it won’t allow you to use the radio unless they are plugged in. So even if you intend to use the loudspeaker, you still have to have the hands-free connected which is frustrating, but I don’t use the radio enough for it to be a big deal.

My only other real complaint about the phone is that there is not a key dedicated to being an on switch for the “torch”. You can set a shortcut key to it, but I have more important uses for those keys. This makes the torch a little bit of a pain to use, but it’s not a big deal really.

The K850i Overall

All in all, it is an excellent phone, and is excellent value in my opinion. It does support video calls and has a second camera for video call usage, but I have not had a chance to try this out yet. When I do though, I’ll let you know my thoughts on it.

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