Searching for the right mobile phone can be quite a chore. Operating system, features, connectivity options, form factors and design are all considerations facing anyone eyeing to purchase a new mobile phone. While all mobile phones are different in proposition, they are, oddly enough, similar in the sense that most are somewhat bland and barely attract the attention of keen shoppers. However, there are times when a new model will come along to reinvigorate interest and draw attention to its style and functionality. The phone we're talking about here is the new Sony Ericsson M600i, a smartphone that's geared at both businessmen and mobile warriors alike.
For starters, the M600i is, like most products, crafted almost entirely out of plastic, which means there's not much to write home about as far as first impression goes. Offsetting that however, is a tasteful blend of manageability and functionality, evident by its petite 112g frame, a QWERTY keyboard, a TFT touch screen with stylus and a three-way jog dial. In fact, the M600i is one of the lightest smartphone around considering it packs the list of aforementioned components.
Located closely to the desktop button on the right profile of the phone is the proprietary Memory Stick Micro (M2) storage expansion slot, which is not surprising coming from a company that has stubbornly stuck to its own proprietary format right from the off. While small, Memory Stick Micro is currently holding its own against microSD, offering similar storage capacities ranging from 256MB upwards to 1GB – theoretical ceiling stands at 32GB.
Having both a touch screen display and a QWERTY keyboard means the M600i is very similar to the Palm Treo 650 and Dopod 818 Pro in that has a lot to offer in the way of data input. Handwriting recognition is decent and we found it had no difficulty in recognizing varying handwriting patterns. However, since tapping the screen could mean either a full stop or selection where the cursor is, users may encounter slight inconveniences when punctuating. As familiar as the onboard QWERTY keyboard is, Sony Ericsson's version for the M600i differs in that each key represents not one but two alphabets, which means it will take some time for users to get adjusted to the space saving keypad input offered by the M600i.
Despite our best efforts and the fact that the keys were very responsive, typing messages on the M600i was noticeably slower compared to typing on a Treo 650.
What we really liked about the M600i is its Exchange ActiveSync Support. Essentially, this can be configured for push e-mail or scheduled retrievals while users are on the move and away from their office workstations. And since POP3 and IMAP4 are also supported, personal email accounts such as Gmail and Yahoo! mail are all just a button away.
Another feature that is sure to get a thumbs-up from users is the preinstalled Opera 8 web browser. Like its desktop equivalent, Opera mobile browser offers tabbed browsing in either portrait or a more handy landscape format. Another major benefit is that pages are automatically formatted to strike a balance between browsing speed and visual experience on a small screen.
Perhaps the best part of its specifications is its underlying Symbian operating system, which has gained significant acceptance by both manufacturers and end-users over Microsoft's Windows Mobile platform. The merit comes mostly from the multi-tasking speed and overall responsiveness of the former platform that is further complemented by a simple yet intuitive layout that doesn't require a lot of system resources to execute.
The Sony Ericsson M600i may have usability and features swinging in its favor, but its Achilles'' heel of lacking Wi-Fi in comparison against the Nokia E61 is hard to be overlooked, especially as Wi-Fi continues to gain momentum and support. What the M600i offers that the E60 lacks is a solid combination of stylus input, a manageable form factor, extensive email support and a proven Symbian operating system.
Crucially, if Wi-Fi connectivity is more important than having a touchscreen, then the Nokia E61 is a better choice, but for everything else, the Sony Ericsson M600i is more than competent to be your able electronic assistant, be it for business or personal usages – just be reminded that it doesn't have imaging capability.