Sony Ericsson has sprung yet another surprise for consumers by launching the SE S500i that is, as they claim, a phone that will bring you closer to nature. This intimacy towards nature is embedded into the whole experience of the phone, ranging from the material used right down to the GUI. The result is a combination of graphics and colors that would get the user into the whole nature appreciation mood simply by rotating through scripted visual schemes. The best part is that the changes are random, affecting the menu and wallpaper; the two elements of the phone that are most visible to users.
The nature theme of the S500i is instantly apparent the moment the phone's powered on. You'll see butterflies flying around endlessly or blue colored wasps jumping around in the grass illuminated by the animated wallpaper in the desktop. The 2.0-inch LCD screen is simply stunning. Adding to the experience is the name of the color of our review unit. Arriving in Spring Yellow, the color of our S500i was a good departure from the mass of black and gray shades most preferred by other handset manufacturers. Sony Ericsson has always been daring with their color availability and so it was nice to see the trend continuing.
As different as it is from other lines of Sony Ericsson mobiles, the S500i still offers many trademark designs such as the signature compact aesthetics and navigation cluster, only now it is topped off with LED lights at the sides. This is refreshing to say the least and quite a fitting match to the whole theme of the handset. It's also perfect for those with an active clubbing nightlife.
There is however, a more functional purpose and that is as a visual extension to identify callers simply by setting unique light patterns to contacts. For those with a quick mind, you'll be disappointed to learn that this special theme is programmed to work only on the S500i, which means even if you copy over the theme over to say, K800i for example, it'll only show up as an empty file.
Putting the fancy lights and animated wallpapers aside, the S500i packs a 2.0-megapixel camera, EDGE data support, stereo Bluetooth, radio, web browser, email client, RSS reader and even a built-in blogging tool. However, we wish that it had come with better multimedia features because what it has are pretty basic. In the area of imaging, the 2.0 megapixel camera should be sufficient for most, but granted it is not a Cybershot phone, the S500i can be excused for lacking a built-in flash, self portrait mirror and half shutter autofocus. And since it's also not a Walkman phone, the S500i lacks album art support, but it does have core functions such as track, artist and playlist organization, and equalizer settings.
Although the phone does not pack a whole lot of functions, it is still a very decent mobile. It's refreshing and somewhat unique appeal would go well with folks who dislike mainstream products. Although the buttons on the keypad are small, we did not find them to be unusable for fast replies to short messages, and if you're concerned with battery life, you'll be pleased to know that it has a 9-hour talk time.