Our relationship with the mobile phone is changing, and it is not just the high end phones that show evidence of this. The Sony Ericsson T715 is a new mid range phone available on 3 that comes preloaded with lots of features that will enable you to enjoy the web on the move, including built in Twitter and Facebook clients. You can also make calls and write texts on the phone, but that isn't very interesting; what is more interesting is that this is a great phone if you are into the "constant checking culture" now thought by 3 to be driving mobile broadband usage. Thanks to the kind folk at 3MobileBuzz I was able to try this phone out and see what it has to offer.
The phone arrived in a quite a small box, something which took me by surprise. Inside was the phone, a battery, power adapter, a quick start guide and some leaflets with legal stuff in. The phone itself is very light and is has an aluminium and plastic case and a slide out keypad. No USB lead was in the box which was a bit of a shame, but the phone does have a MicroSD card slot so you can transfer your pictures from the built in 3.2 Megapixel camera using that rather than Bluetoothing them all if you wish. The phone felt like it was built well, although I didn't try dropping it or anything as it was a review unit! It has a nice 2.2" (5.588cm) screen which makes using the built in applications and camera quite pleasant. It is also available in pink.
When the phone is switched on and you are past the initial setup screens you can go a main menu, when you navigate this the vibration triggers momentarily providing almost a "force feedback" effect that you get on games consoles! A nice touch I thought. The graphic design on the phone is really good and it has a very modern look and feel throughout. There are a lot of applications and games already installed on the phone, and it also has a built in media player that will play music and video files from the internal 90MB of memory or the SD card. The media player even has a "Mega Bass™" option and if you are not happy with the presets there is a graphic equaliser. I felt the main menu could be better organised though and finding applications could be a bit of a struggle. For example when I was looking for the Twitter application I looked under Messaging and found Facebook and Messenger, but no Twitter. I then thought maybe it wasn't installed because I had a review phone, but then I found it under Entertainment -> Applications by accident.
It is the first time I've seen a Twitter client supplied on a phone as supplied, and a welcome addition. The client itself was attractive and offers the ability to check your direct messages (something sadly missing from the Twitter mobile site) but I think it would work best for people who follow not many people as each tweet takes up quite a bit of screen space thanks to the way it is rendered. The Facebook client was good too. It looks like it was especially designed for Sony Ericsson. It offered a good way to keep up with your Facebook friends and has the ability to easily message them too. This is a phone that seems to have been built with the web in mind at every step, it also had clients already installed for YouTube, Yell, Skype (which of course if free on 3), Premierscores08 (something to do with Football?), Accuweather, a TV client (to watch TV via 3G), TrackID and Google Maps (a handy addition but the lack of GPS in the device could stop it reaching its full potential. So you will be able to make good use of the mobile web without necessarily needing to install lots of extra software yourself.
RSS is really well supported in the phone. It has a built in RSS reader that will download feeds and once downloaded it is possible to read them even if you have lost network signal. When you load up a mobile web page with the built in browser a large RSS icon is flashed up on the screen if a feed is available and you can subscribe to it. The built in web browser is pretty good and renders mobile optimised web pages really nicely. The 2.2" screen is slightly larger than many mobiles so you a more spacious layout for the pages. Sometimes though sites are not optimised for the mobile web, so using the RSS feed can be really useful to get a version of the site's content that you can easily read on your mobile. When feeds update, the T715 has a rather cool feature on its standby screen where it will step through a ticker of the latest RSS item titles. If you are into mashups this could be great fun.
The T715 also has some applications that are not to do with the web such as VideoDJ, MusicDJ, a sound recorder and a fun program that lets you apply effects to photographs you have taken with the camera. I tried out the MusicDJ and made a little tune which was fun. Interestingly it has a torch application that not just illuminates the bulb on the front of the phone (normally used with the camera) but also has an option to make it flash SOS in Morse code! Not sure why you would need that, but a nice touch (please comment if you can think of a use). It also has the ability to act as a remote control using the bluetooth connection. It has different modes on it, but I tried out the mode to control the mouse and arrow keys of an Ubuntu machine with the phone, which I got to work with the aid of the Blueman software. I could see this being handy if you were doing a presentation. It was possible to connect to the phone using WAMMU. I did not extensively test this, but tried out some operations and they seemed to work. I had to use "Guided configuration", select "Bluetooth" and enter the hexadecimal id number of the device (which I found by looking a Blueman).
The T715 offers a lot of functionality out of the box for a very reasonable price, but what is really interesting about it is the effort made to make it into a good phone to use with the mobile web and Web 2.0 services. This is a sign that mobile web use is becoming more important to the networks across many different segments of the mobile phone market, and not just premium priced phones. Perhaps this is due to services like Twitter and Facebook becoming more mainstream. Overall I liked the phone, the only thing that let it down a bit was the way some of the menu items were organised, but other than that it looked like a really good device to use to check on the world while you are out and about.
The Sony Ericsson T175 is available on 3 with price plans starting from £13.50 per month.