Sony Ericsson P1i – first impressions

Having used the Sony Ericsson P990 smartphone for some time, it was with some anticipation I opened the box to the new Sony Ericsson P1i. The P1i is, or appears to be, a M600i with “smart phone add-ons”. For those having used the P-series (P8xx, P9xx), the P1i makes for a welcome change in its much slimmer appearance and handling.

One of the most irritating things with the previous P-series is that Sony Ericsson insisted on enabling “animation effects” in the operating system; sliding selectors, fade-in, fade-out, icon effects, and so on. Later versions of the P9xx firmware allowed for an option to disable this. Why anybody who has half a finger in the right place would want these stupid effect in a telephone is way beyond my comprehension. To make a long story short, the P1i comes equipped with an option to disable the fireworks.

Most companies want to change very little from successful previous/past products because they risk losing their faithful crowd of hang-arounds (customers, in this case). Sony Ericsson is no different, and although the P1i is changed in many areas, it is very similar to the P990 is many other areas. One of the most irritating similarity between the two products is the speed, or lack thereof. The P1i is almost identical in sluggishness, if not worse in some places, to that of the P990. Returning from the “messaging” application (SMS, MMS, IMAP, etc) to the “main screen” is really slow. Using messaging shortcuts (where the recipient or recipients are pre-determined and all you want the phone to do is to let you begin typing) is really tedious.

Since Sony Ericsson has used a previously released product (the M600i) as a template or model for the P1i, there are obvious upsides to the “new and improved” design. It feels better in your hand, the camera is semi-useful, the included slip-in slimmed carrying pouch is actually usefull, the included Wayfinder GPS software works with the included GPS hardware (bluetooth), and it’s nicely balanced in physical dimensions somewhere between a brick (smart phone) and a regular mobile phone.

I don’t care much for the new and improved keyboard; not that it isn’t clever, but it’s not a much needed “improvement”. The old tapping system has worked for years, and I quite honestly don’t see why it has to be changed (at least not for western languages). If you want a “full keyboard”, use the virtual keyboard with the stylus.

On the P1i, Sony Ericsson relies quite a bit on the touch screen. In some places, it’s more of a requirement that you use it than an option. This obviously puts some strain on the display. Why Sony Ericsson can include a GPS (and needed software) bundled with the phone, but not a decent screen protector leaves a huge question mark in my mind. I don’t get it.. how much can a small piece of “clever plastic” cost?

On one issue, Sony Ericsson has really hit the nail on the head, or the other way around. Power supplies are compatible with previous models (like the P990) as well as current non-smart phone models. This makes for a much less complicated environment in a home with more than one mobile phone, and it lets me use my in-car charger from the P990.

The P1i uses the micro (and micro really means small in this context) memory stick format. This is really an annoyingly small format, unless you have a pair of tweezers for fingers.

Like many of Sony Ericsson’s phones, bluetooth connectivity really works. Transferring files and data such as calendar entries and contacts from the P990 using bluetooth worked like a charm. Until I wanted to transfer my notes from the P990 that is, since the P990 will not allow me to send more than one “note” at a time (I’d like a word with the developer of that feature).

After having used the phone for a while, I’m leaning towards more positive than negative findings.

The biggest con is still the lack of speed. For me, it’s really disappointing. If I can navigate faster than the phone can give feedback, then the phone is too slow, it’s that simple. I really hope that the people behind the Symbian “operating system” are listening. If not.. WAKE UP! Another annoying thing is that the phone (like other Sony Ericsson phones) require a SIM card to even get passed the initial screen. This is a stupid decision on Sony Ericsson’s part. WHY does it require a SIM card, if all I want to do is to enable “Flight mode” and access a note, or a contact that’s stored in the phone? Sony Ericsson also did not choose to include support for “Turbo 3G”, which I find odd to put it mildly.

As I mentioned previously, the physical dimensions of the phone makes for a nice change, it quite nicely fits into the pocket. The weight isn’t an issue. The bundled GPS is also a good move. I agree with Sony Ericsson’s thinking that the GPS should probably be external to cut down on the size of the phone, save battery when not needed, etc. But I’m quite certain that all “smart phones” will have a built-in GPS in 2-3 years. Using the P990 by our cottage in the archipelago would yield random 3G coverage at best. And in fairness to the P990, the coverage isn’t all that good in the Stockholm archipelago. The P1i, however, is much better at picking up a strong signal. Whether or not it’ll fry my braincells in the process remains to be seen.

All in all, if you’re a previous Sony Ericsson Pxx-user, don’t hesitate to upgrade, it’s a cool phone. If you want a fast smart phone with the latest gadgets built-in, don’t even consider it. Oh yeah, did I mention the P1i, of course, features the wonderful QuadraPop tetris-clone? 🙂

Read more:
Official Sony Ericsson P1i product page (UK)
C|Net Asia, P1i review, P1i review
T3, P1i review
Gear Diary, P1i review

My previous postings on the Pxxx-series:
Sony Ericsson P990i – First impressions
Sony Ericsson P990i – Second impressions

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