The Sony Ericsson S710a camera phone (approximately $399) takes its photo-taking capabilities very seriously: Just one look at the back and you'll know this camera phone is for hard-core shooters. However, big-time talkers will be less pleased.
The S710a is a bulky, albeit sexy-looking, black swivel phone. It has a metal bull's-eye surrounding a snap-open camera lens cover on the back. Open the lens cover and the phone kicks into camera mode. When holding the phone like a camera to take photos or videos, you use the large, bright screen as a viewfinder. The camera's menu system is particularly easy and it responds snappily, though you can't turn off the shutter sound.
Like the Kyocera Koi/KX2 phone, the S710a swivels into camera mode. Unlike the Koi, however, this one takes good pictures. Another advantage is that the S710a uses the high-speed EDGE to zap all those photos into waiting e-mail boxes.
Pictures taken with the S710a's 1.3-megapixel camera were sharp and well balanced. It's got a good lens and image-processing software, so images have better exposure and color balance than on many other phones. Low-light images were just a little less sharp than those taken with the LG VX8000 but much sharper than the Nokia 7610's. Color balance was excellent, matching the results of the Nokia phone. (Check out the comparison in our camera phone gallery.)
The S710a offer a multitude of ways to get the photos off your phone, too, which we like. There's a 32MB Memory Stick Duo card to back up the 32MB of internal memory, e-mail and MMS clients, and an excellent Bluetooth implementation.
Photos aren't the only form of entertainment here; games look good on the big QVGA screen, and the phone comes with a basic MP3-playing application. The S710a also connected easily to our laptop via Bluetooth, so we could use it as an EDGE modem. Sony Ericsson promises Class 10 speeds, which are 160 to 180 kbps in our experience, but we only got 70 to 130 kbps in our tests.
Surprisingly, we were less thrilled with the S710a as a traditional phone. The keys are small, and we had some misdialing problems when keypresses didn't register. The earpiece is loud, but if you don't hold the phone properly against your head, your face rubbing against the phone can create scratchy audio feedback. The speakerphone isn't very loud, but it's very clear. We were happiest with the phone when using a Bluetooth earpiece to converse.
Although a carrier hasn't officially been announced for the S710a, we've seen reports that Cingular will be the carrier for this phone. The S710a's top competition among the Cingular set is the Nokia 7610. While the 7610 is a more powerful smartphone, the S710a's camera form factor is sure to win over the photo-addicted. If you're looking for a phone with a focus on "camera" and you're willing to use a Bluetooth headset, the S710a is a good pic.
SPEC DATA :
Price as Tested: $449.99
Screen Size: 2.3 inches
Web Browser: No
Special Features: Music