Not everyone is looking for the latest smartphone when it comes to buying a mobile. Some folk just want something cheap and simple to make calls on. If you’re one of these people then Sony Ericsson has you in its sights with the S312, a budget handset that can be picked up for around £40 on pay as you go.
These days there’s plenty of competition out there when it comes to budget mobiles and even at £40 the S312 is far from the cheapest phone on the market. However, generally speaking we’ve found that at the bottom end of the market the cheaper the handset, the uglier and more annoying it is to use. Many are crippled by keypads that feel like they’re ready to fall to pieces even before you take them out of the box or screens with poor viewing angles that lead to murky looking text. However, with the S312 Sony Ericsson seems keen to show that a cheaper price tag doesn’t always have to lead to poorer build quality or less desirable styling. The question is, does it succeed?
Certainly the S312 is more attractive than you would expect at this price. The phone has a traditional candy bar design, but Sony Ericsson has added some nice touches such as the mirrored coating on the screen and cool looking keypad where the buttons are arranged across four horizontal bars. It feels very solid to hold and although the silver finish on the rear looks a little bit plasticky, it doesn’t distract too much from the overall attractiveness of the handset.
Interestingly, as on the Sony Ericsson Vivaz, the S312 has two camera controls. One of these takes stills shots while the other is used to shoot video. Whether this is an advantage is debatable, as on most phones a quick flick of the d-pad will change modes anyway. When it comes to saving pictures and videos the phone only has 15MB of storage onboard so Sony Ericsson has added a memory card slot. However, this is a tad awkward to get at as it’s hidden beneath the battery directly under the SIM card holder. Even worse though, this is an M2 memory slot. Not only is this different to the microSD standard used by most phones, necessitating you buying another card if you're swapping brands, M2 cards are also more expensive. With most recent efforts like the Elm, and Vivaz using microSD, it's very strange to see Sony Ericsson reverting to its proprietary ways on this phone.
Another slight issue with the phone’s design is that it doesn’t have a standard headphone jack. Instead audio is piped through the traditional Sony Ericsson charging port. Normally, you can at least listen using a basic bundled headset but, presumably as a cost cutting measure, you don't even get this. You can buy headphone adapters for this socket but, again, such a thing isn't included.