Music playback is as you would expect from a Sony Ericsson handset: pretty good. There is an equaliser with a few settings, and you can tweak it manually but you can't save even one manual setting which is a bind. The speaker is very loud, though.
On board memory is limited to 12MB and you'll need to buy a Memory Stick Micro to add more as none is supplied with the phone.
Battery life from a full charge got me about six and a half hours of music playback. Sony Ericsson says the battery should give you nine hours of talk and 370 hours on standby.
It is odd that this mobile doesn't have an FM radio to sit alongside mobile music, though, and as ever I can't forgive Sony Ericsson for its proprietary headset connector. This shares the mains power socket and the PC connecting socket which terminates at the other end in a USB connector. Once connected to a PC you can use the provided Disc2Phone software for music transfer, or file copy data such as photos shot with the camera directly.
The 2-megapixel camera is flashless and lacks auto focus. You can't frame live images of yourself as the lens resides on the back of the handset. It's also only visible when the slider is up as it's mounted inside the back of the casing. You can blog photos direct from the mobile, and when shown on the handset screen photos look good.
But I found the camera to be adequate and no more. The coloured dish shot indoors under normal household lighting with automatic settings has reasonable colour reproduction but is fairly dull.
Outdoors the passion flower photo was taken at a distance of about a foot. The white is woefully over exposed. The other photo, of white flowers, shows that the camera has trouble dealing with detail - there is loss of definition and some distortion around the edges of the image. It also highlights the limit of the fixed focus lens when shooting close range subjects - again the camera was about a foot away for this shot.
The S500i is not up to Sony Ericsson's usual high standards for a mobile. It does well in the looks department, but the features aren't much to write home about.