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Sony Ericsson Satio U1i - Sony Ericsson Satio U1i

By Edward Chester
Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score

7/10

User Score

Review Price free/subscription

Sliding the camera cover aside reveals the lens, which quite obviously looks the business compared to most pinhole camera phones. Above it sits the Xenon flash while off to the left is an LED that's used as a focus assist for taking photos and a lamp while recording video. The slide mechanism feels very solid and shouldn't be knocked open too easily but it's still easy to operate when needed.

In the box you get a 40in wired headset adapter (with call answer/end button) and a short set of headphones (11in and 25in from plug to the left and right earpieces), which are of the canalphone type and come with a choice of three different silicone tip sizes. They're noticeably better than the usual bundled affair though we'd still be inclined to swap them out for an even better pair for regular music listening. A lipstick-style stylus, USB cable, and wall charger are also included while an AV cable in particular sets this phone apart from the crowd. It's 60in long, connects to the phone's charger socket and terminates in three phono cables for stereo audio and composite video. It's an interesting addition but considering 99.9 per cent of the people that buy this phone will never even take it out the box, we think it could've been an optional extra.

The screen packs in 360 x 640 pixels which, though not the most, is certainly sufficient for sharp images and provides enough desktop space to not make browsing the web and such like too much of a chore. Colour reproduction is particularly impressive with plenty of saturation and a bright overall image yet still impressively dark blacks. Viewing angles are also very good, which is particularly useful when taking photos. Essentially, in terms of viewing, this screen is up there with the best.

However, the touch-sensing isn't exactly stellar. While reasonably sensitive for a resistive screen, the merest glance won't be picked up as on capacitive devices. Along with a lack of multi-touch support, this is particularly noticeable when typing and severely slows you down. Things really aren't helped by the operating system either.

While fairly functional, Symbian S60 just doesn't cut it as a touch-screen operating system when compared to Android, iPhoneOS, and WebOS, especially on such a premium device. In particular the menus are inconsistent with some using lists and others using icons. Scrolling also requires the use of a side scroll bar, while the keyboards leave a lot to be desired in terms of layout. We also found the whole screen locking and button layout somewhat counterintuitive and we regularly closed apps when we meant to just go back a level in menus or locked the phone when we meant to unlock it, etc. Constant notifications that the phone was connecting to Wi-Fi also became very annoying.

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DrDark

January 18, 2010, 8:46 pm

@Ed: I'm confused by a couple of quotes from your review; in 2 successive paragraphs (separated by a picture).





"Speed is another thing this phone isn't left wanting for."


then


"It's not just in terms of speed where this phone trails top smartphones,"





Was this caused the early firmware problems you also mentioned in the review (which made reshooting the video necessary)?

Ed

January 18, 2010, 9:23 pm

Ah yes, that was obviously a hangover from a previous version. Good spot. I'll change it to something slightly less contradictory.

ChrisC

January 19, 2010, 4:04 am

This whole crap UI thing is starting to baffle me! The iPhone, for all it's limitations, still has the benchmark UI, despite the fact it's been out for a few years now. It has the easily understandable layout design which anyone can work out how to navigate, and it has the graphics grunt to make it all nice, smooth and visually appealing. Can someone please explain, how any company looking to launch a phone in the same price bracket, thinks it's acceptable to provide an confusing, slow and unresponsive UI? Who signs these things off? If I was ticking the boxes for Sony Ericsson or any other phone manufacturer, I'd keep sending the developers back into the lab until they'd equaled or exceeded the benchmark. It might take a bit more resource but surely it will ultimately pay off in sales. All I see is manufacturers churning out new phones and none seem to be able to match the iPhone in this area. Sorry, but I see this as fundamental and I can't understand why this keeps happening! We want a viable alternative goddammit!!!

Gordon394

January 19, 2010, 4:14 am

@ChrisC - preaching to the choir. We are equally baffled.

Caleb9ce

January 19, 2010, 6:18 am

@ChrisC, my exact thoughts. How is it that a company like SE can even contemplate releasing a phone with sub-par user experience is beyond me. And from the pictures the build quality seems extremely shoddy.


It is fairly common knowledge that the OS and UI (user experience) are easily the most important features of any smartphone and any handset failing on any of these fronts is destined to fail miserably. The likes of Android, WebOS and even the Sense UI skinned WinMo 6.5 seem light years ahead of this junk.

ffrankmccaffery

January 19, 2010, 2:00 pm

@ChrisC: Clear and concise interfaces don't shift handsets as much as camera resolutions. My kid sister bought this piece of crap over the Palm Pre precisely because of the headline-grabbing 12 megapixels. The Pre's interface is just as impressive as the iPhones and yet its selling dismally.

ChaosDefinesOrder

January 19, 2010, 2:14 pm

The problem is mainly that the software designers have developed the software themselves so know how it works and therefore think that it makes sense. The problem is sloppy and/or lazy software testing. It's similar to how proof reading a document should never be done by the person that wrote it in the first place!





I suspect the problem with awful user experiences is down to them not properly testing them externally and/or refusing to implement the suggestions they get!

Keithe6e

January 19, 2010, 3:33 pm

@ChrisC: Simple answer, lawyers. The whole market is controlled by legal pen pushers.

DrDark

January 19, 2010, 3:34 pm

@ChrisC: The problem with your argument is, it doesn't apply to everyone. For example, I still prefer S60v3 on my E71 to the iPhone... and yes, I am being serious.





Also, here's an example of impossibly stupid UI implementation on the iPhone:


Open Contacts > Hit the '+' > Tap the 'add new address' field


Now scroll down a little and tap the 'Country' field.


Why is this a bloody long list with no search bar at the top which I could tap and enter a name on the Virtual Keyboard in order to narrow the options down a bit?





Yes, it's just one gripe, but got on my nerves recently so I thought I'd mention it...





Also, back on topic to SE phones, I can never fathom why everyone's so impressed with the cameras (my wife's bought 3 of their 'camera phones' so far) as I find it's MegaPixels over Quality as far as the results are concerned (Been more impressed with N900's 5 than her W995's 8 recently - although to be fair it wasn't a 1:1 comparison of the same subject).





Also, I hear v2 firmware on the N97 improves Symbian's touch experience a bit; anyone here know from personal experience?

Ed

January 19, 2010, 3:55 pm

@ffrankmccaffery: They're two very different types of phone. Although the best camera phones still fall way behind decent dedicated compacts, they are still head and shoulders above the sort of thing you get on the Pre. So if your sister wanted a good camera then that was the obvious choice. However, there are many more situations where the situation is less clear cut and that's when user interface does make a difference even to the unknowing public.





@drdark: Let me just get this straight, you want a search function to find part of the contact info? If so... You say yourself that it's a short distance to scroll so is hardly much of a chore. Also a search function would just clutter and complicate the interface - while it may make the odd function slightly slower, one of the major keys to a good interface is making it consistent.

DrDark

January 19, 2010, 4:21 pm

@Ed: Yes, I'd rather not have to scroll through a list of every country in the world (that Apple knows of) when creating a new contact. And I did just say it was a gripe; not dismissing the whole UI :P; which IS very good most of the time {as for what I think of what's underneath, I haven't the time to go into it now...}

Keithe6e

January 19, 2010, 5:44 pm

@Ed, I have to agree with @drdark here, the country list is very very long, a quick filter at the top would certainly not clutter or break the interface, what makes the long list worse is that it's not in alphabetical order either, it's grouped by continent.

Rickysio

January 19, 2010, 6:13 pm

I have to say, I still find the S60 OS much more zippy on slower hardware compared to other OS-es. I own a 5700 running S60v3 FP1, and I currently use a Sony Xperia X1 (WinMo 6.5.3 Or 6.6) and I have pretty much free access to a N97, N97 mini, and an iPhone 3GS. Call me backwards or what have you, but I found the S60 interface to be the zippiest. For example, adding a contact - the S60 phone did it first, then the iPhone, and then the Xperia. Mostly because loading time of what can be deemed the Contacts application was the fastest on S60, then the 3GS, then the X1. WinMo persists with ridiculously slow app load times (although still under one second, it was demonstrably slower than all other OSes I've used before), which resulted in me feeling that the X1 was sluggish - it was not so. Image load times were comparable between the 3GS and Xperia, despite the increased resolution and lessened horsepower under the hood. The N97 surprisingly was very zippy, considering that it loaded up the same image on a higher resolution screen faster than my 5700.





I'm looking forward to switch my X1 for an E52 - the increased convenience of not having to look while SMS-ing and the increased battery life, not to mention increased familiarity makes me giddy. I had a run with the E52, and everything felt instant. Efficient. While the 3GS gave the illusion of speed, when push came to shove whatever the 3GS did, the E52 did it faster. Admittedly it had lesser eye candy, but heck, I'd rather look at the other sort of eye candy, than the one on a rather small screened device. The sort on legs. ;)

rav

January 19, 2010, 6:54 pm

Yes the iPhone did set the benchmark but why do people seem to gloss over its limitations? Just a few examples but does a good UI make you:


- scroll through endless screeens to make you find the app you want


- dig into the settings just to switch on bluetooth or WiFi


- ever take more than one button press to get to the phone dialer





Don't get me wrong, it's still a better overall UI than pretty much anything else. But they could definitely do with copying a few ideas from other platforms. Haven't used an SE in a while but one feature they used to have spot on was the quick menu which would definitely be nice to see on other phones.

Keithe6e

January 19, 2010, 7:26 pm

@ravmania: scroll through endless screeens to make you find the app you want





Just a thought, you tried using the expose feature to find your Apps? Also arranging your App's so the ones you use the most are on you Home screen should help too.





@ravmania: into the settings just to switch on bluetooth or WiFi


I suppose because the Wifi/Bluetooth indicators are at the top, it would be nice if they implemented a swipe down feature that could then be used to have quick access to these.





@ravmania: ever take more than one button press to get to the phone dialer





Not sure about the phone dialer bit, I certainly don't want my phone accidently calling people. So the few key presses/swipes that are required now seem fine to me.

Max

January 19, 2010, 8:16 pm

Seems like an awful decision for SE to go with Symbian for a touch screen phone. It's barely usable for normal non-touch smartphones if you know how, but I would hate to try on a touchscreen.





Hopefully X10 will right all of these wrongs, but given SE's lack of decent product and delays I don't expect much better.

rav

January 19, 2010, 8:24 pm

@Keith





The screens/apps


I didn't know about the expose feature. A quick google search seems to indicate that it's for jailbroken iPhones although I'm sure you can clarify. Simply making the screens loop around would be a huge improvement so it would only take scrolls left (through search) to get to the right most screen. Or how about folders?





Dialer


You have to press the home button and then go to the phone app. Would it be a crime to have call and end buttons for quick access to arguably the most imporant app?





As I said before, just small improvements that could be made. Do you really think no improvements could be made to the iPhone UI?

Keithe6e

January 19, 2010, 9:28 pm

@ravmania: A quick google search seems to indicate that it's for jailbroken iPhones





No it's not just for Jailbroken Iphones, it was implemented in Iphone OS3 along with Cut & Paste and stuff. So if your Iphone is up to date, simply go to the home screen, swipe left once and you will get the expose screen.





@ravmania: Do you really think no improvements could be made to the iPhone UI?





Why have you said that?, I even suggested an improvement in my last post (Swipe down feature). But I just don't see the problem with dialer as is, my old phone used to accidently dial out sometimes.

DrDark

January 19, 2010, 10:20 pm

@Rickysio: I like you :).





Been thinking of an E52 myself, but remembering hearing early reports of dodgy firmware. Meant to look around again and see if they were justified and/or problems had been fixed.

Runadumb

January 20, 2010, 1:06 am

Its no wonder SE are doing badly. They seem to keep on making lots of bad decisions. Even ignoring the UI whats up with the propriety connections? Give people 3.5mm Headphone jack and a muni/micro usb connection. They can get that from most other phones so just do it. I find such things very off putting.





Side note X2 delayed. They should can it. I cant believe they used the same slow processor. Seriously the X10 has to kickass

ffrankmccaffery

January 20, 2010, 7:10 am

@Ed: Ofcourse they're two quite different phones. My kid sister didn't set out to get the best cameraphone only that the best cameraphone swayed her judgment. My other sister is a keen photographer and has only recently shelled out on an expensive Sony SLR camera and wouldn't even glance at this.

DrDark

January 20, 2010, 11:20 am

@Rickysio:


Just spotted this and thought I'd share it: apparently the Nokia store gives 20% cashback with Quidco, and they also have a 10% voucher code ending on Jan 25.


http://www.quidco.com/nokia/





Unfortunately, it seems not applicable to the E52, but plenty else there (and I believe accessories are included). Now to work out how to get the wife to buy me a new gadget...

Spunjji

January 23, 2010, 1:08 am

I think there's something wrong with my thumbs.





No, I'm serious. It's just that I seem to be the only person on the internet who has no problem whatsoever using resistive screens, and furthermore finds the capacitive ones on the Pre / iPhone to be a worse experience. Despite playing with various different devices, I can never get them to respond smoothly to my touch.





My point here is that I object to an otherwise good phone screen being automatically panned because it doesn't use capacitive tech. I don't feel that it's as clear cut as this site frequently states.

Gordon394

January 23, 2010, 2:08 am

@Spunjji - you're right, your thumbs are weird ;)

Rickysio

January 23, 2010, 1:16 pm

@Spunjji





Or you happen to have dry thumbs - Capacitive screens need some oil to function. Which is why my classmates always stare at me in confusion as I swipe my thumb over my rather oily face before using any phone with a capacitive screen (LG/Apple).





@drdark


I'm personally looking at the E72 now - 5 megapixel camera aside, I'm still faster on a QWERTY thumbboard than a T9 keyboard.

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