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The Hunt for the Perfect Mobile

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This week a piece of technology was reviewed on the site that I think is one of the most significant releases of the past few months – the Sony Ericsson K800i. The reason I think it’s so important is because of its 3.2 megapixel camera.

At this level of resolution the quality level is such that the average person now has the ability to take ‘proper’ pictures - images of sufficient quality that you’ll want to keep them, print them and share them. Of course, image quality is not all about resolution, but the K800i has that covered with some decent optics, and features such as image stabilisation and a flash.

Camera phones are certainly no longer the novelty that they once were. Two megapixel cameras have been standard for a while and cameras such as the Sony Ericsson K750i are capable of quite decent images. For a long while my main camera was the original Digital Ixus, which only had a resolution of 2.1 megapixels and that was good enough for me to print up to 6 x 4in.

If that was the case, having 3.2 megapixels in the phones in everyone’s pockets could potentially put a real dent in the sales of compact cameras such as the Canon Ixus. If a phone only has a 1.3 megapixel CCD then there’s still a good case for shelling out on a four or five megapixel camera.

However, 3.2 megapixels is good enough for printing, even up to A3 or larger. The screen on the K800i is larger and clearer than the LCD viewfinder on my current Canon Ixus 500. Ok, I guess I’m not the greatest photographer in the world but I’ve had trouble getting consistently sharp images from it. My thinking is that I might as well sell the Ixus on eBay, by a dedicated DSLR or something close in terms of quality, such as the Fujifilm S9500 for when I want ‘real’ photography and stick with the K800i for casual shots.

If I were a purveyor of compact cameras such as Canon or Pentax I’d be worried. Then again, Sony is in this market too and this is the first Sony Ericsson to carry Sony’s Cybershot branding, so surely Sony wouldn’t do this if it were concerned. Well maybe for one it’s being prescient – it has after all just picked up Konica Minolta’s imaging business and now can offer DSLRs. Perhaps it sees phones taking over almost completely at the low-end and putting Cybershot onto a phone is the first step to making sure its brand stays in that market.

With all this in mind, last week I decided on upgrading to the K800i on 02. But making that choice actually wasn’t easy.

I require certain things from a phone. What I insist on is an ability to sync with Outlook to keep my contacts handy and well organised. I also wouldn’t mind being able to check email on the move. So my requirements are a high resolution screen and a sophisticated PIM. Surely then a smartphone would be a better choice?

However, it seems that if you want what is considered a business phone, you don’t get features like a 3.2-megapixel camera – or in some cases any camera at all. The forthcoming M600 Sony Ericsson looks great spec wise - a high resolution touch screen, a scroll wheel a keyboard like layout and 3G connectivity - making it potentially ideal for browsing web pages and checking email. However, as I’ve mentioned on previous occasions, I also like to make the occasional video call to check on the kids at home if ever I’m out at the office. Ok, a web cam is an alternative but having it on a mobile is so much more handy. I can say goodnight to my two-year old when he’s having a bath or in bed having a story read to him and I can’t get back in time. So that’s a feature I don’t want to lose. It’s frustrating then to find that Sony Ericsson has chosen to not put any cameras at all on the M600.

Then there’s the W950 – a music orientated version of the M600 – that adds a Walkman and no less than 4GB of internal memory – but again, no cameras.

So it seems that according to Sony Ericsson, you’re either a tie-wearing, email reading business executive, or a long haired music obsessed teenager, or a photography addict who also like to make video calls. But certainly not all three.

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