- Review Price: £129.99
O2’s i-mode service launched back in September 2005. By the end of October that year, Riyad had reviewed the N411i. He loved i-mode as a concept, praising in particular its fast access to data, page caching (pages are saved so you don’t have to reload them when you flick back and forth between them) and push email. But he did have some issues too, so it was not all out praise at the time.
O2 has quietly but doggedly stuck with i-mode since launch, and has steadily added new handsets into its i-mode range. Sony Ericsson’s K610im is the latest to receive the i-mode treatment. It is a 3G handset with tri-band GSM, so it is a pretty capable communicator and is available from several other operators in a non i-mode variant as the K610i.
The phone is a small and tidy black and silver candybar handset (as the K610i it is available in dusky grey). It weighs a mere 92g and slips neatly into the pocket measuring just 102mm tall, 45mm wide and 17mm thick. As far as 3G handset’s go, it’s tiny.
The main loser in terms of the overall small size of this phone is the screen, which measures just 48mm corner to corner – 30mm wide, 37mm tall, and displays just 176 x 220 pixels. It is bright enough and manages 262,000 colours, but I’d have liked to have seen more pixels.
The numberpad is not huge, but did not prove to be a problem during general usage. I was less happy with the navigation button, which I found a little fiddly.
One of the characteristics of i-mode handsets is a dedicated i-mode button that launches you into the i-mode portal. In this case that button is located on the right of the handset between the right softmenu button and Cancel button.
Directly opposite this between the left softmenu button and the back button is a button for the phone’s messaging software. To manage the email that comes as part of the i-mode service you need to go through the i-mode portal. You can’t pick up other email through this portal so you have to think of i-mode email as something completely separate from ordinary POP3 email.
The sides of the K610im offer a couple of additional buttons. These are very small indeed, which means it is difficult for them to be hit accidentally, but also means I found myself needing to hunt for them and then use a fingernail rather than find them intuitively.
On the lower right edge is the camera shortcut button, while on the upper right edge is a rocker which actives the up to 2.5x digital zoom, controls music volume when tunes are playing, and if you are looking at the phone’s main screen, delivers system status information. On the upper left edge is a button that gives you direct access to the built-in music player and a pause/play feature.
On the bottom of the handset is the connector for mains power, PC linking and headset connection. O2 didn’t provide me with a headset so I can’t comment on music quality through this, but through the speakers it is OK if a little quiet. The phone supports stereo output to Bluetooth headphones.
There is 16MB of built in memory and a slot for a Memory Stick Micro card is on the left edge, protected by the battery cover. My review sample came with a 64MB card – hardly generous but enough to store a few tunes to get you started.
There is a small VGA camera on the front of the handset for video calling and you can set up a shortcut to initiate a video call by pressing the right point on the navigation button. The other three points are set up to take you to the handset file manager, contacts and i-mode messaging for MMS and email.
The main camera shoots stills at resolutions up to 2-megapixels and while it has no flash it has a small self portrait mirror. There is a range of filters, a self timer, and burst mode shooting on offer. The latter might prove useful if you intend to take pictures of anything that moves. Look at the two cat shots to see what I mean – it didn’t take a lot of movement on the part of the feline to cause the blurred image.
The small size of the phone actually seems to do it a bit of a disservice during photography –I found it less easy than some more chunky, heavier phones to hold. Nevertheless, I still managed to take good quality shots.
Indoor shots can come out a bit grainy and unsatisfying, especially if you leave the white balance setting on ‘auto’ as I do throughout testing. My standard reference shot of the coloured dish shows this as well as how the white background to the dish is somewhat faded and dull.
Other applications included on the K610im include video, photo and music editing tools, sound recorder, calendar, to-do list manager, notes taker, timer, stopwatch, calculator and alarms function. There is no FM radio, which is a pity. O2 provides desktop software for PIM synchronisation and file transfer and you’ll need the cable to make a wired connection to your PC.
Battery life was superb. Music playback from a Memory Stick Micro card delivered almost thirteen hours of music. The screen dims after just a few seconds, which helps extend battery life, but during the testing period I didn’t really feel the need to rush to mains power at the end of each and every day to recharge.
I remain unconvinced about i-mode. It is certainly fast, and there is a fair array of sites, but these need to be specially produced and so compared to the full Web the choice is limited. If you are interested you can research i-mode in in detail.
As for the K610im the screen is a little small and low-resolution, the buttons a little fiddly to use and it lacks an FM radio. It does have very good battery life, though. On the upside, it is a neat and tidy phone and, for a 3G handset it is remarkably pocket-friendly and unpretentious.
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