On paper the T68i is one of the most attractive GSM/GPRS phones currently available in the US today. However, slow menu navigation and poor reception prevent the T68i from receiving our top honors. The T68i has a lot to offer and consumers should be content with their purchase.
For those of you who follow the mobile phone market, you know that the T68 phone has been available overseas for quite some time. Well it was released here in the US around Christmas 2002 and is quickly growing as a popular phone. The T68i is available with service from either T-Mobile or ATT GSM/GPRS packages. As of this writing the T68i phone itself is cheaper through ATT than T-Mobile but make sure to look at the overall service plans to see where your money really is being spent.
The T68i is packed full of features including the ability to store digital images, play multimedia messages, synchronize with Microsoft Outlook and use integrated Bluetooth connectivity. The T68i features a 101×80 resolution screen capable of showing 256 colors which look great in low light environments. You can also fully customize the T68i to use wallpapers, sounds, themes, and photo albums which are suited to your personality; there are even a handful of games to play with. With Bluetooth connectivity there are a plethora of accessory and feature options; you can synch your calendar and contacts with your computer or talk wirelessly with your Bluetooth headset. Infrared is also available for synchronization should you decide that Bluetooth is not for you yet. Sony Ericsson sells a CommuniCam MCA-20 digital camera accessory which clips on to the bottom of the phone and will allow you to send low resolution pictures wirelessly to friends via e-mail.
Use and Performance
The design of the T68i is extremely eye pleasing and you can certainly see Sony’s influence. With sleek curves and a light blue coloring, the T68i looks very futuristic and en-vogue. In low light conditions you will quickly see the keys are backlit via blue LED’s which enhance the T68I’s visual prowess.
We found the T68i to be a lot of fun in terms of its abilities; it truly is feature packed. The T68i works on all GSM networks and is considered a world phone. Unfortunately the T68i has trouble grabbing a strong signal in both outdoor and indoor environments. This could be attributed to the internal antennae which might receive interference from the phone itself. We found the T68i to be very temperamental, sometimes getting a great signal and then losing it altogether a few feet away. While you may think this could be the service provider we were using (ATT) we have read reports of this happening on T-Mobiles network as well. Remember GSM services are relatively new here in the US.
Phone navigation can be gruelingly slow, especially right after start up. This could be due to so many phone options and limited memory, but more embedded memory could have fixed this problem. The good thing is that even though navigation is slow, it is also very intuitive. We had no problems finding where to make changes to the phone settings itself. Internet use is easy and fast once you are connected. Connection times are around 1 minute till you can go surfing. On a side note it is very difficult to see the color screen and menu in very bright sunny areas so be forewarned; there is a trade-off for having a color display.
Once you have a good signal you will find the sound quality is excellent. In fact both the sound and voice recognition are among the best we have tested. Voice recognition picked up our recorded names every time without a problem. You can assign a recorded voice name to each contact and listen to the names while scrolling through the phonebook. You can call your contacts by simply saying their prerecorded name.
Battery life on the T68i is above average despite having integrated Bluetooth and a color screen. Make sure to keep the phone in sleep mode and with Bluetooth (if you are not going to use this feature) disabled to conserve power. Expect about 5.5-6 hours of talk time and about 6 days of standby time in real world use. We know that Sony Ericsson claims 13 hours of talk time and 12 days of standby, but this just isn’t the case. The Bluetooth capabilities work great; it is fast syncing your calendar and contacts with your computer and the T68i works great with Sony Ericsson’s HBH-20 Bluetooth headset. We have read that people are reporting excellent compatibility with the latest Jabra Bluetooth capable headsets as well.
Software synchronization could have been easier to use than what it currently is. We bought the USB cable to use for synchronization and found that the software and USB cable are not specifically designed to sync with Windows XP although we were able to get it to work once in a while. Using the Serial cable and Bluetooth synch methods proved to work better and more fluidly. Remember, the T68i is not a complete PDA replacement; the fact that is capable of synching with your computer at all is an added bonus.
There is a lot to like about the T68i when comparing it to other phones on the market. The price of the T68i is reasonable and there are countless features which make this an extremely attractive phone. The T68i is not without its pitfalls however. With slow menu navigation and a hard to see display in bright environments, users will have to look past the negative sides in order to enjoy what the T68i can offer if it is used to its full potential. GSM networks in the US may not have wide coverage yet, but it is growing fast and the T68i will be able to take full advantage of what GPRS and GSM networks can offer.