Tools of the Trade: Sony Ericsson P900 smart phone

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The Independent Online

Plenty of technology companies have tried to marry the functions of a phone and an electronic organiser (PDA) in a single device. Few have managed to do it with as much aplomb as Sony Ericsson.

The company's latest product, the P900, has more features than almost anyone could wish for: a camera, capable of video; an MP3 player; a removable memory card; a Bluetooth wireless connection; handwriting recognition; a web browser; email; and games. And the total package is still not that much heavier than a standard mobile phone; the P900 is smaller than many personal digital assistants (PDAs).

It is based on the Symbian operating system, developed originally by Psion and championed by Nokia. But Sony Ericsson wraps this in a graphical interface (called UIQ) that is more intuitive than most of its rivals' offerings, with most of the phone's functions just a few clicks away from the main screen.

The screen itself is easy to read in most lighting conditions, which is just as well because scrolling through emails on any smart phone can be a test for the eyes. Wisely, Sony Ericsson has equipped the P900 with a flip keypad, which covers most of the screen during calls or when the phone is not in use.

This also makes it much easier to use the P900 as a standard voice phone, though to use it just for calls would be a waste. Its organiser functions are genuinely useful and, for most people, are good enough to replace a dedicated Pocket PC or Palm-based PDA. Software to synchronise diary and contact details with a PC is included, and the P900 works with Apple's iSync software too. Connection is through a USB cable or, more neatly, Bluetooth.

But the real point of buying a P900 is to go online on the move. Smart phones come into their own for checking emails when you are out and about. The P900 does this well. We were able to set it up to connect to office and home email addresses with little bother.

Connection speeds, on Vodafone's GPRS network, were more than reasonable. And the P900 has another neat function: you can decide whether to download just email headers, all the email or only emails under a certain size. This is handy, as GPRS tariffs charge by the size of the downloads. Big attachments can mean big bills.

Browsing the web on a GPRS connection and a small screen is never ideal, but the P900 also supports WAP sites, designed especially for phones. Seeking these out saves both time and download costs. Anyone who needs to use the web more intensively can connect the P900 up to a laptop via Bluetooth, and use it as a wireless modem. Again, we found this worked efficiently enough.

The next generation of phone-PDA hybrids are likely to support 3G networks for higher data speeds, but until 3G is an option across the UK, the P900 is among the smartest of the smart.

The verdict

Rating: 5 out of 5

Price: £468.08 excluding VAT (£549.99 inc). Contract price varies depending on network and tariff.

Available from: 08705 238238, www.sonyericsson.com

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