The future is fab

Mobiles meets Darwin
Once every million years or so, the extraordinary path of evolution awakes from its slumbers to make changes to the world as we see it. These changes are not always for the better.
These are only too obvious when we look at diseases, the Fiat car range and James Blunt. However, there are times when evolution makes changes that are so good, you can imagine Darwin peeing with excitement. So let’s hear it for the latest evolutionary miracle: Sony Ericsson’s M600i …
 
The M600i is a phone. But it’s a phone cum BlackBerry, cum Symbian Touch Screen organiser, cum web browser. It is lightweight, smaller than anything else that offers any one of these functions, has a full numeric and QWERTY keypad (with rocker buttons) … and here’s the best bit: there are no Windows in sight. This means its more fun to use, more reliable and less boring.
Oh Darwin, you were so right with your evolution theory. Sony Ericsson has evolved the BlackBerry and PDA phone; and in true Sony style, the designers have done the impossible – they’ve made it look cool.

Arrival
I opted for the white version, so my box was bright white with little blue dots on it that just teased me to open it. So I did. And was I disappointed? No. There sat the phone in all its glory, singing “Do ya think I’m sexy, if you want my body …”.
It’s a design master class, with an übercool urban-retro gadget look that would suit a businessman, a designer or skater dude.
The phone comes in black or white, has lots of square keys at the bottom, and features a nice brushed aluminium chassis all the way around the edges. That houses the hot-swap M2 memory card, push email button and jog-wheel.
The screen is a massive 240×320 touch screen display which looks gorgeous when on, and there are dashes of turquoise in places to add a spark of colour on the otherwise monotone front and rear casing. It’s a beautiful gadget, people.
The box includes the usual manuals and CD bits, a stylus, 64MB memory card, charger and headphones – though with the new A2DP Bluetooth on board, it’s only a matter of time before you go and buy some wireless ear-candy like we featured last week. In fact, with so many opportunities to add accessories to this phone, you could be quids in stocking and punting them out.
Waiting for new toys to charge is a painful experience, so I recommend watching a DVD during this process (nothing with Jim Carey in it, of course).
OK, switch on time. The on switch is the first of a few annoying features. It’s a bit awkward to get to, and you might need the stylus to poke at it; but once that’s been done the thing vibrates in your hand, lights up the keyboard in blue neon (like a chavved up BMW undercarriage) and asks you whether you want phone or flight mode.

Playing music
The phone has some really good media facilities. If you want to plug in a larger memory card and some headphones, it could quite easily replace an MP3 player. (In steps Darwin again with the evolutionary lines that bring together the phone and the MP3 player.) The transfer from computer to phone is easy as well, and anyone used to sending music to iPods and the like will find it’s a very similar process, with similar naming and sorting options.
The operating system is peaceful, though it does take a week to learn your way around it. The conventional phone keys are complemented by a jog wheel, much akin to earlier Sony smartphones and current BlackBerry devices. There is also a hardware Back key on the side of the unit allowing easy reverse navigation and key-lock functions.
The Don has had the phone for a month now, and I haven’t used the stylus more than twice. Instead I finger the touch-screen with the grace of Richard Clayderman at the piano or Brad Pitt at the Anniston.
The soft keys are on the screen, with Task and Connection Managers almost always present. There are several menu functions on the home screen, and a collapsible active display called ‘Today’ that allows you to see emails, messages, appointments, tasks and calls.
At the moment, there is no support for a BlackBerry connection. While I have been assured by Sony Ericsson that it’s on it’s way, the other solutions of mail retrieval are available; and with the correct configuration, it can be as good as for the time being.
The other great function of this improved operating system is the More option. This applies to every application and screen you get to, offering you a vast array of options and things to do.
In short, the phone is very well thought out from start to finish … well, almost.

The keys are cool too. They rock! Actually they do rock. From side to side, giving you a full QWERTY style keyboard for messaging, and numerics like a normal phone for – well, for phoning.
A Shift key gets you capitals and punctuation marks (like we know how to use that) and a Return key does the enter facilities or makes the call.
Web browsing is easy, with landscape mode available, though the browser options aren’t that extensive and you may possibly have to set them up yourself. Without EDGE or WiFi, you have to rely on GPRS or 3G; but it is quick enough to respond. And the unit is so cool that you would need a lot missing here to upset it.
Other features include a full address book that will sync everything, including notes, from your computer; a seriously good organiser that pops up in your Today folder; and Quickword and Excel for creating and editing documents and spreadsheets. There are some fun features too – a couple of games, a music-making thingy, and everywhere you look there are demo videos and presentations.
Darwin would say that once something evolves, it does not become perfect, nor is it finite: it’s just another step before the next iteration. Take the case of the M600i: it does need a little bit of refinement in some areas. If held to close to the ear, for example, you can mute the call via the touch-screen. The loudspeaker doesn’t seem to have a one button access, and the preloaded (extremely good) Vijay Sing Golf game can crash at times on it opening.

No camera?
The one thing you may notice is the lack of a camera. To some punters this will be a problem; to my mind, no phone actually needs one – certainly not a business handset. A digital camera still needs a normal viewfinder and various other extras that will never be found on the most usable kind of phone; and the size, weight and build of this phone demonstrates how cool mobiles look without lenses getting in the way.
The truth is that the phone looks and feels great. You can use it with one hand and it truly is the most perfect cross between business phone cum email machine and phone cum MP3 player. It is fully personalisable, fun to use and has a groovy touch screen without imposing anything remotely Microsofty on you.
Darwin’s theory of evolution may not be spot on if you’re the Vicar of Dibley, but it works for me. God didn’t invent the phone. Sony Ericsson did.
 

SPECIFICATION 
Size   
Length 107mm
Width 57mm
Depth 15mm
Weight   
112g
Main display   
TFT touchscreen, 256K colours, 240×320 pixels, 38x52mm
Software   
Symbian OS v9.1, UIQ 3.0, web browser (Opera 8), handwriting recognition, push email, PIM functions   
Memory   
60MB shared memory Memory Stick Micro (M2), 64 MB card included
Connectivity   
3G, tri-band GSM, Bluetooth 2.0, IrDA, USB 2.0
Camera   
no
Battery   
Standby 340h Talk time 7h