Product Type: Sony Ericsson Smartphone
Newest Review: ... software based on .sis files which worked on your P910i, it's unlikely to work on the P990i so that aspect of the upgrade path becomes ne... more
P990i, smartphone/PDA with tons of features
Sony Ericsson P990i
Member Name: TH73
Sony Ericsson P990i
Date: 26/07/06, updated on 27/07/06 (3680 review reads)
Advantages: Great design, WLAN, sized like a phone but with features like a high-end PDA
Disadvantages: The new Symbian Platform Security is evil
The P990i is the latest in the UiQ-based Symbian smartphones series from SonyEricsson.
Since the P800, the "P-series" has been the state of the art for pocket-sized smartphone-come-PDA devices, with an easy to use interface, great multimedia features, internet connectivity and literally thousands of applications available for download.
To start with the physical/design aspects, the P990i makes several improvements over the P910i, the most important is that the QWERTY keyboard has been moved from the back of the flip to just below the screen on the main handset. This makes it possible to use the keyboard even with the flip removed (so removing the flip is a much more attractive option on this model), and greatly improves balance when holding the phone with two hands and thumb-typing.
Overall, the build quality makes it feel more substantial than previous phones in the range. It also looks bigger, but that is an optical illusion as it is in fact very close to exactly the same size as a P910i (a couple of mm shorter and roughly the same thickness).
The well-known "jog-dial" on the side of the screen has been downgraded so it now only moves in 3 directions, up/down and in (much like the scroll wheel on a typical mouse). This means you can't use the jog dial to activate the menu or leave a dialog anymore, but having had the jog dial fail on both my P900 and P910i I suspect they have done it to improve mechanical reliability, which is a good thing.
The P990i sports a 2 megapixel camera with autofocus. The lens is protected behind a plastic disc that you rotate to activate the camera. While 2 megapixel is high for a phone, it is by no means comparable with the latest digital cameras and even some phones have surpassed this with 3 and 4 megapixels. But it is leaps and bounds better than the VGA-resolution cameras found on low-end camera phones, and can actually take pretty good pictures, just not in low light since there is no flash (there is a powerful LED that they like to call a flash, but all it is really good for is taking (very close) close-ups in low light). If you don't plan on making any prints bigger than 10x15 cm, you are fine with this camera for everyday use. Of course the camera can also record video in standard 3G format. Due to the faster processor it actually does this in reasonable quality/framerate.
In addition to the photo/video camera, this is a 3G phone so "of course" there is also a VGA-quality videocamera on the screen side of the phone, this is exclusively used for video calling, something you might either love or hate, I have never found it useful and probably will never use it.
The touchscreen seems more responsive than previous models and it is easier to "click" a button without acidentally typing a "." instead. The resolution is 240x320 in 16 bit colour, which makes for a very pleasant user experience and good quality photo/video playback.
The memory card format is unfortunately (and not surprisingly) still the expensive Sony Memory Stick Duo (Pro supported), it would have been nice if they could have used SD cards like everyone else but with this being Sony no wonder there really. But at least you can get these cards in sizes up to 2GB, it's just a bit more expensive, but the phone comes with one as standard at least in some package deals. 2GB will allow you to store A LOT of video and pictures, or about 30 CD's worth of MP3 music in good quality.
As for Internet connectivity, the P990i has it all. There is standard GRPS, 3G data, bluetooth, and Wireless LAN (802.11b). This means you can connect to the internet from basically anywhere. To make it easier to choose between all these connections, the phone comes with some pretty innovative software called SmartRoaming (www.smartroaming.com) which basically sits in the background and chooses the best of the available connections automatically, for example your wireless LAN. If that becomes available, say you walk out of range, it seamlessly switches to the next best available connection (say GPRS or 3G), without disconnecting you in the process. Pretty nifty!
There is some nice built in software. The web browser is based on Opera, but greatly enhanced since previous versions and now much more integrated. There is also an email client and a cool, lightweight RSS feed reader. Bundled or downloadable from the Sony Ericsson site, is a good selection of business productivity software, among those are MS Exchange ActiveSync, a Blueberry client and VPN client.
But.. there is a pretty bleak flipside! For those of us who were used to the thousands of freeware and shareware applications for the P800/P910 etc., there is a bitter disappointment. Because the OS used is Symbian 9.1, which has introduced Platform Security that kills backwards compatibility. This means that none of the old applications will work on the P990i.
What's even worse, all applications that want to use advanced capabilities of the phone, will HAVE to be signed by Sony Ericsson. This means that normal shareware developers suddenly have to shell out hundreds or thousands of pounds to get their application signed, so it will even install on the phone. Take a wild guess, on what that will do to the availability of freeware applications and the less mainstream shareware applications. This is the new "DRM is God," and "we (the corporations with the big money) decide what software you can put on the hardware you rightfully own". There is no way to say "Install anyway" for unsigned applications, they simply will not install. Now, they do have a "freeware" signing program where they will take on the cost of signing selected freeware applications, but there are several requirements with this that make it unattractive to the developers.
As a power-user of third party shareware and freeware apps, I am bitterly disappointed that Sony Ericsson decided not to give me the option to install any software I would like, but it has to be approved and signed by them. This means they could, in theory, deny people from writing a voice-over-IP softphone because it would be competition to the network operators, etc. For me, this is enough reason to strongly doubt whether I will invest in this, or any other Symbian phone with platform security.
In conclusion, this phone is great for making calls, multimedia, and business productivity. The issue with the platform security will probably mean a lot to some users, and less to others, so I'm still giving a "good" rating due to this, however, if shareware/freeware is important to you this might not be for you.
Summary: Great phone, marred by platform "security" (read: big corp. revenue protector)