Sony Ericsson 2006
The big flagship phone announced globally today is the K800, a high-end 3G phone with a 3.2 megapixel camera and a bevy of other high-end features. This model represents the evolution of the series that started with the T610, and progressed to the K700, K750 (and W800), and finally this newest iteration.
One of the hallmark features of this series has always been a relatively small size. Unfortunately, the K800 breaks that mold with a significantly bulkier profile. It's not huge, just not as pleasantly pocket-friendly as the K750 / W800 / W810:
Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.
Since the K800 is a 3G phone for Europe and Asia, and Sony Ericsson isn't doing 3G phones for the U.S. just yet, the company has fortunately decided to create a non-3G version just for us - the K790. This version is identical to the K800, just without WCDMA and the extra camera for video calling. WCDMA is fortunately replaced with EDGE, so data rates shouldn't be too bad.
Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.
The prototype K790 they had on hand at the New York City launch event was very "beta". The camera didn't really work, and the keys were... well, terrible. Aside from the joystick, there literally wasn't a single key on the phone that was remotely ergonomic or easy to press. Sony Ericsson reps promised that the keys were being re-designed for the final version. However, the keys were so bad that we really hope they're redesigning the keys from the ground up and not just doing some minor tweaking.
One interesting note about the keys was the presence of two extra keys just above the display, just like on the W600. These provide extra softkeys in camera mode, and extra keys for landscape-mode gaming as well. But again, the keys were awful. I actually had to use my fingernails to press them. Again, the version we tried was by no means final, so everything could be fixed by final release, but it's something to look out for.
The K790 finally brings Bluetooth 2.0 with stereo audio to the core of the Sony Ericsson lineup. Sony Ericsson has been a little late to the game with stereo Bluetooth, which is odd since they basically invented Bluetooth.
The K750 (and W800 variant) were fairly ground-breaking with their high-quality 2 megapixel auto-focus camera module. The auto-focus - featuring an actual moving lens - is a major contributor to that phone's amazing photo image quality.
The K790 carries the torch and upgrades to a 3.2 megapixel auto-focus camera. It also adds a true xenon flash - that's the bright strobe type in nearly all standalone cameras - instead of the LED-type flash common to most camera phones.
Another camera upgrade is a new "BestPic" feature that is basically a turbo-charged multi-shot function. When enabled, it will take 9 full-resolution shots within 1 second. By default the middle one will be saved, but if someone blinked or moved, etc., you can simply move the joystick left or right and select the shot that's composed the way you wanted.
The 3.2 megapixel resolution, auto-focus, xenon flash, and BestPic all come together to make this a pretty powerful camera phone. That's why Sony Ericsson chose to make this their first model to carry Sony's "Cyber-shot" brand, usually reserved for their standalone digital cameras.
It's basically the same thing they did with the Walkman brand, including bringing the user interface (UI) over. A Walkman phone has a music interface similar to a standalone Walkman music player. Similarly, a Cyber-shot phone has camera interface similar to a Cyber-shot camera. Unfortunately, that interface wasn't quite finished on the prototype we tried, but enough of it was working to give us a rough idea how it would work, and the potential was pretty impressive. Certainly their current camera interface on phones like the W800 is excellent, (and also based on the Cyber-shot UI,) so we trust it will only be better on the final K790.
One last comment about the camera - the actual camera module and lens don't seem to add much to the thickness of the phone - but the lens cover is positively huge and makes the phone much thicker than it would be otherwise. I love the idea of a lens cover - and especially an active one that activates the camera when you open it like the K790 - but in this case I'd gladly give it up to make the K790 a more pocketable phone.
The K790 also sports a nice QVGA display. It's brighter than the K750 and W800, although not as bright as the W810.
Other features include the full list of everything you'd expect from a flagship phone, including a memory card slot, music player, etc.
Although Sony Ericsson's press release stated a Q2 release for the K790, Sony Ericsson's U.S. press reps told us to expect it much later: Q3 at the earliest, or possibly Q4.