The Sony Ericsson T608 CDMA Bluetooth Mobile PhoneI’ve had the T608 for a week now and although I haven’t explored every single possibility with this new mobile phone, I have played around with it enough to share with you my initial impressions and thoughts. The only real missing element from this review is that I haven’t tested this phone with a Bluetooth headset yet. This is probably the biggest reason to get a Bluetooth phone, so you may see this as a big oversight, but I’ll post another entry at a later date once I’ve had a chance to use one.
What’s The Story, Morning Glory?
The Sony Ericsson T608 is the first Bluetooth enabled phone that runs on a CDMA network, such as Sprint PCS and Verizon. Sony Ericsson had plans to release an entire series of phones for both networks, but unfortunately they decided to shut down their CDMA division and it looked like none of the phones would see the light of day. However Sprint PCS was smart enough to bring one of the devices to market. They began selling the T608 via their Tele-Sales department (1-866-PCS-2886) back in November – December of last year and as of this writing, they still have some in stock.


So now that Sprint PCS is selling the phone, it should be all peaches and cream right? Well, not quite. There are no discounts on the phone, so they are selling it at the full price of $199. They also have no accessories available for it, so don’t look to their web site, or stores for accessories for your phone. There ARE plenty of accessories out there and it would appear that most of the T610 (sold by TMobile) accessories work with this phone as well. Also, once Sprint PCS runs out of the phones, there will be no more. It’s uncertain just how many they have in stock, or how many production runs they did, so this may be the only Bluetooth phone for Sprint PCS for quite some time. I haven’t seen any other BT phones listed as future releases for Sprint PCS on PhoneScoop. Should Sprint run out of the phones, you can always turn to eBay which currently has several for sale. They seem to be selling in the $300 range, which is more than retail.

All disclaimers aside, so what if you can’t get accessories and there are limited quantities? If you’ve been clamoring for Bluetooth then you know that retail stores and vendors are going to know less than you anyway when it comes to this wireless technology, so it’s not as if the landscape is all that different than it would be had Sprint PCS given 100% support on this product. πŸ˜›

What You Get
I’ve been spoiled by smartphones, so let me confess that up front, before I get into the nitty gritty of this review. For the past two to three years, I’ve used the Kyocera 7135, Samsung I300, Handspring Treo 180 and the Kyocera 6035. I’m used to larger phones that come with a plenty of accessories. So I was a little disappointed when I opened the box and found the phone and a power transformer (aka wall wart). No case, no extra battery, no desk stand, not even one of those little lanyards that I never use. All there is, is a phone and something to charge it with. You can get a Desktop Stand, Car Charger, Micro Travel Charger and other goodies, but nothing comes with the phone.

Maybe this is standard in the non-smarphone market, I wouldn’t know. Maybe smartphone manufacturers feel guilty asking you to pay $600 for a phone, so they feel compelled to throw in more goodies. I don’t know that answer either, but if you’re like me and you’re coming from that perspective, be prepared.

On the plus side, Sony Ericsson do have some cool accessories and they ARE moderately priced. Since this phone doesn’t HotSync like a smartphone would, I don’t know that you’re really missing anything by not having a desk stand, so the only thing REALLY missing is either an extra battery, or a case. However most phones don’t come with two batteries and usually the case included with a phone sucks and you end up buying another one anyway.

The Lay Of The Land
Size wise, the T608 is a smallish phone. Granted, there are smaller phones out there, but the T608 still feels small in your hand. (My last phone was the I-300, so bear that in mind. πŸ˜› ) At this link you can see all the specs and a diagram of where the buttons are and what they do, but here’s a quick rundown. The standard 2.5mm headset jack and speaker are on the upper right corner, and a power jack is on the lower right. I like this because you can plug directly into the phone, with the appropriate transformer, without having to use the bottom data port. On the left side, you have the up/down navigation buttons and the top of the phone has the power button.

On the face of the device, you’ll find that you have a color screen that works well in outdoor light, two “soft” buttons (meaning that what action they perform depends on what is showing on the screen), a menu and cancel button, and a 5-way navigational stick. The layout for navigating the device is very logical and straightforward and I found it easy to become familiar with and get to what I need to fairly quickly. The only real negative is that the menus are fairly slow. If you’re used to the quick responsiveness of your Palm OS device, this phone will seem slow.

Battery Life
According to the Sony Ericsson web site, the T608 has 2 hours of talk time and 222 hours of standby and my experience has been very close to that. 2 hours of talk time seems short to me, but maybe that’s just me. Although when I look at the T610 specs and I see that it has 14 hours of talk time, clearly I’m not off thinking 2 hours is short. I haven’t run out of juice while talking yet or anything, but I’m always mindful of the battery.

My first thought was that if you’re a big talker, you’d probably want to get an extra battery and carry it with you just in case. However Sony Ericsson doesn’t make a desktop charger that can charge your phone and an extra battery. Not only that, but replacing the battery is a bit tricky. The only other alternative I can see is to keep the travel charger, or car charger handy and use it as needed.

Also, I haven’t been using this phone with a Bluetooth headset, so battery life may be less if you use a BT headset. I’ll post an update once I’ve had a chance to test it out.

The bottom line though is that battery life is very low when compared to other phones, so judge your phone usage and decide if you can live within these constraints.

Ring tones
The T608 does support ring tones, so if you can download and install just about any MIDI polyphonic ring tone you can find. SprintPCS sells them via their Vision data network, but you can find plenty of free ones on the web as well.

Buying a ring tone via SprintPCS is probably the easiest method of installing a ring tone, but you can’t preview it, so you don’t really know what the ring tone will sound like before you buy it. Granted it’s only $2.50 per ring tone, so it’s not a lot of money, but it would be nice to at least hear a sample. Oh and the ring tone “expires” after 90 days, so this is a process that you’ll have to repeat if you prefer alternative ring tones.

If you decide to go the freeware route, you’ll be able to hear the ring before you buy it and it never expires, so more than likely this is the way you’ll want to go. Many sites will send you a message and from there you can download the ring directly to your phone. This method didn’t work for me. SprintPCS short message service is appalling to begin with, so I just assumed that this was yet another example of why I don’t use it. I did receive the message, but there was no way for me to select the link to download the ring tone. Instead, I found the best method was to download the ring tone to my desktop and then drag and drop it to the “Inbox” on my Bluetooth service options and transfer this directly to the phone via Bluetooth.

Themes & Screensavers
Another way to customize your phone is by installing a “Theme”. A theme is a bundle of graphics and images that can change the way the screen looks. If you’ve ever chosen a different skin on WinAmp, then you know what I mean. There are 4 themes built in to the phone, but there’s other themes that you can find on the web as well. Once installed, you’ll have a different background and navigational elements. The T608 doesn’t have the market share that the T610 does, so there aren’t a lot of themes out there and it’s my understanding the T610 themes won’t work on the T608. See the “Online Resources” at the bottom of this article for links to themes on the web.

You also have the ability to have “screensavers” on your phone as well. I don’t see the point of this feature, but here’s how it works. After a minute or so, a short animation begins. This is your screensaver, but in another minute the phone goes into “sleep” mode and turns off the backlight and goes dark to save battery life. In my book, I want the screen to go dark ASAP so as to save battery life, so the idea of a screensaver is lost on me. In fact, I wish there was a way to turn off the screen manually. That way, when I’m done with a phone call, I could put the phone to sleep and eek out a few more minutes of battery life.

If the idea of screensavers interests you, you can find them for free online, or you can purchase them via SprintPCS vision.

Address Book & Personal Organizer
The T608 has a built-in address book with spaces for Name Home, Work, Mobile, Other, Email, Email2 and URL. You can also associate a “voice tag” to any record in your address book, thus allowing you to simply say “Steve” to have the phone call Steve in your address book. These voice tags are simply sound samples that you attach to a number in your address book.

In addition you can attach personal rings as well as a Photo ID to each contact in your address book as well. For example, if Steve is one of your friends, then you could have the theme song from “Friends” play when he calls and his picture pull up on your screen. Of course you could have a picture of the devil pop up and the theme song from “Mission Impossible” go off when your boss calls too. πŸ˜‰

There’s also a Personal Organizer built in with Calendar, Notes, Clocks, Calculator, and Voice Memos. I use a Palm OS handheld so none of this stuff appealed to me. The menus are slow so navigating the menus becomes a bit cumbersome. I suppose if you didn’t have a handheld, these features might be handy, but I can’t see anyone using these features much because input is so difficult and navigation is so slow.

Web & Messaging
The T608 does have support for Vision, which is SprintPCS’s high speed data network. Via your phone you can view News, Weather, Sports, etc via WAP enable content provided by SprintPCS. This content is fairly limited, but it does give you basic info fairly quickly and easily. For the fearless, you can get to the unfiltered web via a Google Search, but surfing via you phone is about as much fun as reading the newspaper with a telescope. Besides, since this phone is BT enabled you can use your computer, or handheld for a much richer experience.

Something you MAY end up doing with just your phone though is Messaging and the T608 supports a wide range of options including: Short Mail (SprintPCS version of SMS), E-Mail, and via the Web feature, you can use AIM and Yahoo instant messengers and you can even Chat via an SMS style group chat room if you can decipher the SMS speak used. Note to self: when you have a child old enough for a mobile phone, disable data services. I think you get my point. πŸ™‚

Other Downloads
Much to my surprise, the T608 also supports Java and SprintPCS has made good use of it with games and other downloads that you can install on your phone. The T608 comes with demo versions of Ms. PacMan and a Bowling game, but both games are severely stunted and you’re prompted to upgrade so quickly that unless you plan on buying them, you’ll only play them once and then stop using this feature. With the 5 way nav stick, the Ms. PacMan game is perfectly suited for the T608. Unfortunately the game suffers from the slow processor and I found it to be sluggish and somewhat unresponsive. However, there are plenty of other games that you can download and install via SprintPCS.

Bluetooth
Bluetooth is a HUGE topic and there’s no way that I could go through every conceivable configuration and usage of using Bluetooth on the T608. I may post a few entries in the future on different ways that you can use Bluetooth with your phone, but in the meantime, my focus here is just to give you a brief overview.

The T608 has Bluetooth built-in and I have found it very easy to use. I was able to pair my desktop and my Tungsten T to the phone and use either device to connect to the high speed Vision network. All I had to do was place the phone in “Discovery Mode” via the Settings menu on the phone, or simply initiate the pairing from the phone within that same menu. The T608 only stays in “Discovery Mode” for 3 minutes, so don’t worry about it draining your battery, or worrying that other BT devices are constantly trying to connect to it.

Once paired, I can then use either device to automatically interact with the phone as needed. No more pop ups or confirmation dialogs once a pair has been made. In using SnapperMail on my Tungsten T I could seamlessly connect to the Internet via Bluetooth even though my phone was across the room. All I did was hit the “Send/Receive ” button and the Palm OS handled the rest. I have to say, I found this to be VERY, VERY cool. Now all the wireless features of my Tungsten T have come alive and I can quickly and easily access the information I need, when I need it. %)

Why No Headset?
I was so eager to play with Bluetooth that I purchased the Jabra FreeSpeak 200 for non-bluetooth phones headset about a year or so ago. I didn’t have a BT phone, but with this headset I could use a BT headset with my non-BT mobile phone. However, I found having to have the dongle around with you was a PITA and my experience with the BT headset, non-BT phone combo wasn’t all that great and I stopped using it. Flash forward to last week, when I got the T608 and I went in search for my old FreeSpeak 200. The good news is that I found the headset and the power plug. The bad news is that I couldn’t find the charging cradle. In other words, I couldn’t charge the headset so that I could use it with my phone. πŸ™

I called Jabra and they said that for $10 I could buy a new charging base and for $5 they would mail it to me. I ordered it last Wednesday and when I called yesterday to find out where the heck it was, they informed me that it hadn’t shipped yet. 😐 I’ve been sorely tempted to go buy the new FreeSpeak 250 for $99, but I’ve controlled myself and held off. So I’m patiently waiting for the charging base to arrive sometime next week and then I’ll be able to FINALLY use the a BT headset with this phone. Once I’ve had a chance to play with it and get an overall opinion, I’ll post a follow up entry on the subject and give you an update.

Conclusion
I like the T608 a lot. I don’t think this phone, or Bluetooth technology is on the “cutting edge”. I have the feeling that I’m a few steps back from that line, which is to say that the Bluetooth features worked solidly delivering on the promises made. The battery life may not be great, but it’s usable and woth a little sacrifice if you’re jonesn’ for Bluetooth. If BT isn’t your cup of tea, then this phone isn’t for you. In fact, that’s really the only reason to buy this phone in the first place isn’t it?

So if you’re ready to give Bluetooth a spin, I don’t think you’ll be displeased with the results. The paring of devices is straightforward and it’s smooth sailing after that. If you’re a SprintPCS user, then this is your only option for quite sometime unless you change carriers, so come on in, the water is just fine. πŸ˜€

Pros

  • Bluetooth on SprintPCS
  • Small form factor
  • Full Vision support
  • Easy pairing of devices

Cons

  • Poor talk time battery life
  • Slow navigation
  • Not as widely supported as other Sony Ericsson products

Online Resources

  • T608 Specs at PhoneScoop.com [link]
  • eBay Search of T608 phones [link]
  • T608 Community at T608.com [link]
  • T608 Themes [link]
  • Ring Tones [link]