Sony Ericsson C905 Review

The 8.1 Megapixel Cyber-Shot camera is the best feature of the Sony Ericsson C905, that is already on the market in Europe. Today, AT&T is launching the C905 in the U.S, making it the highest resolution camera phone ever from this carrier. We have played with it. The device looks like a Cyber-shot camera on one side and like a phone on the other side, and it is thicker than my Blackberry Curve. 8 Megapixel camera phones are not common in the US market, the N86 will soon be available globally, there’s no word on the LG Renoir hitting our shores any time soon (I love this one) and hopefully the new Samsung Pixon 12 (12 MP) will be available here after its launch in the UK next month.

Key features

  • 8.1 megapixel camera with face detection, autofocus, xenon flash, active lens cover and GPS tagging
  • BestPic captures seven successive photos in one click, Smart Contrast compensates for areas that are too bright or dark, red-eye reduction, image stabilizer, dedicated camera keys and shortcut
  • 160 MB internal memory, Memory Stick Micro (M2) – 2GB M2 in box – up to 16 GB
  • USB cable for:
  • – file transfer and synchronization with PC using Windows Media Player
  • – printing with PicBridge compatible printers
  • 2.4-inch scratch-resistant mineral glass display, QVGA (240×320)
  • Built-in GPS with A-GPS function, AT&T Navigator software
  • Tri-band UMTS/HSDPA (3.5G)
  • Applications: AT&T Video Share, video recording, AT&T Music, FM radio, Mobile Email, AT&T Navigator and instant messaging. With AT&T Video Share, consumers can share their experiences in real-time streaming video (only possible with Video Share enabled devices).

Phone Basics (good)

I quickly checked the phone sound quality by calling AT&T customer support and the sound was good, the voice was loud enough and clear with a medium volume. Dialing a number is quick and easy, the keys are wide and the touch is comfortable. The backlit keyboard is useful for placing a call in low light conditions, in a club for example. Dialing a contact is not as easy, I had to get to the address book and type the first letter of the name to get there, that’s the downside of not having a qwerty keyboard that would allow typing the contact name directly.

Physical Design (ok)

Basically the phone looks like a digital camera but it is a bit too bulky and heavy, we could blame it on the great 8 MP camera that may (not sure) need this extra space and weight. However, the fluid form factor and the stainless steel look (mostly made of plastic) gives some style to this thick phone and for this size (4.1×1.9×0.7 inches, 4.8 oz) , I would like to get a larger and better display with touch capability… The lens cover is easy to move using the thumb, and the camera button is exactly like the one on a regular digital camera. I regret the lack of a standard 3.5mm audio jack , I could not use my regular earphones to listen to music. The only connector is proprietary (photo above), thanks to Sony Ericsson (as usual), you will need an adapter to connect your earphones. The user interface is ok for a regular phone, not great for a high-end phone.

Camera (very good for a phone)

The key feature is the 8 MP camera, so I spent some time testing it. The smart contrast may not give the expected result, when tested with a flash and in low light conditions, it overexposed the picture. I shot three scenes with my BlackBerry Curve 8900 and with the C905 at the highest resolution, see the pictures below. The full-size ones can be seen in our Flickr account.

The Sony Ericsson’s shutter lag is way shorter than my Blackberry thus it delivers a very good shot of moving cars, in low light condition, that’s awesome! The Curve provides a poor result in comparison. (photo above -see the original high resolution pictures on our Flickr account )

In addition, the color balance is incomparably more accurate with the C905 without any tuning prior to shooting. (photo below)

I compared the image quality to the DSLR EOS 50D (lower resolution settings) and the Curve in low light condition, with and without the flash, the Sony Ericsson provided very good results for a camera phone, on the image on the right the details in the keyboard are rendered well and in fact the color is closer to the reality than the two above. (See the original high resolution pictures on our Flickr account – example on the right)

Unlike the Smart Contrast option, the Photo Fix feature works pretty well and enhances the image quality by adding contrast to an underexposed photo. (photo on the Flickr account)

To access the photo viewer while shooting, the only way is the tiny button on top of the phone on the right side of the zoom . (Photo below)

Battery Life and Charging Time (ok)

On the spec sheet when using the UMTS/HDSPA network the phone has up to 4 hours talk time and up to 360 hours Standby time. The battery ran out of power after 10 hours and a half in standby, shooting roughly 40 high resolution pictures, half of them with flash. It takes two hours to get the device fully charged.

Entertainment section, media files and applications (good)

The Entertainment section has a well designed user interface and it is very simple to synchronize the media files with the PC using the provided USB cable and Windows Media Player (photo above). I did not need to configure anything. The auto-rotate display works only in the Multimedia menu (photo in gallery above).

I quickly tried
several interesting applications including the Yellow pages (slow but great UI- photo below), MobiTV (5 minutes subscription left): video streaming was not that fluid with poor video quality, good enough for watching trailers and short videos (photos), XM radio (could not use it due to a lack of subscription), Where application portal (cool location based applications, subscription required after trial period) and the Application Store. (See photo gallery)

Messaging , IM and Social Networking and Web Browsing (basic)

I was disappointed by the absence of Gmail as a supported provider in the Mobile Email menu, and I did not find a way to set up my POP email as well, I guess it is not supported. AIM, Yahoo Messenger and Windows Live Messenger are available (no Google Talk). Overall the phone is slow, especially to load emails from my Yahoo account, however, web browsing speed was ok. I would like to see a better integration of Social networking: the Facebook client is not provided by default here, unlike in the N97 and the Sidekick, for example, where users can access it directly from the phone’s home page. The new Sony Ericsson W518s is supposed to offer the feature… Sony Ericsson is offering only one key feature per phone, how about market dilution?


The Sony Ericsson is a good basic phone with a killer camera and well integrated multimedia features. Messaging is ok as long as you have an account among the limited number of providers embedded in the phone.

At $179.99 (with a 2-yr contract), the pricing seems a bit high for a phone that is not a smartphone, although ultra-mobile photographers would be willing to pay extra for the camera quality. For the same price, customers could be attracted by a smartphone with slightly inferior photo capabilities like the Nokia E71x, the BlackBerry Curve 8900 or even the iPhone. That said, all of them will end up being more expensive in the long run, because of their data plans.

The Sony Ericsson will be available in Ice Silver only starting from July 19th, in AT&T stores or at, complete specifications on the product page.

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