Slightly cheap-looking, unexciting styling, with a curious arched back – though it still feels slim and is very light.
The plentiful features are easy to find, thanks to an extensive menu system and a range of widgets and shortcuts – though perhaps there are just too many options.
For a slim, reasonably priced phone, the Elm has more on board than one has any right to expect. Very little has been left out.
Sometimes sluggish to launch programs, it’s mostly efficient but just occasionally feels underpowered.
Battery life was decent, though sagged noticeably when GPS was switched on. Expect daily top-ups.
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,12/12/2011 3:57:45 PM
Look and feel
Ease of use
Simple interface, neat looks, light and slim body
Slowish performance, unexceptional screen, no 3.5mm jack
Don’t be fooled by the light, slight Elm. It may look like a bog-standard candy-bar phone but it does a lot more. It looks so much like a basic handset it’s almost a surprise that it packs 3G. But it does, and HSDPA for fast data traffic (7.2Mbps fast, in fact). Not to mention Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and a five-megapixel camera with LED flash. There’s even extensive on-board memory. At 280MB it’s a long way from the iPhone, but you can expand it with microSD cards up to 8GB. Not bad, eh?In fact, the only major element missing is that music-lover’s friend, the 3.5mm earphone jack. You’ll need to use the supplied headphones, which fit into Sony Ericsson’s dedicated power and earpiece connector.
The Elm is part of Sony Ericsson’s Greenheart range of eco-friendly phones. This means the handset uses some recycled plastics, an electronic instead of a printed manual. All well and good, although if you need to open the case to insert the battery, you won’t find out how to until you’ve, er, inserted the battery and switched on. It also has basic packaging and is made from materials free from hazardous chemicals. The phone itself has plenty of software to match the hardware sophistication. An Activity Menu key (as, it turns out, the onboard user guide calls it) includes a shortcut to the internet, a list of other shortcuts, an account of what apps are running, and more. You can find programs in different ways – push up on the satisfyingly reliable direction pad to show five ghost widgets. These are for the calendar, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and Walk Mate Eco. Choose to show any of them and they’ll form a permanent backdrop on the home screen. This last is a pedometer, showing how many steps you’ve taken today and the CO2 saved. How accurate this is is anybody’s guess (are 161 steps really the same as 22g of CO2 saved?), but it works well in your hand or pocket. There’s something addictive at watching the animated shadow walk as you do, and stopping – hand jauntily on hip – when you do. The screen is a touch underwhelming – the colour palette isn’t exactly cutting-edge and the size (2.2ins) could be better. But it’s highly usable, it’s just that it’s outdone by the many high-res and OLED screens available now.
Still, this makes the phone cheaper. Like having not such a fast processor – something that becomes apparent whenever you launch a program like Navigation, for instance, which takes an age. Of course, we’re used to complex apps taking a moment to load but because the phone doesn’t resemble a smartphone, this delay takes you aback. Once you’ve decided you want navigation, there are plenty of options, including the Sony Ericsson special, NearMe, along with Google Maps and WisePilot. We found the GPS took some time to grab hold of a signal, but was reasonably efficient at holding on to it. Sony Ericsson phones have strong camera and music capabilities and they’re featured here, too. The 5-megapixel camera has the company’s proprietary image-fixing features, and the GPS means you can geo-tag photos, too. It still has extensive shutter lag, especially in low light, though the LED flash is reasonably powerful. Music features include SensMe, where the phone analyses tracks so you can pick them according to the mood you’re in. You can also choose songs by year and genre. The excellent TrackID, to identify songs playing nearby that you just can’t name, is also here.
It’s a cute phone, with lots going for it – lots more than you’d think at first glance.