Review by Sunetra Chakravati,
12/12/2011 3:52:18 PM
The battery life is very impressive and the gesture control is an appealing gimmick.
The design looks and feels plasticy, and the manufacturer has failed to make the most of the available space.
The most successful entry-level phones tend to be the ones that don't look cheap. While the spec sheet may be basic, an entry-level handset that boasts slick looks or a well-crafted chassis will be forgiven for the basic 1.3-megapixel camera or lack of 3G. The Sony Ericsson Z555i is aimed at such a market, but will it prove to be an entry-level hit or a low-budget miss?
Clamshell handsets are tricky phones to master. By their very nature they are big - open it up and it doubles in length, and closing it will often double the thickness. Yet with this in mind, we were still a tad disappointed with the bulk of the Sony Ericsson Z555i. The top of the handset is emblazoned with a prism-like pattern; much like the design found on Nokia's aptly named Prism range. The Finns used it to great affect, constructing a worthy designer phone; however, the Z555 just doesn't cut it. The material feels very plastic and the visual effect is more distorted mirror than reflective glass.
Behind this prism-type exterior is a hidden OLED screen that activates when you receive a phone call, text, alarm or reminder. Unfortunately, the blue text is both dim and blurred. The Z555i has gesture control, which can be used to silence calls or alarms. If you receive an unwanted call or an alarm, simply swipe your hand about an inch over the top of the OLED screen and the ringing will simply be halted. This function needs to be switched on via the Settings menu. It's a gimmick we like, though we concede that a silence button may have been a simpler option.
Turn the handset over and Sony Ericsson has included a bizarre crease down the center of the phone. The intention may have been to give the phone a symmetrical look, but it actually looks as though the cover has been damaged or squashed.
Open the clamshell up to reveal a large flat keypad that has been decorated with a golden trim. It works really well against the black keys that are big enough to allow easy digit navigation. While the size of the adjoining screen is 1.9-inches, some careful positioning by Sony Ericsson could surely have led to a slightly larger screen. For example, if the camera - found on the front of the handset - had been moved to the opposite end of the phone, then this could have freed up half an inch or so. As it is the screen floats above a strip of plastic that is pretty much redundant apart from displaying the name of the phone's model.
When using the camera, the screen becomes even more miserly. The picture that is being taken is viewed in an area that measures around an inch. The rest of the screen is fitted with what modes you are using, such as whether you're in night mode, self-timer or burst mode (which takes four shots in rapid succession).
The camera is 1.3-megapixels, although shooting in the one-megapixel mode will prevent you from zooming in on a shot. Flip to VGA and you can zoom 2x and QVGA 4x, but the quality of the picture suffers each time you move down the displays. Pushing the navigation pad upwards can access the camera; however, there is no designated camera key. In fact the only exterior button is found on the right-hand side of the phone. When using the camera, this button doubles up as the brightness adjuster, and when using the music player it controls the volume. However, when idle, Sony Ericsson has taken the bizarre decision to use it as a shortcut button to the phone's status. Hit it and you will be told what profile you are in, the model of your phone (in case you forget we presume) and how much free memory you have. Surely a shortcut to your music player or camera would have been far more beneficial.
There is only 12MB of shared memory, although the MemoryStick Micro slot (M2) found under the back cover will enhance your music collection. It's fair to say that the Z555i won't see you binning your iPods and MP3 players. The music player is basic with no fetching graphic displays accompanying your tunes, and your tracks can be arranged by artist, song title or via a playlist. It is pleasing that both the music player and FM radio can continue to be played whilst using other features, including the camera. We found the radio reception was very good, although the RDS reader was a little more temperamental. As this is used for little more than stating the radio station's name, it is no real heinous crime.
The idea of surfing the net on a GPRS connection may put the frighteners on some, but in practice the slower connection speed was not as bad as first feared. That said, downloads were characteristically slow with a 1745KB size video taking around seven minutes to complete. The Z555i's internet experience is really let down by the poor pixelated graphics and text.
The Sony Ericsson Z555i is an entry-level handset and for that reason some concessions need to be made. There's no 3G; however, 3G is a luxury afforded to more equipped handsets, and the GPRS connection is not too sluggish. The camera is only 1.3-megapixels, which is questionable as more and more prepay handsets are offering at least two-megapixel snappers.
However, our real gripe is with the design of the phone. It's both cumbersome and plasticy, while the prism-style front feels and looks tacky, and also hinders the OLED display. It's for these reasons that the Sony Ericsson Z555i fails to inspire us, even taking into account its entry-level status.