By Tony Henning
Sony Ericsson, which is doing quite well with its Walkman-branded music phones, is now launching its first camera-phones to carry the Cyber-shot brand. The Cyber-shot phones, said North American marketing VP Frances Britchford, are “the first to earn the right to be called Cyber-shot” and represent the initial salvo in a product plan that in 2006 will “establish the phone as a credible camera.” The K800 and K790 are 3.2-megapixel camera-phones with auto-focus, red-eye reduction, video and image stabilization, and a Xenon flash capable of illuminating “a whole scene rather than just a face” up to ten feet away. Slide the active lens cover downwards, the company says, and a user interface similar to that of a Cyber-shot camera automatically appears on the 2-inch, QVGA, 262,144-color LCD.
That’s not the end of the imaging goodies. The phones also feature a proprietary technology not available in Cyber-shot digital cameras. Called BestPic, the technology lets users capture nine sequential shots at the first touch of the shutter button, store the images in buffer memory and select the best of the lot to store in removable memory. Most digital cameras, in contrast, take sequential shots and store all of them in embedded or removable memory, requiring users to delete unwanted. Only Nikon and Casio have a BestPic-like feature in their digital cameras. The phones also have the ability to directly send your photos to a blog, thanks to Sony Ericsson’s partnership with Google. Once you’ve taken a snap, you can go to straight to a drop down menu, select ‘blog this,’ add text and then post it directly to a Blogger page. You can re-size images to keep data transfer costs under control.
The K790 Cyber-shot phone for the North American market measures 106 x 47 x 18 mm (22 mm with sliding lens cover), weighs 115 grams, and its features include tri-band 850/1800/1900MHz GSM/EDGE; 64MB internal memory; Sony Memory Stick Micro (M2) slot for the company’s new flash-memory format; Bluetooth 2.0; RDS-equipped FM radio (RDS stands for Radio Data System and it allows FM broadcasters to send data such as song titles or genre over a subcarrier); HTML browsing; RSS feeds; and support for playback of MP3, AAC, AAC+ and eAAC+ music files. It uses the Open Mobile Alliance’s digital-rights-management (DRM) technology to protect music downloaded over the air. The other new Cyber-shot phone, the K800, is slated for overseas markets and uses GSM/GPRS technology at 900/1800/1900MHz and W-CDMA at 2100MHz.
We’ve been wondering when a manufacturer or carrier would put a mainstream imaging brand on a handset to let consumers know that it could be taken seriously as a camera, and we applaud Sony Ericsson for being the first to do just that. The No. 5 handset maker has been a leader in camera-phones with its dual-front designs, QuickShare interface, and market leading image quality in handsets such as the S710a, and the Cyber-shot series continues this leadership. It’s not clear whether the image-resizing capability is available only from the blogging feature or applies to any transmission scenario, but we’re nonetheless delighted to see the feature finally incorporated into a phone destined for this market. Japanese camera-phones have been allowing users to crop, zoom, and resize images before sending for several years but to our knowledge this will be a first for the U.S. Again, kudos to SEMC for leading the way.