I really liked the C902, and besides a few early hardware glitches, it was a fairly rock-solid phone that sold extremely well in 2008. One year on, Sony Ericsson has released an update that sits nicely between the C902 and C905. It retains the 5-megapixel sensor and LED flash, but is slimmer than a C905 by a long way. It also has the closest look to a digital camera, in particular Sony’s own Cyber-shot T-series.
Compared to the original C902, the phone now has GPS, but not Wi-Fi. Wireless isn’t really a necessity, but GPS opens up the phone to offering personal navigation or simply finding your surroundings on Google Maps. The fix-time is quick, which is particularly useful when you want to find out where something is without waiting out in the open for ten minutes or so.
With the use of a lens cover, which is pretty standard on all Cyber-shot models, you can quickly fire up the camera at any time to take a photo.
Unfortunately, if you’re coming to this phone from the C902, you’ll be disappointed by the lack of dedicated camera shortcut keys. The D-Pad can be used to turn the flash on or off, or adjust the focus and exposure, but everything else requires accessing the menu. It’s slower than the C902 (with its touch sensitive buttons) or the C905, but not necessarily a deal-breaker, especially if you’re someone that generally prefers to keep everything set to the default settings.
Unlike the C902 though, the speed of the phone is a lot quicker. This means going through the slightly updated menus is faster, but more importantly it means accessing music or watching videos is speeded up considerably. The media player software has also been updated so you no longer have long delays when deleting photos, and can quickly manage your gallery without having to book a day off work (or using the pretty well hidden file manager).
Although you won’t find full Walkman-phone style functionality, such as the SenseMe function that can create a playlist depending on your mood, the things you miss are the parts of the Walkman player that you probably use the least. Do you really choose your music by genre, or year? If you do, you’re better off with the W705 or W715 (two models at a similar price point), but you’ll lose the decent camera.
For the best of everything, you’re still going to have to upgrade to the C905 or, ideally, the W995. Both give you a 8.1-megapixel camera, the former with a Xenon flash and the latter in a much smaller sized shell, but only an LED flash.
On a budget
These flagship models come at a cost, however, and the C903 is a far more affordable phone, which is sure to do particularly well when it filters down to the prepay market. Despite it’s lower entry in the market, you still get all of the standard Sony Ericsson features like the NetFront web browser, a decent email client and access to a range of applications for your PC or Mac for managing media files, or synchronising data (you now get a free iSync plug-in for the Mac, as well as ‘Media Sync’ that lets you copy playlists and podcasts from iTunes onto your phone).
The build quality of the C903 appears fine, feeling comfortable in the hand and with well spaced buttons, but I did manage to knock off some of the paint when it fell on the floor. A case may be advisable, considering you could be taking this out of a pocket quickly to take a photo.
The speed at which Sony Ericsson release new Cyber-shot phones is now slowing down, but that doesn’t matter too much because the C903 should last for some time to come.
Although the latest Cyber-shot isn’t a top-end product, it still gains from being newer than the C905, meaning you get nearly all the same features in a much smaller shell. Five-megapixels is still more than enough for most people (and we’ll still be saying that when all cameras are about 500-megapixels), although you don’t get the Xenon flash which will impact low-light photography. The phone has everything except Wi-Fi (so no BBC iPlayer here), but GPS is certainly a worthy addition and makes for a very impressive, and affordable, cameraphone package.