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Review of Sony Ericsson Elm J10 GSM/UMTS Phone
Live photos of Sony Ericsson Elm
In the box:
At the moment, when the Sony Ericsson Elm was being created, the company had no particular plans for the A200 platform. The platform was supposed to be reserved for a limited number of phones and, without any significant development, to be gradually replaced with Android devices. As a result, the developers had to create a very expensive phone with a maximum producer margin as their objective. All kind of tricks that one can think of were used. They took the existing Sony Ericsson C901 as the basis and revised everything from the box contents to the phone innards. For example, the USB cable is still there but is now shorter to save a few cents. The phone performance was sacrificed, too, as the device memory is the cheapest one (not the memory card but the actual onboard memory). The screen is also the cheapest one, with low brightness. And there is hardly an end to the list of such tricks. The resulting model turned out to be aimed at the constantly decreasing number of Sony Ericsson fans. Understanding that the device appeared as a slightly revamped version of the C901, they decided to throw in a few insignificant features, like widgets for the standby mode. In addition, the device is positioned as an eco-friendly phone and is part of the GreenHeart series. The latter is another explanation as to why one has to pay extra 30-35 per cent for the functionality offered. Unfortunately for Sony Ericsson, the idea can't find a broad response among the customers who are not willing to spend their cash on eco-friendly devices; Nokia understands that and makes all or nearly all phones so. You can take a model from Nokia and see for yourself that it is as eco-friendly as the Elm or even better than that. In a word, all that is none other than a marketing ploy aimed at drawing extra attention and trying to justify the absurd price.
The model exists in various versions for different markets, which is also an attempt to save some money. For example, the Russian version is indexed as J10i2 and has integrated Wi-Fi and GPS. The J10 variation is sans Wi-Fi and GPS, which allowed the producer to save another several Euros but hardly affected the price.
The model appeared on the marker last spring. In April, one could get it for about EUR 160 in Germany or about EUR 235 in Russia. The lack of common sense in the policy of the Russian office has become proverbial as they have been charging exorbitant prices for the substandard product while expecting it to be snapped up. Even the European price was extremely high. The world sales of the model were doomed. It is one of those models that, once on the shelves, stay there for a year or two. And the reason for that is the price inadequacy that prevented the mass consumer from buying the device in order to actually evaluate it. There are only a limited number of reviews on the Web, which is an indirect sign of the sales being low. A telltale sign is the Russian market, where the model failed and became an outsider in its price segment.
All said above is important for understanding the target audience of the device. The latter isn't any user group but the supporters of the make who don't care what the phone looks like or how it works. One can also say that the device can be bought upon a salesman's recommendation or if someone just likes the design.
The Hazel J20 slider is an improved version of the model with a better screen yet a similar set of flaws. It will be somewhat commented upon in the concluding section.
The phone is available in two color options Ц girlish pearly rose and universal metal black.
The device features a curved back, which the company calls Human Curvature. Tastes differ, but personally I am neither hot nor cold about that. It doesn't make the phone feel better in one's hand, which has been tested on quite a few friends; none could see the difference from a regular device. That's just another trick to make the phone stand out of the crowd.
The case is made of recycled plastic but fear not Ц it's quite a regular decent plastic. The rear panel, which also serves as a battery cover, sports an aluminum plate. One can hardly scratch it, yet there appeared some worn spots on the case after a week's use, which is disappointing. Another downside is that the cover needs to be opened from the side using a special ledge near the proprietary socket, which puts extra pressure on the stoppers that are placed orthogonally. The plastic stoppers can be broken if pushed too hard. Thanks to the company's overcomplicating things, one has to be very careful about opening the cover.
On the right-hand side of the phone, you can find a volume rocker and a camera shutter key. The proprietary Fast Port socket (it's 2010 now and all other manufacturers are switching to microUSB) is on the left-hand side. Using the socket is yet another attempt to save money.
The device build quality is decent; the phone looks well-made and generally solid. It measures 110x45x14 mm and is not as thin as its predecessors, which is something I don't like. The weight is 90 grams.
Sony Ericsson Elm vs Sony Ericsson Hazel:
The rear side features a camera with LED flash, which can also be used as torchlight.
The device is equipped with a TFT screen that has a resolution of 240x320 pixels (2.2 inches wide) and supports up to 262K colors. Indoors, the picture looks okay, albeit lacking brightness. Even at the maximum brightness level, the display is grayed out. That can easily be seen if the screen is compared to that in the Hazel. But of course, it's no big surprise, since using a lackluster display is a great opportunity for the producer to cut the phone costs.
The screen allows for up to 9 text lines and up to 4 auxiliary rows. In select modes, you can have even more text lines. Screen readability in direct sunlight is poor.
The phone has an integrated movement sensor, which automatically changes the picture mode in the browser or image gallery when the device is rotated.
The alphanumeric keys are arranged into a block of rows and claimed to be dust and water resistant. I don't understand what makes them so special, as that is also true for 99 per cent of contemporary phones.
The keys are quite comfortable and have a white backlight, which is bright and uniform. The inscriptions can easily be read in any environment. The navigation key is decent and shouldn't be a problem for most users.
The phone comes with a 1000 mAh Li-Pol battery (BST-43). The producer claims up to 10 hours of talk time or up to 430 hours of standby.
The battery lasted for about 1.5-2 days under a conservative usage scenario (up to an hour of talking, about 30 minutes of gaming, 20 minutes of browsing, and a few hours of listening to the music) in Russian cellular networks. In Europe, you can expect the battery life to be at least 50 per cent longer due to better coverage. Music playback alone will kill the battery in about 17.5 hours. It takes 2 hours for the phone to charge fully (80 per cent charge in 1.5 hours).
Compared to earlier models, the battery life is 35-40 per cent shorter, although the official numbers are still the same. My understanding of the phenomenon is that the slower interface eats at the battery at a faster rate (think about the additional time the screen needs to be on).
The phone has about 270 MB of user available memory. The memory card slot is hot swappable and supports cards of up to 32 GB. It is located beneath the battery cover.
The model features a 5 MP camera with autofocus and a LED flash. For the product of the class the camera is excellent and offers quality photos. There is a macro and other additional modes.
Video recording in mpeg4 is supported in the following resolutions: 640x480 and 320x240. The length of video shots can be limited by 10 seconds or unlimited. The quality of video is average and can hardly be impressive (30 frames per second).
During USB connection you are forced to choose whether to access files on a memory card (data transfer mode), continue working with the phone (phone mode Ц operation as a modem), or choose Print mode (printing photos). Media Transfer mode is also available (work in MTP, for example, with Windows Media Player). In the first case the phone is disabled and you see the memory card and the phone memory. Data transfer speed reaches 2 Mbps. In the second case you can use different USB settings for the network connection and the phone operates as a modem.
Bluetooth 2 supports EDR and in the menu you can select an energy saving mode. A2DP is also supported, which enables the use of stereo headsets. Data transfer speed is 100 Kbps. The following profiles are available:
WiFi. There is a networks wizard and selected networks can be remembered. When connected all apps use WiFi to connect to a network. 802.11 b/g is supported.
Media Home. WiFi connection can be used to download music and photos from a PC with the necessary software. Alternatively files can be sent from the phone to a PC via DLNA. Everything works well.
It is pointless to describe all software peculiarities, because we have a tried and trusted ј200 platform, which has been analyzed in a detailed review, so here we will only touch upon the specifics of the model.
In the standby mode you can use widgets on the screen when the selected apps are displayed (one at a time). It can be a calendar with To Do List, pace counter, Twitter or Facebook. In the latter two cases the phone automatically updates an RSS feed. The application with widgets is quite handy, but it works very slowly, especially when you try to configure it. It clearly testifies to the fact that it was written above the core code and the app is a bit wobbly. Probably these widgets slow down the entire interface.
The only available game is a simplified Tetris.
Instead SE proved to be generous in terms of apps and they installed everything one can think of. Let's go over main applications without mentioning standard Facebook and YouTube clients.
AccuWeather Ц weather forecast in a selected city.
Calendar Wallpaper Ц flash wallpaper with the clock, which changes into a calendar and photos after some time. It cannot be used in the standby mode, because it is blocked by widgets.
Checkbook helps to carry out all accounting operations Ц income and expenses. You can analyze all items of your budget.
Eco Mate Ц panda, who asks questions about ecology. Some people will like it, but I doubt that many will do it for hours.
Green Calculator Ц provides you with info on your —ќ2 emissions generated by, let's say, your car rides. This is one more futile attempt to be green.
Grocery List itemizes all purchases, so that you can choose necessary products from the list and indicate their amount. The list can be sent to another phone.
NeoReader reads bar codes. There is not much point in this app, because it failed to read half of the codes we tested.
Standby World is wallpaper showing different time zones. You cannot use it in the standby mode as before.
Tracker is used for training sessions and tracks the distance you travel on foot or by bike. It can count laps and uses an in-built GPS. In other words it is quite a pleasant app.
WisePilot is navigation software, which can be used for free during one month and then you have to pay from И20. It is not convenient to use, so Google Maps is a much better option.
Here we have a typical ј200 phone without anything special. In the box we get the worst headset possible. The player has exchangeable shells. They are rather beautiful and are complemented by five equalizers.
Multimedia capabilities are standard for the platform and you can read about them здесь.
I would just mention that apart from the player this handset features an FM radio as well.
The ringtone is loud; the communication quality is decent and typical of all modern models. Its quality build is a high point of the model.
Several technologies are used to boost the speech recognition quality during the conversation. Automatic volume adjustment is supported. I never noticed its operation, so probably it is very smooth. Noise Shield must protect from street sounds, but again I did not feel much difference from the previous generation models. I compared it with Sony Ericsson C902 on purpose, but could not find anything new. It must be connected with marketing and promotion aimed at attracting consumers with slogans similar to Green Heart series.
The drawbacks of the model are predetermined by its development history. The screen is not bright enough, but the worst issue is its slow speed. If you watch the video you will notice how slow the phone is and nothing can be done. Sadly, widgets made impossible the use of flash wallpapers and several of them offered in the Applications section are useless. It is a typical case of SE frugality, which saves pennies, but cuts down on useful features.
In Europe the model costs И140, while in Russia its price is $260. The price is rather high for the model and it does not sell at all. This model is too expensive, but Sony Ericsson brand is interesting for the fans only (it is true for ј200 platform). Unfortunately, the phone has more disadvantages to be attractive for its price. You can say that multitasking and good camera are serious selling points, but a slow menu and search function in the phonebook cancel all nice features it has. I was gutted when I came across one feature of Facebook, which you cannot cancel. During the first use the phone sends a message that you use Facebook client on a particular Sony Ericsson phone. It happens without any warning. I noticed it by chance and got angry. It is completely indecent.
One of the alternative models is Hazel slider with similar features, but better screen. Nevertheless, it is also slow, while its price is higher. In other words, you have to think twice before making your choice. You can read a separate review of this model.
Sony Ericsson C902 is also a rival. It has a better body, comparable camera, but it is older. In terms of features these models are comparable. Nobody needs WiFi in such handsets, but Elm has it, so choosing a direct rival is not easy. A cheaper analogue for young people is Nokia X2-00, which has a better price (И50 less) and superior capabilities in all areas. It's a pity that Sony Ericsson came up with an expensive and odd model, which has weak sales and proves that saving is not always right. It is much better to create a high quality model and sell it in numbers, albeit at a lower price. Greedy manufacturers often harm their brand image.
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Published 10 September 2010
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