Sony Ericsson Elm
Buy this phone and save the planet – maybe
Review Sony Ericsson has been busy producing a range of eco friendly handsets, produced under the GreenHeart banner. GreenHeart phones are made from recycled plastics and have no hazardous chemicals in the build. As a green marketing wheeze, by and large, these handsets have been given the names of trees. There’s an Aspen, a Hazel, the Naite (OK, that’s not a tree), and the one I am reviewing here, the Elm.
Branching out: Sony Ericsson's Elm
I’ve seen eco friendly phones before, and while they are laudable in ideology they don’t always stack up in usability terms or with regard to depth of features. The Elm, though, seems to be a fairly solidly made phone with an impressive range of features considering its price tag.
The Elm has A-GPS with various apps to take advantage of it and, besides Wi-Fi, the handset supports HSDPA and sports a front camera for two way video calling. The main camera is a 5Mp jobbie and there’s Bluetooth and an FM radio too. The on-board software includes YouTube and Facebook clients, GPS tracker (for you to log your running routes) and even a shopping list maker.
There are also a couple of eco friendly apps – Green Calculator works out your CO2 emissions, EcoMate is a game that aims to teach (presumably younger) users some basic environmentally friendly practices.
A dedicated key on the front of the handset provides access to the Sony Ericsson Activity Menu and this brings up a tabbed list, which you can populate with application and internet shortcuts as well as use to view alerts and switch between running apps.
Made from recycled materials, it still looks the part
You can also push up on the navpad to see five shortcuts to Calendar, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and WalkMate. The latter is a pedometer that calculates CO2 savings assuming, I guess, that you could have used a powered means of transport as an alternative. Choose one of these and they show on the home screen. Choose more than one and you press left and right on the navpad to move between them.
This is a candybar handset measuring up at 110mm x 45mm x 14mm and 90g. Its 2.2-inch, 240 x 320 pixel screen isn’t up to much. Web browsing is possible but excruciating in the small space, though at least an accelerometer lets you make the most of the screen width.
The camera is activated by a side button. It has a good range of features including macro mode, smile detection and face detection and there is an LED light which doubles up as a torch. You take a photo by clicking the centre of the navpad. It takes a little while for the focus to kick in, so you can’t just click to shoot and then wave the handset around. If you do, your photos will be blurred. I found it a bit tricky to frame outdoor shots, because the screen is not as readable as it could be outside.
There is an immediate and very annoying flaw with the Elm’s design. The headset jack is not 3.5mm but Sony Ericsson’s horrid old proprietary type, which shares the main power connector. The provided headset is one piece, and the slot is on the left side of the casing where it protrudes horribly when the handset is in a pocket. One might argue this is another example of recycling, as those proprietary connector headsets are well overdue for the scrapheap.
Designed with green fingers in mind
I found the rubbery numberpad comfortable to use, and the large navpad is very responsive. The back of the Elm is slightly curved, which makes the phone look a little different from the norm and causes it to rock a little when on the desk. There is 256MB of free memory in the handset, with a microSD card slot under the back panel for additional storage. Call quality was fine, and it should be possible to get a couple of days from a single battery charge as long as you don’t use the GPS or Wi-Fi too heavily or really thrash the music player.
You’d never know the Elm was an eco friendly handset unless somebody told you, which is precisely how it should be. There are plenty of features too – more than you might anticipate from a first glance at the fairly bog standard candybar design. The camera performs well and Sony Ericsson’s usual generous provision of applications means there is plenty to do with this phone straight out of the box. You can even write your shopping list then walk to the shops counting up the CO2 you are saving by not driving. ®
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