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Sony Ericsson P990 / P990i / P990c

 Sony Ericsson P990 Discontinued
10th October 2005

The Sony Ericsson P990 is the latest P-series Symbian smartphone from Sony Ericsson, following on from the successful P800, P900 and P910 models. Expected to start shipping in Q1 2006 to Europe, Middle East, Asia and Africa as the P990i, and to mainland China as the P990c. There is no word of a North American variant.

Although superficially similar to the P900/P910, the P990 is a vastly more capable handset, with many major improvements. To start off with, this is a 3G UMTS device in addition to tri-band GSM (900/1800/1900) and GPRS. It also has 802.11b Wireless Ethernet (WiFi) support, making it one of only a few WiFi capable phones. The screen resolution is now 240x320 pixel touchscreen in 262,000 colours, and on the back on the Sony Ericsson P990 is a 2 megapixel digital camera. Internal memory is 80Mb, and this is expandable through Sony Memory Stick Pro Duo cards (64Mb is included, 2Gb maximum). As you'd expect, the SE P990 comes with Bluetooth, but there's also an FM radio as an added bonus.

 Sony Ericsson P990 Open One immediately noticeable change is the keyboard. On the P990, the small alphabetic keyboard is fixed to the phone and is revealed by flipping down the number pad. Immediately about the QWERTY keyboard is a 2.6" 240x320 pixel display. When the number pad is in use, it appears to cover around 80 pixels or so from the bottom of the display, which gives the P990 both "open" and "closed" display modes, as with the P900 and P910. Certain applications such as the web browser and camera functions can use the P990's screen in landscape (wide) view.

The software package on the Sony Ericsson P990 has improved too, with the Symbian v9.1 operating system plus the UIQ 3.0 user interface. On top of this, the SE P990 comes with the Opera 8 web browser, email client, plus a suite of PIM applications. The P990 can edit Microsoft Word and Excel documents, and additionally comes with a viewer for PowerPoint and PDF files.

The stereo capabilities on the P990 are not known - we assume that it has stereo MP3 playback, but the details are sketchy. Nor do we know if you can plug a standard stereo headset directly into the P990, or if the device supports stereo Bluetooth.

Sony Ericsson say that the P990 can support all major push email protocols, including Blackberry. How much of that is "in the box" and how much is an additional cost software option is not known, but certainly the P990 looks like a very good high end device for corporate use. There is a VPN client included too, and of course the P990 synchronises with applications such as Microsoft Outlook. The ability to edit Word and Excel documents is a big plus for business users.

It's quite a large device, at 114x57x25mm and 155 grams, but that's about the same weight as the i-Mate JAM/HTC Magician though a little larger (although the P990 has a better overall specification than the JAM/Magician). 3G talktime is up to 3 hours, with 9 hours maximum talktime on GSM. Standby time is up to 12 days (3G) or 16 days (GSM).

As we said, there's no word of a North American variant of the P990 (which would probably be called the P990a if released), although the stated Q1 2006 launch date means that potential buyers shouldn't have too long to wait.

The Sony Ericsson P990 is a formidable device in terms of hardware and software specifications, and certainly an improvement over the P910. However, we feel that this is a handset that should have shipped in Q1 2005, not Q1 2006, and this long lead time has meant that HTC has carved out significant market share in this sector. On the plus side, there is no other Symbian smartphone that comes close to this, although we do prefer the wide screen of the Nokia 9300 and 9500 devices to the "tall" screen on the P990 and similar handsets. And although the Nokia 9300 and 9500 are capable devices, they're nowhere near the specification of the Sony Ericsson P990. Perhaps Nokia have something up their sleeves - a Nokia 9700 or 9800 maybe?

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Sony Ericsson P990 / P990i / P990c at a glance


Q1 2006


UMTS (3G) + GSM 900/1800/1900


UMTS (3G) + GPRS + WiFi


240x320 pixels, 262k colours


2 megapixels


Medium-compact PDA device
114x57x25mm / 155 grams









Battery life:

3-9 hours talk / 12-16 days standby


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