Sony Ericsson P990 review of this great P990i smartphone
The Sony Ericsson P990 is the latest in a series of high end smartphones from Sony Ericsson, following on from its elder siblings, the P910, P900 and P800. The Sony Ericsson P990 retains a very similar shape to its predecessors, but it ramps up the features pretty impressively. Two megapixel camera, impressive range of push email support, 3G, tri-band GSM and WiFi connectivity, all come with this impressive box of tricks.

Sony Ericsson P990 review

Multimedia features

Sony Ericsson P990 from the back, showing its camera
The Sony Ericsson P990 comes with a 2 megapixel camera (the same one used in the Sony Ericsson K750i), though this will perhaps be less important than some of the other features, as smartphones are bought more for their business-oriented features (e.g. push email, Wifi, document editing, etc.) than they are for their multimedia features. The camera comes equipped with dedicated macro mode, autofocus, a LED flash, and image stabilizer for video recording.

The P990 comes with the obligatory MP3 player, and has a dedicated music button on its side to switch the phone over to music mode. It also comes with a stereo FM radio capable of supporting 20 different channels, as well as RDS.
Sony Ericsson P990 with FM radio

Better still are the P990’s music software and the range of music formats it supports.

These include AAC, MP3, AMR, RMF, DLS, Real Audio, G-MIDI level 1, WAV (up to 16 KHz sample-rate), and XMF.

The music software comes straight from Sony Ericsson’s Walkman range of mobile phones, so is fully featured, and enables you to construct playlists, mess around with the equalizer settings (including the Walkman MegaBass preset) and generally play around with your music.

There’s a video camera on the front of the unit for video calls (this being a 3G phone), and the P990 is capable of recording at VGA resolution (320×240) at 30fps in either RealMedia, MPEG4, or 3GP formats.


Smartphone displays are getting better all the time, with Nokia’s E61 the current class leader amongst the more popular BlackBerry competitors. Sony Ericsson’s P990 doesn’t disappoint in this department either, with a respectable 2.67 inch touchscreen TFT QVGA display, featuring 262k colour with a resolution of 240×320.

Operating System

The P990 runs on the Symbian 9.1 operating system with the latest UIQ3 user interface, which apparently is as big a difference from the previous user interface (UIQ2.1) as Windows 95 was to Windows 3.1 (for those of you who can remember that far back!)

User Interface

A smartphone is only as usable as its user input features, and the P990 doesn’t disappoint. Like its predecessors, it offers pen input and handwriting recognition for inputting text directly on the screen. The P990 also offers a complete QWERTY keyboard for those, like me, whose handwriting fools even the most determined graphologist, let alone an algorithm!

Indeed, the keyboard feature of the new P990 is the most obvious difference between it and its predecessors, as the following image shows (P990 is on the right). The older P910 and its siblings had the keyboard on a flip down panel.
Sony Ericsson P990 smartphone compared to the Sony Ericsson P910

The P990 retains the flip (detachable, like its predecessors), but the keyboard is now integrated into the phone’s main body. It’s still not going to be useful for touch-typing, and may prove too small for fat fingered people, but for people used to CrackBerries and their equivalents, it should prove fine.

There’s been much debate amongst smartphone fans about the need for a full QWERTY keyboard, as its size makes it less easy to use, and its purpose seems limited given the P990’s touchscreen and stylus feature. However, for those who would rather not have the keyboard, there’s always the Sony Ericsson M600i, which is basically a cut-down version of the P990, but without the keyboard or the camera.


Sony Ericsson P990 smartphone showing messages and contacts

As you’d hope from a Smartphone, the P990 really shines with the way it handles messaging. Finding contacts is extremely easy, and contacting the person is easier still.

You simply click and hold on the person’s phone number, and you can start writing a message – the P990 will prompt you whether you want SMS/MMS (the P990 will select the most appropriate of these formats depending on whether you’re just sending text or have attached a picture or tune to your message), Email or Instant Messaging.

The P990 works with many different email services, including the following protocols:

  • POP3
  • IMAP (IMAP Idle, IMAP Remote folders)
  • SMTP
  • MIME

A nice feature is that all messages are combined into one inbox, for truly integrated messaging, with SMS, EMS, MMS, email and even RSS feeds all accessible.


Sony Ericsson P990 QuickOffice application

Naturally, the Sony Ericsson P990 comes with all manner of useful productivity tools, including calendar, ToDo list, alarms, a task manager, calculator and general organizer, all of which apparently work very well with a very intuitive feel. The P990 supports SyncML, so synchronization of your contacts and events can be made with PC-based applications, including Microsoft Outlook

Several Office-type applications are also included, including a simple notes application for storing text (either typed or handwritten), a PDF viewer, and QuickOffice, which lets you read and edit Microsoft Office documents.

The P990 also comes with a hardware graphics accelerator, which gives it the ability to play some pretty stunning games.


Sony Ercisson P990 connectivity options

One of the P990’s strong points is its range of connectivity features. As well as tri-band GSM and 3G connectivity, the P990 also supports Email, InfraRed, Bluetooth, USB, SMS and WLAN.

Through InfraRed, the P990 can act as a (costly!) GPRS modem for your laptop or other device. With Bluetooth, you can connect to any A2DP-compliant device, such as a Bluetooth headset, or A2DP-enabled speakers, and stream your music to them.

With WLAN support (802.11b), you can use any of the P990’s advanced features over the Internet via your WiFi connection at speeds of up to 11Mbps, and without the cost of 3G data transfer. Better still, any other device can also connect to your WLAN through the P990 either through InfraRed, Bluetooth or a USB cable. You simply connect the P990 to your wireless network, then connect it to whichever device needs access to the network through Bluetooth, InfraRed or cable. That device can then use the Internet through the P990, using Bluetooth (or InfraRed or USB) to connect to the P990, WiFi to connect to your home router, and then on out into the Internet via whatever connection your router uses.

Internet Options

The P990 doesn’t slouch when it comes to Internet options, either. It comes with a push email client that supports several different services (including Blackberry), a VPN client, and the Opera 8 Web browser, which supports HTML, XHTML, JavaScript, frames, CSS, and the TSL and SSL security protocols.

Sony Ericsson P990 reviews from across the web

Mobile-review have a comprehensive early Sony Ericsson P990 review, and despite some initial misgivings regarding the P990’s user interface, grudgingly admitt that it would be their smartphone of choice for the following reasons:

  • “Almost normal postal client, support of MS Office investments
  • WiFi Presence – for me it means an opportunity to load all mail (30-40 mb), note necessary letters and remove unnecessary during the lunch
  • VPN – necessary function for corporate networks entrance, for example, in Sony Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung.
  • the normal camera; here there is a parity with K750i/W800i
  • Viewing images on the large screen (К750 it is not absolutely convenient in this point, Р900 has the low-resolution screen too)
  • Transferring sound by Bluetooth (I shall put my smart in a bag, I don’t need it in hands)”

CNet also have a Sony Ericsson P990 preview, reporting that “As far as first impressions go, the P990i oozes pedigree and certainly passes muster as a far more capable successor [to the P910]…[However] size has been an issue that has plagued the P-series, and the P990i clearly isn’t bucking any trend here. At 114 x 57 x 25 and weighing 155g, it’s only 1mm smaller all round. Going by the manufacturer-claimed battery life, the P990i is also less of a workhorse than its earlier iteration. The former offers 3 hours for 3G talktime and 9 hours for normal chat, with standby rated at up to 12 days for 3G and 16 days for standard GSM. Compare this with the P910i’s 15 hours of talktime and about 17 days (400 hours) on standby.”

CNet’s Crave have also got their hands on one of the first P990’s to be released, and although there’s no review yet, there’s plenty of early hands-on pics.

AllAboutSymbian had a 30 minutes hands-on with the Sony Ericsson P990, and reported that “The P990 is obviously going to be the flagship Sony Ericsson smartphone, and for the Symbian OS fans who have come from a PDA background, it fulfils the promise of a world-class PDA in the phone form. The P900 and P910i were almost there, and the P990 has made the final step. With the built-in software for the UIQ platform, plus additions such as Quickoffice and Opera 8, Sony Ericsson look to have a winning device that pushes back a number of barriers, while keeping everything accessible for the end-user. There’s still a lot of (software) work to be done on the device, but when it arrives next year it should be very, very high up on the wanted list of smartphone users everywhere.”

Finally, GSMArena have a comprehensive Sony Ericsson P990i review using a pre-production model. They conclude that “…the Sony Ericsson P990 is an excellent smartphone and if you need one you should definitely consider it when making your buying decision…The competing HTC TyTN (a.k.a. Qtek 9600) and the Nokia E70 are rather good choices, too, so make your mind rather carefully when choosing the device that’s right for you.”


Despite the Sony Ericsson P990i not actually being released at the time I write this (August 28th 2006), early impressions certainly seem to be favourable, although not without criticisms. Although not a step-change from its predecessors, the P990 offers more than enough features to keep this smartphone right up there amongst its competitors. Add WiFi connectivity, VPN support and the ability to use the P990 as a gateway to your WLAN for any device that may need this feature, and the Sony Ercisson P990 looks a sure fire winner.