Joining the Cyber-shot lineup of photo-majoring cameraphones, the Sony Ericsson C702 has been given a more resilient, outdoors-and-active kind of twist than others in the snap-specialist range.
For starters, the C702 has been built to withstand a bit more bit ill-treatment than the average cameraphone, with a splash- and dust-resistant casing that's been given a touch of rubber-feel ruggedness.
In addition, the C702 is the first Cyber-shot phone to incorporate A-GPS satellite navigation technology inside, with software pre-loaded for mapping and route planning, plus a GPS-based tracker application for runners.
Unlike some real hard-case phones, like the JCB Toughphone, the C702 isn't built to withstand serious damage – it's splash- and dust-resistant to IP54 standards rather than fully waterproofed, so total immersion isn't a good idea. But unlike some beefed up hard-case phones, it's far from lightweight in the features department.
Alongside its Sat Nav capabilities, it has a 3.2-megapixel camera with a Cyber-shot user interface and features, including autofocus and a double LED photo light. It's also an HSDPA-enabled 3G handset, offering high-speed download and browsing at speeds of up to 3.6Mbps (depending on network support).
There's video calling capability via a secondary front facing camera, plus a decent spread of mid-tier functionality, including music and video players, and an onboard FM radio.
The added durability and internal GPS receiver doesn't do much to over-inflate the C702's size. It's not as slim as the ultra-thin C902, but it measures an average-ish 106(h) x 48(w) x 16(d) mm and weighs a pocketable 105g.
The screen is a reasonable 2.2-inch colour 262K-colour QVGA display, slightly larger than the C902's screen real estate – though the C702 doesn't have touch control camera buttons around the edges. Instead, like previous Cyber-shots, in camera mode some of the number buttons get shortcut icons appearing on them; in this instance, holding the phone in camera mode, the 3, 6, 9 and # buttons do camera shortcuts for flash, timer, shoot mode and scenes exposure settings.
Its numberpad design isn't what you would describe as rugged; keys are quite thin, rounded and smooth, and larger fingered users – or outdoors types with damp or freezing digits – will find it fiddly. Similarly, the control keys surrounding the navigation D-pad are small and cramped, although the raised D-pad itself is large and usable.
On the back, there's a screw lock protection for the rear panel. The camera lens is protected by a chunky slide down cover, which along with a side camera button fires up the shooter.
The camera employed on this Cyber-shot phone has more quality features than the 3.2-megapixel cameras on recent Walkman handsets including W890i and W980i, though naturally it doesn't match up to the C902's 5-megapixel snapper. Incidentally, you can also set the double LED photo light as a torch.
The Cyber-shot brand means you get a user-friendly digital camera-style user interface, with settings options clearly shown on the display when you click the appropriate softkey; you can switch between and change them quite intuitively.
Among the options, as well as standard autofocus with macro mode for close up shooting, the C702 has a face detection option, which automatically identifies and focuses on the face in any image.
Missing from this model is Sony Ericsson's clever BestPic multi-shot option, and the image stabiliser both of which you get on the C902, but the A-GPS system onboard enables you to 'geotag' images – adding positioning data - with precise location, rather than approximate areas.
The camera is capable of good quality close up shots, and generally images came out reasonably well without delivering a really top class level of detail or colour performance. Colour rendition was bright and vivid, but sometimes looked oversaturated in certain lighting conditions.
The autofocus system worked well, however, and the camera is pleasant to use. In low light conditions, the photo light adds illumination, but not with as much power or precision as a top-end xenon flash.
Post-shooting, there's the usual Sony Ericsson Photo fix option and PhotoDJ editing software to improve results in-phone. As has become standard for Sony Ericssons, there's a Blogger app enabling diret uploading pics to online blogs. Video clips shot on the phone – at average QVGA quality – can be uploaded to Blogger accounts too.
Help from Google Maps
Satellite navigation is the other headline-grabber on the C702. Its A-GPS technology is applied to pre-loaded Google Maps software – another recent staple feature for mid-tier Sony Ericssons – providing precise mapping, route planning and search options for addresses, businesses and numerous other services.
Google Maps, which also offers a variety of zoomable views and satellite imagery delivered over-the-air, is a useful pocket tool in itself. We found the A-GPS system works effectively and accurately and determining and keeping hold of your position.
In addition, though, there's a 3-month trial version of Wayfinder Navigator software, a voice-guided turn-by-turn application that provides an in-car style Sat Nav set up, with 2D or 3D view options.
It's not as user friendly as standalone Sat Nav systems, and isn't as slick as smartphone add-on Sat Nav systems – updated mapping info is updated over the air rather than being pre-loaded onto a memory card. It is though another decent service to have available on a device you always carry around with you.
The addition of the Tracker app is a decent extra too, if you're a keen runner or want to monitor your workouts. It calculates and records details of running performances (speed, distance, energy consumption, routes, etc) based on GPS tracking.
Decent music player
Although the imaging and Sat Nav functionality take centre stage, the C702 is ably equipped with music and video player functionality.
The media player interface is consistent with the feel of Sony Ericsson's Walkman handsets, and the music player operates in a similar, pleasingly straightforward way.
There's 150MB of user storage on the phone, plus the C702 supports Memory Stick Micro cards up to 4GB, sliding into a slot the side of the handset. An FM radio is included, as is Sony Ericsson's TrackID song identification software.
The music player performance is decent enough, producing respectable playback through the average earphones supplied. We found that better quality Walkman earphones, and our own higher spec headphones, will make a big difference to audio quality. However, there's no 3.5mm headphone socket or adapter in the phone package itself, which is a shame. Bluetooth headsets can be used too.
High-speed HSDPA data connectivity facilitates speedy downloading of video and audio content over the air, and it also gives the browser a boost. A standard-issue NetFront browser does a decent enough job, with a tidy user interface and brisk rendering of pages. You can zoom and pan, get page overviews and mobile optimised Smart-Fit page views – all the usual Sony Erisson mid-range stuff, in fact.
The C702 carries the usual package of Sony Ericsson organiser features and applications, plus regulation tick-list features like email with attachment support, voice recorder, and a couple of games.
There's also a weather tracker feature from AccuWeather.com, which more active outdoorsy C702 owners may appreciate.
Impressive battery life
When it comes to the basics of making and taking voice calls, the C702 does the business effectively, with a no-fuss, consistently high standard performance.
Battery life may be an issue if you're intending to use the A-GPS functionality on a regular basis, as this will sap battery power rapidly. Otherwise it promises long rundown times; in optimum conditions Sony Ericsson estimates that the C702 will run for up to 318 hours in standby mode, or make up to 5 hours of calls on 3G networks or give up to 12 hours talktime in GSM coverage areas.
In our tests, we managed between 2-3 days with our average usage, though using GPS for a sustained period reduced that considerably, and if you're intending to use it in-car for long journeys a car charger is a sensible option.
This Cyber-shot cameraphone is a handset to consider if you're after something that can take a bit of wet weather stick without looking truly ruggedised, and which also has a solid line-up of contemporary features.
We'd have liked the camera to have impressed us more than it did for a Cyber-shot branded device, though its imaging is better than most 3.2-megapixel cameraphones.
A-GPS location finding technology and Sat Nav software lift this phone above Sony Ericsson's other mid-tier handsets, though, adding to the appeal of this solid, decently featured handset.
Network availability: O2, Vodafone, Orange
Ease of use: 4/5
Call quality: 4.5/5