Sony Ericsson C902 review

It's back to basics with this user-friendly phone

TechRadar Verdict

A no-nonsense slimline candy bar handset with a great camera including slide system and touch screen menu


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    Stylish, slim design

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    5-megapixel camera

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    Photo geo-tagging

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    FM radio

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    Touch camera controls


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    No Wi-Fi

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    No GPS

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    LED rather than Xenon flash

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    Smaller screen than K850

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Sony Ericsson has proved itself to be no slouch when it comes to developing innovative handsets in the past.

But a quick look at the C902 gives the impression that it's gone back to basics with a straight-ahead candy bar style handset. Okay, so it's on the slim side, with some stylish stripes, but there are no immediately obvious gimmicks or design innovations.

But start using it and it feels like coming home – everything is where it should be, and it's a simple pleasure to handle and use.

Redesigned keypad

There is however, as there often is with Sony Ericsson, more. For instance, the titchy key layout of the K850 and other handsets appears to have been abandoned in favour of a more conventional arrangement.

But the keys on the keypad aren't flat but are actually angled downwards slightly which feels a bit weird, especially if you're used to pressing on small keys with the tip of your thumbnail.

With a little faith and practise though, the angle actually does make it easier to press the keys with your thumbprint, which is probably a more natural way of doing it, when you think about it.

5-megapixel camera

The C in the name, by the way, stands for camera (and also Cyber-shot, which makes sense, replacing the old K for the Swedish 'kamera') and that's not surprisingly the focus of this phone.

Looking at the back however, it's not immediately obvious that there even is a camera, since there's no lens in sight and no lens cover. In fact, the whole phone case slides out to the side to reveal the lens.

It's a much sturdier form of protection than the usual strip of a lens cover and feels securely built. A lovely little slice of ice blue lights up when the camera starts up too.

Sony Ericsson's cameras have been getting steadily more sophisticated over the years and this 5-megapixel number moves things along still further. It's got the usual multishot abilities of course, including the rather marvellous BestPic option, which allows you to take four pictures after and four pictures before you press the shutter.

Camera features

Face detection is now on the agenda, which means the camera will find and focus on a central face in the frame, plus there's red eye reduction and an image stabiliser on board.

There's a surprise in landscape camera mode (the onboard accelerometer automatically switches the orientation for you) when the display takes on touch screen abilities to offer eight buttons along the top and bottom of the screen.

These include the shoot mode (including panorama and frames as well as BestPic), flash, face detection, timer, macro and infinite focus, plus white balance and scene selection.

Intuitive handset

The ice blue icons look great and it's easy and intuitive to use but the way we see it there are two problems with this system, the first being that the 262,000-colour screen is smaller than you would expect (and smaller than the previous K850's come to that).

This is because the outer parts of the screen are taken up by the touch buttons, and the picture has to fit into a smaller area. We also found it a wee bit too quick to accept our selections – pause for a millisecond while you're running through the options and you'll have to go through the process again.

If you're a touch screen-ophobe however you can also use one of the keypad soft keys to bring up an options menu and make your selections that way.

Disappointingly, the flash is of the LED photolight variety, rather than the proper Xenon version found on other Cyber-shot cameras. It's not bad exactly, but for a premium cameraphone, we had expected the best, and it's not immediately clear why Sony Ericsson appears to have abandoned it; maybe it's the thinline size factor.

Photo editing

Despite these niggles, picture quality in good light is really very good – sharp and with good colour tones, but there is a delay of a few seconds between pressing the shutter and the photo being taken, which is a problem for action shots.

There's a Photo fix option which will automatically correct any glaring light balance issues. The PhotoDJ editing option also lets you fine-tune your pics before a final save. You can also add the Storyteller application which allows you to add frames and thought bubbles, as well as add paint effects and upload them to your Facebook or Bebo page.

Video is of lesser quality (QVGA) than the still camera but it's still pretty good, with motion blur noticeably less than most other cameraphones we've tried.

There's also geo-tagging of pictures, though since it doesn't have an onboard GPS it does this by sending location data from network cellsites over the air. Google Maps is also bundled so you can see where your pics have been taken on a map.

Sony Ericsson's deal with Blogger means you can immediately create and upload your pics to your blog. It's ridiculously easy, with no need to sign up or open an account. If you have friends with phones that support photo feeds they can get updates pushed from your blog to their phones and see your latest pics straight away.

Basic music player

The music player may not be quite as advanced as those on Sony Ericsson's Walkman series, but it's well thought out and really not missing anything essential. There's also an FM radio with RDS and 20 presets.

The headphones too aren't quite on a par as the Walkman 'phones but they're still better than many supplied camphone 'phones, with decent dynamic range, and a fair degree of bass.

If you want to upgrade them though, there's an adaptor which will take a 3.5mm mini jack plug. Or you can use the stereo Bluetooth variety.

Impressive battery life

There are 160MB of memory on board but you can augment this with Memory Stick Micro cards (a 256MB one comes with the phone).

There's a 3.6Mbps HSDPA connection plus quad-band GSM and this being a 3G phone there's a secondary camera on the front for video calls. But there's no Wi-Fi to add off-mobile speedy web browsing.

Battery life was fairly good however and we got a good three days of moderate use out of it.

Highly attractive mobile phone

The C902 makes a virtue of its rather plain appearance by being very easy to use and packing in loads of features without appearing to shout about them.

It's got a great camera too though it's a shame its abilities are reduced by an inferior flash and a smaller screen than we'd have expected.

Still, it's a highly attractive slimline package that feels very comfortable to use.

Network availability: Orange, Vodafone, 3, T-Mobile, O2, Virgin Mobile

Looks: 8
Ease of use: 9
Features: 8
Call quality: 9
Value: 8