Hands-on: Sony Eric M600, the world's sexiest smartphone

Specs and annoucement story hereIt's not often that a phone aimed at men in suits has us hot under the short sleeve collar, but this new Sony Eric is

Specs and annoucement story here

It's not often that a phone aimed at men in suits has us hot under the short sleeve collar, but this new Sony Eric is the welcome exception.  

Designed from the innards out as a completely new alternative to the Japanese-Swedish co's long-running P-series, the first thing that strikes you about the M600 is the way it looks. It's super-thin, glossy and gorgeous, and certainly deserving of a place on the iPod, PSP or B&O catwalk. Not what you expect from a mobile that's ostensibly designed for dull tasks, such as replying to the boss's email and editing Excel spreadsheets.

After a play with the phone - Stuff was one of the first mags in the country to get a hands-on - we're pleased to report it feels as good as it looks. We have Sony Eric's Sweden and UK-based industrial designers to thank.

Like the old Blackberry 7100x emailers, the M600 has two letters per key, an input system that we never did get the hang of with the 7100ers. Sony Eric's approach, however, is a tad different, some might say ingenious.

While each button can be pressed squarely to dial numbers, it can also be pushed on either horizontal edge since the buttons are concave. So the number 1 key, for example, can also serve as 'Q' if pressed on its left edge or 'W' if pushed on its right side. It sounds like a recipe for disaster, but it worked surprisingly well when we tried it, and the result is a full-on QWERTY keyboard in a phone that's nearly as skinny as Sony Eric's Walkman mobs.

Other features of note are the screen and the memory card. The former's had its brightness boosted - Sony Eric says it's 30 per cent brighter than the P990, and we think it's as good as those on Nokia's N-Series.

The memory card, meanwhile, has been changed from the P990's Duo to a new format called Memory Stick Micro, also known as M2. Mmmm, lovely, a new memory card format for us all to upgrade to. Annoyingly, M2s are currently only available up to 256MB, though they're expected to reach 1GB by Christmas.

In terms of the new UIQ operating system, well, we'll have to wait and see. The version we saw was pre-production and kept crashing.

All that remains is to wait patiently. The M600's officially scheduled for a 'second quarter' launch - i.e April to June - and Sony Eric hinted it'll come right at the end of that quarter. All the UK networks are expected to grab it.

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