For all its Walkman and Cybershot phone pizzazz, Sony Ericsson’s bread and butter remains taking Nokia on in the basic phones market. The K530i, for example, looks like it should command a premium price, but is actually an affordable mid-range handset.
You get a sleek metallic keypad and direction buttons, a cool 3D-effect screensaver and, best of all, 3G functionality all for just over £100 SIM-free.
That home screen animation – a spinning column of flashing tiles – is impressive, even hypnotic, and may be enough to win sales on its own.
On the downside, the shiny direction pad is a little too smooth – fingers can slide off the button you’re targeting. The screen, though bright and detailed, is neither as big nor as colourful as some handsets.
Nokia converts, beware
Although Sony Ericsson’s latest models, like the K850i and W910i, have switched to a more conventional user interface dominated by green and red ‘Send’ and ‘End’ keys, the K530i still favours the quirkier softkeys and a ‘Back’ button. If you’re used to them they’re no problem, but users shifting from a Nokia handset may find them unfamiliar.
On the whole, though, Sony Ericsson’s good at simplicity in its interface – the Messaging menu delivers texts, emails and RSS feeds in a highly accessible way.
The 2MP camera is average, lacking a flash or light and with fixed rather than autofocus. But at least it’s easy to get to, thanks to the dedicated side button.
This isn’t a Walkman phone so music playback isn’t as sophisticated as it could be, but is still usable. Stereo Bluetooth means you can play back your tunes on a wireless headset while your phone’s in your pocket or bag.
Memory storage is slight so you’ll need a card – only Sony’s M2 Memory Stick will fit.
Name that tune
One excellent extra is Track ID, which is able to identify music you hear playing in a shop, say, by recording a snippet and texting the result. You can use it to recognise music playing on the FM radio, too.
This phone is also the first to work with the Sony Ericsson HGE-100 headphones with built-in GPS receiver, though we haven’t yet tested how well this works at turning your phone into a sat-nav.
As a decent-looking, basic mobile, the K530i is up there with the Nokia 6120 Classic. It’s a great size and easy to use, while hiding a bunch of features under its slick casing.