Sony Ericsson C902 review: Cyber-touch

GSMArena team, 14 October 2008.

Sony Ericsson C902 360-degree spin

Sony Ericsson C902 carries its 107 g of weight with grace. At 108 x 49 x 10.5 mm, the handset is quite a portly piece and that makes the thin girth even sweeter. The metal casing and the conservative black styling do give it a solid reassuring elegance. Glossy surfaces dominate the front, the all matt rear is quite friendly to the touch. The phone is available in Swift Black, Luscious Red, Titanium Silver, and Cinnamon Bronze.

Design and construction

Sony Ericsson C902 looks a normal bar, but the form factor is not quite set in stone. The handset is complete with a rare slide-up lens cover. The sliding action is smooth, with distinct locking at both the opened and closed end. The whole set up is certainly convenient for landscape shooting. The only grudge is the plastic surface that gets exposed right above the screen just tends to collect a lot of dust. The area around the lens at the back is a lot less prone to getting dirt.

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Sony Ericsson C902

At the very top up front are the secondary video-call camera and ambient light sensor. In between is the narrow cleft of the earpiece.

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The novel slide-up lens cover

Sony Ericsson C902 has a surprisingly small TFT display of QVGA resolution. When the display is off, it does look like at least a 2.2 incher, but with the lights on the reason for this size is obvious - there are eight touch sensitive camera keys that backlight in blue around the display.

In camera mode they are responsible for switching between video and still camera, accessing the photo gallery, changing the autofocus mode, shoot mode, scenes, timer and flash mode. When you tap an icon you need is to wait a slit of a second while the icon smoothly drops down to take its place in the viewfinder status bar. Each tap is accompanied by a short vibration feedback.

The small display deserves very high marks on both color rendering and sunlight legibility, even if it's not a transreflective unit as the ones of G700 and G900. The viewing angle is surprisingly broad without getting the colors washed out. It does remind of the superb K850 display with its deep black color we much appreciated.

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Small but fine display camera mode with 8 illuminating sensitive keys

The C902 keypad is barely decent. The glossy alphanumeric keys are set in quite tightly packed rows. They are wide enough and reasonably tactile, but the short stroke is disappointing. What really stands in the way of comfortable typing though is the awkward reverse terracing.

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Sony Ericsson C902 keypad

The D-pad and adjacent controls offer passable ergonomics. There's a notable difference from the beta unit we previewed. The dedicated Call and End knobs are still crammed between the soft keys and the Activity menu and C key, but they are not projecting as much as they used to. That doesn't render them any less usable though.

Strangely, the soft keys are the most problematic, mainly due to their flimsy press. On a different note, the soft keys now have tiny projecting notches, which greatly improve tactility: that's another change over the beta unit we first had. The Clear and Activity menu keys are excellent. The Up and Down keys of the D-pad are perfect, while the sides are a bit less comfortable. The confirm button is very tactile and solid to press.

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Sony Ericsson C902 D-pad and controls

The keypad backlighting is a notable step up from what we had in the preview, though still not quite even enough. The white illumination turns blue and the keypad backlighting is turned off upon sliding the lens cover up or starting the camera.

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Keypad backlighting and the blue backlighting of the camera shortcuts

The sides of the handset are distinguished for the black-and-gray stripe pattern. The top and bottom hold no controls. The universal port is on the left, while the right side sports the camera key and the volume rocker. The latter is unusually placed near the bottom below the shutter key.

On a different note, its position is quite handy for its other job: the rocker doubles as zoom control in the camera and gallery. Pressing the volume rocker while in power-saving mode shortly brings the clock up on the otherwise completely blank screen.

The tiny shutter key is soft and responsive, with distinct half and full press feel.

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Sony Ericsson C902 side view

At the back, the 5 megapixel autofocus camera lies secretly beneath its sliding cover. Opening the cover activates the camera no matter what menu or submenu you are in. It doesn't work only when you have opened some application such as the Calendar, Phonebook or Call log. We find this quite odd and inconvenient. What we like though is that the active lens cover will launch the camera even if the phone is locked and in power saving mode. Plus, sliding it back on will return the handset to its initial locked state. Opening the lens cover lights up a blue LED band on the back of the handset. The shutter key also gets illuminated in blue.

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Sony Ericsson C902 rearside

The photoflash LED makes a compact and efficient substitute for the xenon flash used in small digicams and cameraphones. It is said to produce approximately 25 lux/s. Its smaller size and twice less power consumption than standard xenon flash make it especially suitable for portable devices. It doesn't also need to recharge the way xenon needs to after it has fired.

Our hands-on experience with it revealed it's more powerful than the regular LED flashes, but still tangibly less capable than xenon.

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Photoflash LED

Removing the rear panel of the phone reveals the standard Sony Ericsson BST-38 Li-Polymer battery with a capacity of 930 mAh. It's quoted at up to 400 h of standby time and up to 9 h of talk time.

In reality, you can expect up to 5 days of sparing use in a 3G network: about 30 minutes of calls and 30 minutes of using other applications. Above the battery compartment are the SIM and the M2 card slots. It's a pity the memory card slot is only accessible after removing the battery cover.

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Removing the battery cover of C902

To sum up, we are very pleased with the size and feel of Sony Ericsson C902. The thinnest 5 MP is a solid and reliable handset, and elegant looks are a welcome bonus. Some ergonomic issues could've been handled differently but - all in all - the C902 is a good piece of gear.

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Sony Ericsson C902 held in hand