Last month, we paid our respects to the greatest Motorola phones ever, and the comments section was overflowing with heartfelt comments from people recollecting their favourite ones. But other than Moto and Nokia, there was another brand that contributed equally to the mobile revolution in the early 2000s - Sony Ericsson, aka SE. A 2001 joint venture between two industry grand-daddies - Japanese conglomerate Sony, which got its start in 1946, and Swedish networking and telecom equipment maker Ericsson, which was founded in 1876 as a telegraph equipment maker - the alliance made many iconic phones worth cherishing in its lifetime.
Although only a few SE phones stand out the way the Moto Razr or the Nokia 1100 did, there's no question that it made some of the most popular phone lines of its time. Although today Sony might not garner the same kind of attention that some of the other big brands like Samsung get, there's no denying that at one point it was one of the biggest names in the space. Instead of looking at specific phones, we've picked out our favourite lines from SE's portfolio, which includes some of the top selling phones to date.
Sony Ericsson W-series
Walkman, Sony’s iconic brand of portable music players since the 1970’s, was used to christen pro-music phones like the W800. The SE W800 Walkman from 2005 was bundled with in-ear headphones, a 512MB Memory Stick Duo Pro card, and had a dedicated music button. The W800 was succeeded by the W810, which other than some cosmetic changes, replaced the joystick above the numpad (that had a tendency to falter) with a traditional D-pad. This phone sold as many as 15 million units to date.
The SE W-series had phones in all kinds of form factors - from the popular sliders like the W910 and W830, to clamshells like the W300. There were the sleek metal-bodied W880 and W890, and even Symbian-powered W950 and W960 music-centric smartphones.
Sony Ericsson K-series
The Sony Ericsson K-series was predominantly reserved for camera-centric phones. Although not the first K-series phone, the K750 started this pro-camera journey, with easy-to-use camera cover mechanism which you slid open to turn on the camera. There was a dedicated camera button and dual LED flash to brighten dark environments. Apart from this, the K750 was more or less the same as the W800, minus the music-centric features. But it was only after its successor, the K800i, that this lineup got Sony’s iconic Cybershot branding to highlight clearly they were ‘camera phones’.
The K800i upgraded from an LED flash to a xenon flash, which we don’t get to see much these days. The K800 was replaced by the K810, then the K850, which other than improving camera performance, added features like an automatic lens cover mechanism in the latter.
Interestingly, apart from these camera-oriented phones, the K-series also had a couple of budget-friendly phones, including the K300 and K310, both of which reached the hands of 15 million people in their lifespan.
Sony Ericsson P-series
The P-series is to SE what the Note series is to Samsung. It started with the SE P800 in 2002, a Symbian-powered PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) smartphone. It had a touchscreen, a stylus that looked like some dental product, and a flip-out number pad that covered half of the screen. It also had a BlackBerry-like jog dial on the side to scroll through menus. The P900 replaced the plasticky exterior of the P800 with a more cutting edge look and feel, along with hardware updates. It also came with a traditional-looking stylus.
Next, the P910 made the buttons on the numpad bigger, making them easier to click. But more importantly, it also had a full QWERTY keyboard once you open the flip. Can you imagine, a phone with a traditional numpad, a QWERTY keyboard and a touchscreen? The P990 put the QWERTY keyboard on the bottom of the screen instead of on the flip. This phone hit the market in mid-2006, and the poor fella had no idea that it was close to what can be aptly termed as the smartphone revolution, with the iPhone coming a year later, in 2007. SE’s last standing member of the P series is the Sony Ericsson P1, and featured a physical half-QWERTY/ numpad, below the touchscreen.
Sony Ericsson Xperia series
After the iPhone changed how smartphones function in general, SE took three years (until 2010) to release its first Android-based smartphone, the Xperia X10. The Xperia series during the joint-venture’s time also produced some interesting smartphones - like the Xperia X10 mini and X10 mini pro, which were tiny enough to be hidden inside your fist. Then there was the Xperia Play, the first PlayStation-branded smartphone with dedicated control buttons under a sliding mechanism. Unfortunately, it didn’t pan out to be a popular gaming phone.
But before the Android-laden Xperias made their way, this sub-brand consisted of phones that ran the Windows Mobile Operating System. Out of these, the one that paved the way for the 'Xperia' brand was the 2008 born SE Xperia X1 - a smartphone running Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional that had a full-size slide-out QWERTY keyboard. Fun fact - the Xperia X1 was built by Taiwanese OEM HTC, which now we know as a well-known smartphone brand. The phone got recognition for its high-quality design and the use of stainless steel in its keyboard. It is also said that its Panel interface was a precursor to the Microsoft Tile interface used on Windows and Xbox platforms today.
Since we’re restricting this list to only phones made in the era of Sony-Ericsson joint venture, we’re not going to mention phones like the Xperia Z, Xperia T, Xperia M, or the more recent Xperia X series that came out after Sony acquired Ericsson’s stake in 2012, making the entity its wholly owned subsidiary.
Aside from the main picks, some other phones that really stand out include the SE T68i, a rebranded Ericsson T68, which was the world’s first phone with a colour screen, and came with a separately-sold camera attachment module.
Then there are phones from the T series, including the inexpensive T100, T200, and the iconic T610. And last but not the least, the SE Z-series gave birth to many well-designed phones like the cute-looking Z200, or the sharp-looking Z800 with a rotating camera module. With this, we finish our ode to the glory days of Sony Ericsson. Of course these are our picks, and they may differ from yours. So tell us, which Sony Ericsson phone you remember most fondly, via the comments below.