We don't typically see high-end megapixel camera phones from Sony Ericsson here in the U.S. unless they're unlocked, and as a result, prohibitively expensive. So it was a welcome surprise to us when we heard that the Sony Ericsson Cyber-shot C905a would make its way to a U.S. carrier, namely AT&T. The Cyber-shot C905a is, indeed, a fantastic camera phone. It does its Cyber-shot branding proud with a tricked-out 8.1-megapixel camera, a modern design, and plenty of other great features like stereo Bluetooth, GPS, and a music player. There is a catch, however: while the European version has built-in Wi-Fi, the U.S. version does not. Still, together with quad-band support and 3G, the C905a is definitely one of the best camera phones subsidized by a U.S. carrier. Together with quad-band support and 3G, the C905a is definitely one of the best camera phones subsidized by a U.S. carrier. The Sony Ericsson Cyber-shot C905a is available for $179.99 after a two-year service agreement.
The Sony Ericsson Cyber-shot C905a has a very sharp and sleek style that really highlights its Cyber-shot namesake. In fact, from the back, the phone looks more like a point-and-shoot camera thanks to the sliding camera lens cover. Measuring 4.1 inches long by 1.9 inches wide by 0.7 inch thick, the C905a is quite bulky. It's curved at the top and the bottom, has sharp corners, and is wrapped in a matte silver chassis with hints of dark gray. Weighing in at 4.8 ounces, it has a nice heft when held in the hand. The sliding mechanism feels solid as well, and engages in a satisfying click each time you slide it up or down.
The 2.4-inch scratch-resistant display on the C905a is absolutely stunning. It supports around 262,000 colors, which results in great-looking images and is especially helpful when using the display as a camera viewfinder. It has a simple menu interface similar to other AT&T phones, and can be organized in grid, rotating, or single icon view. You can adjust the size of the clock on the home screen and the brightness of the display, but not the backlight time.
Underneath the display is the navigation array, which consists of two soft keys, a Send and End/Power key, an Activity menu key, the Clear key, and a square navigation toggle with a center selection key. When pressed, the Activity menu key brings up a pop-up menu of four tabs, each of which list new events, currently running apps, application shortcuts, and Internet shortcuts, respectively. The square toggle doubles as four user-defined shortcuts and the middle key leads to AT&T's Media Net browser in standby mode. In camera mode, the toggle lights up in blue, which illuminates four camera function icons--they correspond to the exposure setting, the flash setting, the self-timer, and the focus mode.
Directly above the display are two keys, one on the upper left and one on the upper right. In standby mode, the left key corresponds to the last picture or video in the album, while the right key leads to the camera album itself. In camera mode, the left key is a shortcut to the shoot mode settings; while the right key lets you change the scene mode options. In between the two keys are a light sensor plus the speaker.
Slide the phone up and you'll reveal the number keypad. The keypad is quite roomy, and there's a raised line between each row for additional texture. We wish there was more delineation between each key and that the keypad didn't have such high side walls, but as we had no problems dialing or texting, it's a pretty decent keypad on the whole.
On the left side of the phone are the charger/headset jack and memory card slot, which takes Sony's proprietary Memory Stick Micro (M2) format. We were disappointed that the C905a doesn't come with a 3.5mm headset jack. Though the recent W995a was the first-ever Sony Ericsson phone to have a 3.5mm headset jack, we just wished Sony Ericsson would roll that design out to all of its phones. On the right side are the volume controls, which also double as zoom controls in camera mode, a camera album shortcut, a camera mode key that switches between camera and video, and the camera shutter key. The shutter key can be pressed halfway to focus in on the subject.
On the back of the phone is, of course, the camera lens, complete with the sliding lens cover. When you slide the cover down, you'll automatically put the phone in camera mode. There's a very bright LED flash above the lens, and a tiny self-portrait mirror to the side of it as well.
The C905a has a generous 1,000-entry phone book, and each entry can hold seven phone numbers, three e-mail addresses, a company name and job title, two street addresses, a Web URL, a birthdate, and notes. You can also save callers to groups, pair them with one of eight MP3 ringtones, a MIDI ringtone, or one of four video ringtones. You can use your own music or video files as caller ID if you wish. You can also customize a contact's message alert tone with one of eight choices, or just leave it silent.
Basic features include text and multimedia messaging, a speakerphone, a vibrate mode, a calculator, a timer, a stopwatch, a calendar, a tasks list, a notepad, a password saver, five different alarm clocks, and a voice recorder. There are also a few fun features like PhotoDJ, VideoDJ, and MusicDJ, which let you remix and edit your own images, video files, and audio files. You can also multitask in between applications, even during a call.
More advanced features include USB mass storage, PC syncing, instant messenger (AIM, Windows Live Messenger, and Yahoo Messenger), stereo Bluetooth, the MediaNet mobile Web browser, and mobile e-mail (with support for providers like Yahoo Mail, AOL, AIM, Windows Live Hotmail, AT&T Yahoo, BellSouth, Comcast, Earthlink, Juno, Mindspring, and NetZero). There's no setting for your own POP3 or IMAP server, however. The C905a also has assisted GPS, and with that comes AT&T Navigator for turn-by-turn directions and the Where application that lets you know about local businesses like the closest coffee shop or the nearest gas station.