The phone that I'm using for this project is the Sony Ericsson T300. The T300 is a fist generation picture phone that's being sold as the entry-level phone for all the new T-mobile services (text messaging, picture mail, and Internet access). Unlike some other new phones, the camera is not integrated into the phone- you have to plug a special camera module into the base of the phone.
The phone part of the T300 is your basic, modern cell phone. On the RF side of things, it's tri-band GSM, so you can take it with you to Europe (and pay outrageous surcharges). It also talks GPRS, WAP, and SMS, so you can do nerdy things with it, like check your email, get on the web, or send/receive text messages. I currently have a low opinion of these survices, as the data speeds are slow and the interface is 10x worse than a PDA (which is 10x worse than a PC). The display, of course, is part of the problem- while it looks nice with it's 256 colors, it just isn't detailed enough to display that much information. However, it is the right size for normal cell-phone tasks, and it doesn't seem to kill the battery too much.
Physically, the phone feels kind of hollow and a little cheap. It's about the right size though, and is a good balance between being large enough to hold when in use, and small enough to fit in a pocket. Like other phones, you can replace the face plate of the phone with one of a different color or style. Mine came in the "redneck-motorboat-sparkly-green" color. Yeah, and I give a rip about that.
Like I said earlier, the T300 has a camera option that plugs into the base of the phone. The camera sells for about $50, but usually they give it to you for free (along with a carying pouch that hooks onto a keychain). I'm not sure, but I think the camera has a resolution of about 640x480, and enough flash memory to store about five pictures at that resolution. It has an "optical viewfinder", which is just a glass window below the sensor. Personally, I think they could have done without the viewfinder, as it adds to the size of the module. Plus, when you're about to take a picture, preview data is displayed on the phone's display screen at a couple frames per second, anyways.
One of the painful things about the camera attachment is that it plugs into the phone through that standard cell-phone connector at the bottom of the phone. I think this thing is just a slow, serial link (9600 baud?). In any case it takes a long freaking time to move data from the camera to the phone.
Taking a Picture
Taking a picture is a bit of a painful process. First you obviously have to plug the camera attachment into the phone. Every time I do this, I wonder how long it will be before the pins on the attachment will wear off. The damage may already be taking place- sometimes when I plug the camera in the phone doesn't notice anything (it should pop up camera options on the screen). Sigh..
The second step is actually taking a pictures. In theory, one could look through the optical viewfinder to take the picture. However, the viewfinder is at the bottom end of the (now foot-long) camera. Doing this makes me feel like a dork, because it looks like you're lookking through a parascope or something. Therefore, I usually just stick with looking at the phone's display to line up a picture. The on-screen preview is awfull- the resolution and colors are reduced, and the display lags by about a half second. It's good enough though. At some point you press the camera button to take the picture, meanwhile hoping that the force of pressing the button doesn't cause the camera module to become unplugged.
Ahh done! Right? Well, not really. Now you've got to transfer the picture from the camera attachment to the phone. This takes some time- maybe about a minute for a 640x480 picture. During this time you have to be carefull with the phone- if the camera module becomes unplugged, you lose everything. When it finally finishes, all you have to do is.. preview the pic, tell the phone to send the message to an email address, wait for the phone to encode the picture as a mime attachment, pick an email address, and have the phone send the email as data. The data upload takes a while, and requires that you be somewhere that supports the phone's data services (that's usually most places that the phone works). If the phone can't send the message, it thankfully keeps a copy of it that you can send later.
There are a lot of things that can be improved on with the T300. The image quality is pretty crappy, having the camera as a plugin module sucks, and the data transfer times are terrible. I also think the TV ads for these picture phones are incredibly misleading. They show happy-go-lucky yuppies snapping shots of each other (and the hedgehogs in their pants?) and emailing them away like crazy. I am confident that normal guys like my dad would be extremely disappointed in the amount of effort required to send a picture, and the quality of the picture.
With that said, the camera phone does do what it's supposed to do if you have the patience. I think these things are awfully cool, and I can see how creative folks will find new and cool things to do with the technology. For my boring life, a camera phone is kind of overkill, but on the bright side of things, I can use it and the tmobile blog stuff to take snippets of my life and post them, more frequently than I would with just the normal blog stuff.