|My Impressions of the Ericsson T18z|
|The Ericsson T18z is the
newest flip phone from Fido. It's better than you might think.
Last Updated: 22-Mar-2000
Disclaimer: The following review represents my personal opinion. No bench testing was performed on this or any phone reviewed on my web page. If you don't agree with something I say, you are certainly welcome to politely bring it to my attention (in public or private). However, any out-and-out insults or flames will be ignored.
Size, Weight and Battery Life
The Ericsson T18z is a compact flip phone added to the Fido lineup in the early spring of 2000. I must begin this review by confessing that I have never been a very big Ericsson fan. If you think that is going to bias my review against the T18z then you are sorely mistaken. After using the phone for just under a week, I fell in love with it. Despite that, I don't believe the phone is perfect, but it has all the right stuff in the places I am most demanding.
In terms of size, the T18z is approximately the same width as the Nokia 6190, approximately the same thickness, but it is 2.5 cm shorter. You might think that would result in a lighter phone, but in actual fact the T18z weighs a few grams more than the 6190. This is because Ericsson provides only a nickel metal hydride battery. In that respect, it would compare favorably with the Nokia 5190, which comes with a nickel metal hydride battery as standard.
For now however, there are no battery options. Fortunately, spare batteries are reasonably inexpensive. You can buy a second 750 mAh nickel metal hydride battery from Fido for just $40. That is markedly cheaper than a genuine Nokia battery for the 5190 or the 6190.
I had no complaints about battery life, however. Even after only one charge, I managed to get 1.5 hours of talk time along with 30 hours of standby time. That should translate to over 60 hours of pure standby. And once the battery is properly conditioned I would expect it to last even longer. The battery indicator is refreshingly linear, which means you can judge the amount of power left in the battery by the height of the battery meter.
The phone comes with a rapid charger, which can fully recharge the battery in approximately 1 to 1.5 hours. Unlike other nickel metal hydride batteries I was surprised to find that this one did not get hot during the charging process. The Ericsson manual says that their battery has no memory effect, but I would tend to disbelieve this. Still, it is probably safe to top of the battery most of the time, but condition it every few weeks.
The phone's small size makes it much easier to pocket, but if you prefer to wear it on your belt it also comes with a belt clip. This spring loaded clip fits on the back of the phone using the recessed screw hole at the top. I initially thought that I would dislike having the clip on the back for day-to-day use, but I find it poses no problem whatsoever. I personally prefer to use the belt clip, as keeping in your pocket has a detrimental effect on the RF performance (more on that later).
The flip on this phone is not there just to protect the keypad. Not only is it an active flip (meaning you can answer and terminate calls using it), but it also houses the microphone. Okay, to be technical the microphone is still in the main body of the phone, but channels inside the flip carry your voice from remote openings at the end of the flip to that microphone. For all intents and purposes, the microphone is in the flip. This places the microphone in close proximity to your mouth, which should result in better clarity under noisy conditions. In practice, I did not find the Ericsson to be all that much better in noisy environments, but it was certainly much better than the Motorola L series. If you don't like active flips, you can deactivate it from a menu item.
The T18z includes built-in vibrator alert, which can be used in conjunction with the standard ringer. Many phones force you to choose between the ringer or the vibrator. The strength of the vibrator is a little on the weak side, but much stronger than any of the vibrating batteries available for the 6190. It is definitely stronger than the built-in vibrator of the Nokia 6185 and 6188 CDMA phones. I found that it was strong enough to feel if you had it clipped on your belt.
As has been the case with most Ericsson phones in recent memory, the T18z allows you to program up to 4 personal ring tones. You do this by entering the tones from the keyboard, which means you do not need special hardware or software as the case with the 6190. The phone also includes a range of preprogrammed melodies and a number of different ring tones. The ringer volume is sufficiently loud, and certainly on par with the 6190.
Perhaps one of the phones truly interesting features is voice dialing. Although this feature is becoming standard on many high-end phones, you won't find it on very many phones in the price range of the T18z. You can record up to 10 voice labels, which may apply to any of the phone book entries. It also includes labels for answering or rejecting an incoming phone call. Unlike the Motorola L Series however, you cannot use the voice feature to access anything else.
The Voice dial feature works extremely well. It rarely had any trouble understanding me, and surprisingly it had no trouble understanding my wife either. I was surprised by the latter, since I assumed that like many voice recognition systems it would train on a specific voice. Due to the general nature of the voice recognition system, it is important that each of your tags be fairly unique in their sound.
The display is small, which is typical for most Ericsson phones. However, unlike previous Ericsson phones that I have used this one employs a pixel matrix display. This allows them to use a variety of font sizes, as well as proportional characters. The fonts on the T18z are generally very handsome, with only a few idiosyncrasies. The display has higher contrast than the 6190, and it is fairly easy to read under most lighting conditions. Unlike the 6190, the T18z allows you to permanently turn off the backlight, or permanently turn it on. The default mode is to turn on the backlight when keys are pressed, and then to turn it off after 10 seconds.
The display shows three lines of text using the standard font, which at first glance seems woefully inadequate for displaying text messages. I'm not about to tell you that this small display is somehow the equal of the larger display on the 6190, but it is nowhere near as bad if you might imagine. I would say that the T18z is reasonably adequate for reading text messages. You have the option of scrolling messages one line at a time, or three lines at a time.
The keypad is perhaps one of the phone's greatest drawbacks. The keys are fairly stiff, and they do not give very good tactile feel when pressed. You do tend to get used to it after a while, but the keypad simply doesn't have the professional feel of the 6190. The buttons along very bottom edge of the keypad (meaning the star, zero, and pound keys) are especially difficult to press due to the raised ridge into which the clip connects. If keypad feel is important to you, this aspect alone may put your off buying the Ericsson. However, I believe that the phone has enough other strong points for you to overlook this problem.
Some people have said that Ericsson's menu structure is anti-intuitive. If you have just come from the 6190, then you're going to be a little confused by the layout in the T18z. However, once you get used to the layout I think you're find that it is really no better or worse than a menu structure of the 6190. It is merely different. Having said that however, the T18z does not include the shortcuts for accessing menu items as you find on the 6190. With the Nokia phone, you can get to any menu item by pressing the menu key followed by a series of digits. The T18z force you to follow the menus through to find what you're looking for.
The T18z also lacks "soft keys". These are the two keys on the 6190 that sit right below the screen. By changing the words written above them on the screen, the purpose of those keys can be altered at will by the software. In this respect, the 6190 is not so much intuitive as it is obvious. For first time users, or for users delving into a feature they have often never use, the soft key idea is markedly easier to learn.
The call log in the T18z lumps all call types into the same list. That means that dialed calls, received calls, and missed calls all appear in the same place. I didn't like this at first, but after using the phone for a while I came to see this as an advantage. The log stores the last 30 entries, but does not duplicate entries when new instances of the same item appear. You can instantly access the call log by pressing the YES key, after which you may scroll through the list with the left or right arrow keys.
Like the 6190, the T18z provides 99 phone book entries on the SIM. Unlike the 6190 however, the T18z gives you an additional 99 phone book entries that are stored internally. That gives you a total of 200 phone book entries, which should be a relief to anyone who quickly ran out of the 99 available on the 6190.
Although the manual does mention some shortcuts, I managed discover a few of my own that make the phone much easier to use. For example, too quickly access the phone book you need only press left arrow key, followed by the latter of the alphabet that you wish to begin scrolling at. You can then scroll through the list using the left and right arrow keys.
If you know the numeric location of the phone book entry you want, then you can enter the number followed by the pound key. This idea also works on the 6190, but on the T18z this process recalls the number and the alpha tag. Once you have recalled a phone book entry in this manner, you may use the left and right arrow keys to scroll through the entries in storage order.
Another handy shortcut is the ability to use the up and down volume keys at the side of the phone to quickly access the second or third letter on a key. I initially did not believe this would be of any great advantage, but after typing a number of SMS messages using this approach I found that it radically reduced the amount of time and stress involved in entering a message. This was especially true if I had series of letters in a row that were all the third one on their respective keys. It isn't quite as good as Predictive Text Input, but it certainly the next best thing (once you get used to it).
The phone also provides storage for up to 10 pre-composed messages that you may quickly send at any time. Unlike the Motorola L Series, you may set these messages yourself, though it does take a few more keystrokes to send them. You are also free to add extra material to the end of them before you send.
The sound quality on the T18z is excellent. My first impression was that it sounded a little tinny compared to the 6190. After using the phone in real conversations however, that opinion rapidly changed. The T18z has much greater clarity than you would predict from a couple of sample listenings. So long as you pull the antenna up during a call, the T18z does not produce as much of that annoying buzz that afflicts the 6190. Even with the antenna retracted, the buzz generated by the Ericsson is slightly less noticeable than the 6190. Still, the buzz does exist.
The earpiece volume isn't quite up to the standard of the 6190, but doesn't seem to fall short by that much in real-life usage. I generally found that the maximum volume on the Ericsson corresponded with level 8 or 9 on the 6190. Under certain circumstances I have found even the 6190 isn't quite loud enough, so the Ericsson may pose a problem in those situations. In day-to-day use however, I found the Ericsson to be more than loud enough.
The earbud that you can buy from Fido appears to be built by the same company that builds the one Nokia sells for the 6190. It has the same general audio quality, and it generates plenty of volume. If you're going to use your phone extensively in a car, I would strongly recommend buying the earbud when you buy the phone. Not all the stores have the accessories for the Ericsson at the time of this writing, so you may have to shop around a little bit.
One of the biggest debates taking place on the Fido newsgroup centers around the RF performance of the T18z. I was of course skeptical, since I had heard the same claims made for other phones. There is no question that the T18z has slightly better performance in weak signal conditions. It hangs on to the signal longer than the 6190, and generally speaking it regains service much quicker. This results in a phone that in marginal signal areas will probably be usable for a longer period of time the 6190. However, I did not find the differences to be as great as many people were claiming.
Unfortunately, the T18z suffers from the same problem as the 6190 when it comes to putting the phone in your pocket. The close proximity of your body seems to reduce the ability of the phone to send and receive. While waiting in line at Lick's over at Hurontario and Eglinton in Mississauga, I performed a number of call tests to see how bad this was. With the phone sitting in my pocket, it would not ring when I called it. However, if I took it out of my pocket (but did not pull up the antenna), it received calls just fine. For that reason, I would strongly recommend that you use the belt clip and wear the phone on your belt.
There was however, one aspect of RF performance that eventually won me over. After countess tests I discovered that the T18z appeared to handoff less often than the Nokia 6190. Because of this trait, the phone suffers from less audio disturbances, and less thrashing than the Nokia. Note that when I tested the Motorola L Series and the Mitsubishi G75 I noticed no difference in the handoff rate over that of my 6190. I do have a theory about why this may be so, and you can read that theory by clicking here. In addition this, the disturbances caused by handoffs seemed far less annoying with the T18z than with the 6190.
Finally, the phone does include number features that make it a little more useful from day-to-day. It includes an alarm clock, a calculator, and it allows the use of calling cards. I use this feature extensively to make long distance calls through my Wintel account.
Perhaps one of the biggest endorsements I could give the T18z is that I decided to keep mine. I still believe that the 6190 has a better user interface, but I don't own a phone so I can marvel at its user interface. I expect my phone to provide quality service whenever I engage in a telephone conversation. The generally better audio quality, the ability to resist handoffs, and the ability to make the handoffs that do occur less annoying, eventually won me over. If those things are also important to you, then I would strongly recommend that you at least try to like the T18z despite its other drawbacks (such as its awful keyboard).