My Impressions of the Ericsson T28w
The Ericsson T28w is the newest world phone from the Fido.

Last Updated: 13-Nov-2000

Word of Warning: Many newer reviews make reference to older reviews, and this sometimes creates apparent inconsistencies in the overall assessments of various models. Reviews are relative by nature, and so what seemed like a great phone a year, may seem only mediocre now because other phones have "raised the bar" so to speak. If you find that I'm being negative about a phone, while saying it's about the same as a phone I once gave positive reviews to, this a perfect example.


Like the Nokia 8890, the T28w is truly a tiny phone. Although it is a little bit wider than the 8890, the T28w is definitely much thinner. Both phones are feather light, and perhaps even too small for some people.

The two phones that beg comparison are the Nokia 8890 (because it is a world phone, and because it is very small and light), and Ericsson’s own T18z (due to number of family similarities). Throughout this review therefore, I will draw comparisons between those two Fido phones. I will also make occasional comparisons to the Mitsubishi G310, primarily because it has incredibly good audio quality, and great RF characteristics.

Like the 8890, the T28w is a “world” phone. This refers to the fact that it is able to operate on both 1900 MHz (which we use here in North America), or 900 MHz (which is used virtually everywhere else in the world). Although you can buy this phone without any intention of traveling outside of North America, it is certainly handy for world travelers. Unlike the 8890 however, the T28w is locked, and so it sells for a much more reasonable $250.

Like the T18z, the T28w is a flip phone. Unlike its sibling however, the T28w includes a spring-loaded flip. Instead of pulling the flip open with your fingers, you press a small button on the right side of the phone, and the flip flies open for you. Although I was a little leery of the idea at first, I quickly grew to love it. It allowed me to answer the phone with just one hand. Although that can be done with the T18z, it is a much harder task.

The earpiece on this phone is not contoured in any way, and so I found it a little uncomfortable after holding it against my ear for prolonged periods. However, you should note that everyone's ears are different, and so you might not have the same discomfort as I did.

The T28w's screen is almost identical in size to the one on the T18z, but it is vastly superior. For starters, it uses an Indeglo backlight, instead of LEDs as in case on the T18z. Ericsson makes much better use of the pixel matrix display, and so it manages to display more information. However, the Nokia 8890 has more screen real estate, and it is able to display more information still. However, the 8890 as a horrible backlight compared to the wonderful Indeglo lighting used on the T28w.

The lithium polymer battery provided with the T28w is probably the smallest phone battery that I have ever seen. However, it only provides 500 mAh compared to somewhat more capacious batteries on other phones, including the 8890. However, Ericsson claims their battery will give you 74 hours of standby, or approximately 160 minutes of talk time.

The display includes the usual battery indicator, but you can also find out the battery’s current state of charge expressed in hours of standby, and minutes of talk time. Although the figures given are only estimates, they do seem to be a much more logical way to tell users how much power they have left. I have read messages from people saying that the estimates on their phones are very poor, but I found that my phone produced very accurate estimates most of the time.

Compared with the horrible keypad on the T18z, the keypad on the T28w is simply marvelous. Keys had a very positive feel, and they were all very easy to press. I wouldn't say that the T28w was quite as good is the Nokia 6190, but it was certainly much closer to that ideal than any Ericsson I have ever tried before.

The available ring tones were very similar to those available on the T18z, and like that phone, you can compose as many as 4 custom tones. There are many websites on the Internet that include compositions for Ericsson phones. Unlike Nokia phones however, you must key them in using the keypad. There is no provision for uploading them as text messages, or sending them to the phone with a data cable. The volume of the ringer is reasonably high, and I had no trouble hearing the T28w whenever anyone phoned me.

The menu structure isn't that much different than in the T18z, but Ericsson has wisely added numeric shortcuts. This allows any menu item to be reached by pressing a series of numbers. They also provide a number of custom menu assignments, which allow you to get at your most commonly used features more easily. Although the T28w doesn't really challenge the 8890 in this regard, I still rate the T28w as having a fairly nice menu system.

However, Ericsson thought it would be really cool to have smooth scrolling. While this might seem interesting in a demonstration, I found it very annoying in practice. That isn't that I don't like smooth scrolling; it’s that the smooth scrolling slowed down my access to many of the functions. This was especially true when I was attempting to read text messages. If there's a way to turn off the smooth scrolling, I certainly couldn't find it. Ericsson should think twice about this feature, or at least make it optional.

The single worst feature of the T28w is its volume control. Although it is mounted on the side, where God intended, it is placed at the very top of the phone rather than in easy reach further down. To make matters worse, the volume control is a slider switch rather than two small pushbuttons. Not only is the slider difficult to actuate while you're in a call, but it does not work intuitively. One has to wonder what sort of drugs the Ericsson engineers were using when they thought this one up.

The T28w does lack a number of features that many users have come to expect in modern phones. It does not support the wonderful "T9" Predictive Text Input, it doesn't have a build-in IR port (though an expensive add-on is available), it doesn't support  a voice recorder, and it doesn't support calendar (though an alarm clock feature is included).

Sound Quality

Anyone who has read my review of the T18z knows that I was full of praise for the sound quality. However, even though I still believe the T18z does sound very good, my opinion of it has dropped since the time I originally tested it. This isn't because the T18z changed in any way, but because I have had a chance to hear many other phones. The T18z’s sound is a little shallow, and it provides very little low-end to male voices.

I was therefore concerned that the T28w would be similar, or even worse given its small size. However, I was delighted to find that the T28w has a much fuller sound than does the T18z. It isn't quite as stellar as the Mitsubishi G310, or (to a lesser degree) the Nokia 8890. However, the overall sound quality of the T28w is very pleasant. The earpiece volume is also quite acceptable, but it could do with being a little bit louder.

Like most GSM phones, the T28w suffers from a certain degree of buzz caused by the transmitter. That buzz is remarkably similar to what you hear on the T18z. It isn't quite as objectionable as it is on Nokia phones, but it is nowhere near as tame as you will find on the Mitsubishi G310 or the Motorola L-7089. Keep in mind that interference from the transmitter is always greater when you're further from a site. Whenever you're close to a site, the transmit power of the phone is usually too low to produce any noticeable interference.

The transmit sound quality is only about average, sounding approximately the same as the G310 and the T18z. However, the T28w has one feature that I have not yet seen on a GSM phone offered by Fido. The T28w has active noise suppression, which is achieved by taking a sample of the background noise from the opposite side of the flip from your mouth. Many people have noticed that there appears to be microphone openings on both sides of the flip. I assure you that the openings on the outside are not there so you can use the phone with the flip closed (as some people have suggested).

I made test recordings while traveling in my wife's excessively noisy pickup truck along Highway 403. With any other Fido phone, the background highway noise was very noticeable in the resulting recordings. However, the recordings made with the T28w had very faint background noise. It wasn't quite as good as the noise suppression provided by the Timeport on Clearnet, but it was markedly better than anything else I had experience on Fido.

RF Performance

Quite a few people have expressed concern about the lack of a pullout antenna on the T28w. I therefore paid special attention to the RF performance of the phone under weak signals conditions. I tested the T28w against a Nokia 6190, and a Mitsubishi G310. The 6190 also has fixed antenna, but the G310 includes a pullout antenna.

In actual conversations, I could find very little difference between the T28w and either of those other phones. In fact, the T28w managed to hang onto calls slightly better than either the 6190 or the G310 under severe conditions. That isn't to say that there was very much difference, but it was enough to at least notice.

The other area of concern was how much signal the phone lost when placed in a shirt pocket. I have found that virtually all GSM phones suffer a little when put into shirt pockets, but some seem to be worse than others. The 6190 and the 5190 are still the reigning kings when it comes to signal loss inside pockets. The T28w fell somewhere between the 6190, and the markedly better G310. However, I never felt that I was losing all that much signal, and I don't believe that there is any valid concern here.  

Note on RF performance: Keep in mind that I can only test the T28w at 1900 MHz. This is a world phone, supporting 900 MHz as well. It is quite possible that the T28w could perform much better (or much worse) at that frequency. It is therefore strongly recommended that you consult reviews written outside of North America for performance data at 900 MHz.


Overall however, despite some negatives, the T28w is an excellent phone. It is small, light, good sounding, and it provides active noise suppression. It is certainly a much better deal the 8890, due to its much lower price. If you're looking for a small phone, then the T28w is certainly the way to go.