We reviewed the 3G Sony Ericsson P1i handset for two reasons: a Sony-branded business phone is a rarity, and it’s the first Sony Ericsson phone to work with BlackBerry Connect.

For the unitiated, BlackBerry Connect is software for non-BlackBerry phones that nonetheless provides BlackBerry-like functionality. There are actually quite a number of phones that are able to make use of BlackBerry Connect software. Samsung, HTC, Motorola and Asus between them offer 20 such devices. So the Sony Ericsson P1i is in good company.

Unfortunately for us (and any other time-pressed businesspeople out there), the Sony Ericsson P1i doesn’t come with the necessary BBC (BlackBerry Connect) software preinstalled, so we had to set things up ourselves. We’re told that 02 and Vodafone versions of this handset come with it preinstalled, however.

Having set up the Sony Ericsson PC Suite and installed the BlackBerry Connect software we were easily able to activate the BlackBerry service over the air and to add both personal and Outlook work email account details. Synching with Outlook, Lotus Notes and some other email clients happens automatically when the Sony Ericsson P1i is plugged in to your PC and is far more efficient than we would have believed.

We kept a running check on both our desktop and handset inboxes and found them updating stroke for stroke when in sync mode (note that you need to select the correct phone to File transfer mode to copy data such as Office files, photos, video and MP3 between phone and PC).

We also liked the clear BlackBerry Connect status alerts that meant we always knew whether we were using the BlackBerry service – since we availed ourselves of the cheaper web-browsing route using the BlackBerry server, we set our Sony Ericsson P1i to autostart BBC whenever we switched on the phone.

We found the BlackBerry Connect service useful when out of the office for checking up on planned meetings and to confirm attendance or plead for a postponement as our diary dictated.

We weren’t wholly enamoured of the Sony Ericsson P1i handset itself, however. It’s too heavy and we’ve seen better interfaces with more obvious icons to access the most useful applications.

We didn’t like the way the Sony Ericsson P1i tried to take us online to download items whenever we clicked the More button on the main screen, either. More crops up (as an alternative to Done) on most screens on this phone, yet rather than offer more options or take you to further preinstalled features, you have to go through the rigmarole of waiting while it accesses the web before you are able to tell it to back off again.

These other features include a Contacts book, Calculator, Stopwatch, currency converter and a Timer. Under Entertainment you’ll find an FM radio, music player, video and photo slideshow playback, music DJ and Quadra Pop, as well as a MusicDJ program, a sound recorder and Vijay Singh’s Golf Pro. You can load up tracks and clips on to the Sony MemoryStick or sync them with the Sony Ericsson P1i, as we’ve already described.

Getting around is fairly efficient using the scrollwheel on the left of the Sony Ericsson P1i, but we often found ourselves resorting to using the stylus to select onscreen items, which isn’t always convenient.

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