The P800 was a versatile early 2000s smartphone. The most striking feature was its innovative and unusual number-pad that folded back to reveal a large – for the time – 2.9” touch screen. The mechanical keys pressed onto the resistive touch screen underneath to register key presses.
While the number-pad was a similar idea to the earlier Ericsson R380
, unlike its predecessor the P800 package that launched in 2002 also included the option to use the phone entirely without the number-pad. In the box was an alternative plastic shell that could be swapped for the number-pad and that left the display visible all of the time.
Other hardware features included a VGA camera, GPRS support, a storage card slot that used Sony’s proprietary Memory Stick Duo format, 16MB of internal storage and a removable battery. As was common at the time, there was no 3.5mm headphone socket. While mono Bluetooth headsets could be used to make phone calls, to listen to music users had to connect a wired stereo headset with a proprietary connector.
The P800 was the first Sony Ericsson phone to run the Symbian operating system, and the first phone from any manufacturer to use the UIQ flavour of Symbian with its touchscreen interface, and the first smartphone to be built on top of Symbian OS 7.
UIQ was created by Symbian AB – a Swedish subsidiary of Symbian created after the acquisition of the Ericsson Mobile Applications Lab by UK-based Symbian Ltd. The company later rebranded as UIQ Technology.
UIQ offered users a familiar set of built-in apps including calendar, contacts, music player, and a simple browser (WAP, iMode and basic HTML) that were all designed to be operated by a stylus. Third party UIQ apps could be sideloaded from a PC or downloaded over the air. The P800 also shipped with PC synchronisation software to connect to Windows apps using the included sync cradle.
Unusually, the UIQ handwriting recognition interface asked the user to draw characters over the entire screen, rather than on a separate dedicated area, as was common on the PDAs of the era that had inspired the UIQ design.
The P800 was the first in a line of three P-series UIQ 2.0 smartphones from Sony Ericsson (others were the P900
). And, UIQ was subsequently used by Motorola on four devices (including the A920
), BenQ (P30 and P31), Arima (U300 and U308) and even one by Nokia the 6708.
However, despite the P800’s success in breaking new ground, with other brands and models following, this initial UIQ phone was plagued with software issues. Built-in apps would often crash suddenly, which had been unheard of on the Symbian-based Psion PDAs which predated the P800. And, one particularly awkward software bug required the user to return the device to a service centre repair, if the user inadvertently filled up the built in flash memory.
Notably, the P800 appears in James Bond (007) movie, Die Another Day. North Korean intelligence operative Tang Lin Zao (known as Zao) receives details about Bond on the phone in the pre-title sequence of the film.