Defining “upgrade”

I received a postcard in the mail Monday telling me that Sony Ericsson and AT&T were sending me a free phone, a brand-new T226. Great news! My T68i is a year and a half old and is starting to fall apart.

Something felt fishy, though. My T68i was a $200 investment, and this new phone isn’t costing me a penny. So I went to the Sony Ericsson T68i Upgrade Web Site to find out more.

Impressively, Sony Ericsson is not shy about the upgrade specs; a big link on the home page goes to a comparison page. Unimpressively, the new phone is a major downgrade.

A list of what my new phone won’t have that my old one does:

– worldwide operability

– a calendar

– 7-field phone book listings (the T226 has 3 fields)

– voice-activated dialing

– Bluetooth and infrared (no more linking to friends)

– a modem (no more Web access)

– shortcuts (no more typing 7-8-4-2 to play solitaire)

These are not minor issues. I used my phone overseas and want to do so again this year. I used four and five fields for my contacts quite often, and I relied on my shortcuts.

And that’s just the features I use. The T226 also has no voice-activated dialing, no PC synchronization, half the memory and less picture and personalization features. It does have polyphonic ringtones and a more colorful display.

The Sony Ericsson T226 is the free-with-contract phone for customers who sign up for new plans. That I am expected to consider it an upgrade from my expensive T68i is wholly unimpressive.

I thought the new phone might keep me on AT&T Wireless for a few more months before I ported myself to Verizon and away from AT&T Wireless’s poor suburban GSM reception. But I doubt it.