The Sony Ericsson P990 retains the classic looks of its forerunners P800, P900 and P910. The smartphone measures 114 x 57 x 21 mm without the flip and has a thickness of 26 mm with the flip. It weighs 155 g with the flip which is almost the same as the one of the previous models. Its main difference with the Sony Ericsson P910 is that the QWERTY keypad is located on the body itself and not on the inside of the removable flip.
Speaking about the flip, removing it is simple enough with the special screwdriver. Just remove the back cover, unscrew the two holding screws and the flip is detached. Next thing you need is just to put the special cover to hide the joint.
The central place in the body is taken by the large 2.76" (41 x 56 mm) display. Below it is the QWERTY keyboard which is covered by the flip with the numeric keypad. Above the display you can easily see the eye of the frontal VGA video call camera. Next to it, right in the dead center is the in-call speaker aperture and on its right there is a LED which blinks to alert you on various events and while a certain connectivity feature is turned on.
The left side of the phone incorporates a Music player shortcut key, the traditional Jog Dial, a hardware BACK key and a hardware keylock sliding key. Sliding it down locks the keypad no matter whether the flip is opened or closed. After your slide the button returns to its position by itself.
A nice feature is that the Music player shortcut key function can be customized to the user's needs - up to certain limits, of course. It can be set to turn on the Music player, to automatically start playing the last track or turn on the FM radio. An interesting change is that the Jog Dial can no longer be used in 5 directions as in Sony Ericsson P910. Now the only available directions are scroll up, scroll down and press. We think that the 5-way Jog Dial was a great navigation tool and stripping it of two of its functions would most surely disappoint many people that are already used to it.
On the top of the smartphone we find the Infrared port covered by a dark plastic strip. The head of the stylus is also seen in that position. It sits inside the smartphone's body as usual and is easily put in or pulled out. Once put in it sits firmly in place and there is no risk of losing it.
The right side of the phone houses the Opera web browser shortcut key, the camera shortcut key and the Memory Stick Duo slot cover. The Web browser key function can also be customized similarly to the Music player shortcut key - it can be set to open the Web browser, the Main menu, the Media player, the Sound recorder, the Task manager, or the Video phone application. When the flip is closed, pressing the camera shortcut keys turns on the LED on the back which otherwise serves as camera flash. It's a convenient solution since you can use the LED as a flashlight. Since the Opera web browser works only in fullscreen mode you need to have the flip opened in order for the Web browser shortcut key to work. As opposed to all new Sony Ericsson models which leave the factory with the new M2 Memory Stick slot, this time the manufacturer has allowed the users to use the more popular Memory Stick Duo cards.
The bottom part of the smartphone features the regular Fast port used by Sony Ericsson and the microphone aperture.
Flipping the phone on its back reveals the rotating camera lens cover, the external antenna slot cap, the handset's loudspeaker and the LED flash. There is a transparent rubber strip in the bottom part of the backside. When the handset is put lying on a table, the strip makes it impossible for it to slide on the table surface.
The camera cover is opened by a circular slide. The cover itself is nothing new and is used in other Sony Ericsson mobiles. Opening the slider turns on the camera automatically - much like on the Sony Ericsson K750 and Sony Ericsson K800 which had a different design cover though.
As we already said, the stylus is hidden in a hole on the upper back of the phone and is easily accessible when you turn the phone around.
The battery cover on the back is readily opened with a slide. Sony Ericsson is equipped with a Li-Polymer Sony Ericsson BST-34 battery with a capacity of 1120 mAh.
According to the manufacturer, the battery should supply the smartphone with enough power for up to 400 h standby in GSM networks and up to 300 h if 3G networks. The total video call time supported by the battery is 1 h and 40 min, while in regular calls it should last up to 9 hours in GSM networks and up to 3 hours in 3G networks. Furthermore, when using or editing emails with the backlighting turned on or when listening to music using the headset, the battery should last up to 9 hours. Unfortunately, we couldn't test the phone's battery life since we used the phone heavily during our tests and thus the battery life we experienced was not indicative for the real-life performance of the phone. But judging on our experience we might say that when using the phone normally, taking the occasional pictures with the camera and using the Wi-Fi for an hour per day, the smartphone won't last more than full 2 days.