The multimedia department is among the weakest points of the compact Sony Ericsson R306 Radio. There is only 5MB of onboard memory and no microSD expansion. There's no music player either, but at least you can use MP3 files as ringtones.
Images on the Sony Ericsson R306 Radio are only accessible via the File manager. Unfortunately, the viewing options are quite limited - there is no zoom function and image browsing is quite sluggish. Images can be sent via Bluetooth or MMS. Moving/copying/renaming are among the few other usable options.
Interestingly enough, the file manager couldn't open the 1.3 megapixel images produced by the camera. It returned an error message alerting of insufficient memory. Now this might be a simple bug of our pre-release handset but we don't know for sure.
Photos taken by the camera in 1 megapixel resolution open up just fine. But the presence of both 1.3 megapixel and 1 megapixel options in the camera menu leads us to believe that this might just be a regular handicap of the R306 and not a bug.
The integrated FM/AM radio tuner of Sony Ericsson R306 Radio has memory for 20 stations and supports RDS. Unfortunately, the RDS info is not displayed on the external display - only the name under which the station is stored appears there.
As far as AM bands are concerned, the R306 Radio supports AM 9 kHz (North America, South America and Japan) and AM 10 kHz (Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia). That's pretty well covered, we guess.
Unfortunately, the 20 radio stations memory is used for both the AM and FM radio stations.
The radio application doesn't have any equalizer presets, however there's a concert sound effect available. Subjectively speaking, radio broadcasts sound much better with it when you use the headset - you can toggle between the Normal and Concert modes with a press-and-hold of the external Radio key on the left side of the handset.
When you channel the radio sound to the external stereo speakers, an additional sound effect becomes available. It's called Volume boost and it's really up to the task. The Concert mode doesn't sound as good on the external speakers. When the speakers are on, you can toggle the Concert and Normal modes with a SHORT press on the external Radio key. We really don't know why the inconsistency. The volume boost mode however is only available through the menu of the Radio application.
Other than the standard functionality, users can also record a broadcast from the radio much like with the Sony Ericsson T303 we reviewed recently. The recordings are stored in MP3 format - there aren't any complex settings - you only have to choose between Normal and High quality mode. The High quality delivers a constant bitrate of 64Kbps@16KHz, but as we managed to confirm the recordings turn out with a quality inferior to the original radio broadcast.
Our biggest concern with the radio functionality of the Sony Ericsson R306 is the need to use the supplied headset as an antenna. Now that sounds like a regular deal on most other mobile handsets, but a radio-centric device like this one certainly calls for another solution.
In fact, you can turn the FM radio on without plugging the headset and it can even pick up some stronger radio signal but it's still a rather inadequate solution. If you hold it in your hand the reception gets a bit better to a… let's say… passable level. It's still not up to scratch for a radio-centric device.
That being said, we have the example of another solution that sounds much better - the O2 Cocoon we recently reviewed had a dedicated antenna cable supplied in the retail package - much like the one you get with your regular home stereo. With it you can still enjoy radio reception when your handset is docked on your desk and it can save you some of the mess that headsets usually create.
And finally, Sony Ericsson have created a custom headset for the Sony Ericsson R306 that makes things even worse. It has a huge jack - bigger than any other Sony Ericsson jack we've seen. And when we say huge we mean it - it increases the width of the R306 body by almost a half when plugged.
It has an aerial sign on it and its size suggests some sort of an enhanced antenna contraption - we don't know, and we don't really care either. The bulk you plug in for the radio to work properly totally ruined the experience for us. It gets in the way when you try to open the clamshell… It gets in the way when you try to press one of the keys on the left side… And did we mention it's darn huge?
Unfortunately, there is no TrackID music recognition feature in the radio application itself. There is a separate TrackID Java application in the R306 but you can't use it with the radio. It works only with external audio sources such as your home stereo or car audio system.
The TrackID application samples music through the handset built-in microphone and then connects to the Gracenote servers to try and get the artist and track names. We tried channeling the radio through the external speakers and then we started the TrackID sampling process but the radio audio gets muted during that short time of sampling. So essentially, the TrackID music recognition service is not available for the tracks you listen to on the radio.
Sony Ericson R306 Radio has a 1.3 megapixel shooter producing photos with a maximum resolution of 1280 x 1024 pixels with no flash of any kind. The camera is placed on the back of the clamshell which makes taking pictures of your index finger a favorite pastime.
Among the few customizable things are picture size (1.3 MP, 1MP, VGA), picture quality (fine, normal), effects (black & white, negative), and the night mode. In the main camera menu there are two additional settings - the 2.5 digital zoom (in VGA mode) and exposure correction from -2/+2.
Image quality seems ok for a 1.3 megapixel snapper. The only flaw we found with the handset is that it can't open any of the 1.3 megapixel images produced by its own camera. You'll have to use the 1 megapixel images size in order to access the photos on your phone.
Here are some camera samples from the R306 camera:
The camera can also record video but in really low sub-QCIF resolution that is only usable for MMS messages. We no longer publish video samples that are below QVGA resolution.