Like its eco-friendly predecessors the Elm and Hazel, the Sony Ericsson Cedar forms part of the company's environmentally conscious GreenHeart range. Constructed from -- and packaged in -- predominantly recycled materials, the Cedar is the perfect handset for mobile users with lofty morals.
The Cedar is available for free on a £15 per month contract. Alternatively, you can pick it up for about £60 on pay as you go, or around £150 SIM-free and unlocked.
Heart of green
Although Sony Ericsson's GreenHeart proposal does tend to come across as a little disingenuous -- especially when you consider the vast quantity of mobile phones that end up as nothing more than landfill -- it's certainly a step in the right direction. The Elm and Hazel marked the opening shots of this righteous eco-warrior campaign, and impressed us with their functionality and range of features.
The Sony Ericsson Cedar continues the good work achieved by its forebears, and proves that being sympathetic to Mother Nature doesn't have to mean being saddled with an ugly phone. The Cedar is arguably one of Sony Ericsson's more attractive offerings of late, combining a two-tone colour scheme with smooth lines and a visually pleasing, ridged keypad.
Curves in all the wrong places
The phone isn't especially small, but it is light. At just 84g, it certainly won't add a significant bulk to your pocket. The only real complaint we have about the design of the Cedar is the ergonomics. The back of the phone curves at both ends, which can make gripping it somewhat difficult. The weight of the phone is focused in the middle, which causes it to tip out of your paw should you grip it too tightly at the base.
With 280MB of on-board storage available, the Cedar has an unusually generous amount of room for photos, videos and music. Thankfully, it's also possible to boost this total with a microSD card of up to 16GB in capacity, which can be inserted in the card slot located rather cunningly under one side of the battery cover. Sadly, a microSD card is not included, so if you do intend to load up the Cedar with your tunes and snaps, you'll need to purchase one separately.
The Cedar's multimedia aspirations are enhanced further by the presence of a 3.5mm headphone jack, which allows you to use your own personal set of cans to listen to music. The on-board media-playback software is based on Sony Ericsson's Walkman program, and offers an above-average range of options and customisation.
Shoot me now
A 2-megapixel camera can be found on the back of the Cedar, which takes decent shots and is able to shoot low-quality video clips. Sadly, it lacks an LED flash, so low-light images look predictably muddy and ill-defined.
Finally, it's worth noting that unlike the Elm, the Cedar uses an industry-standard micro-USB connection for both charging and data transfer. No USB cable is included in the box, but the standardised nature of this particular interface means you're bound to have a compatible one lying around somewhere in your house.
It could be argued that the Cedar occupies a shrinking portion of the mobile phone market devoted to mid-range 'dumb phones'. As cheap smart phones like the HTC Wildfire and Huawei Ideos encroach ever further into this territory, manufacturers are being forced to get creative with their products.
In the case of the Cedar, you have limited connectivity to Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, thanks to a suite of smart-phone-style widgets, which can be docked on the main home screen for easy access. Another advanced feature is the ability to upload photos to popular sites such as Blogger, Picasa and Flickr.
The phone's 3G connection makes accessing these services quicker than it would be using bog-standard GPRS, but some elements of the software -- the Twitter widget especially -- are incredibly flaky. Loading data seems to take forever, and we were unable to refresh our personal Twitter timeline, despite being logged in and connected.
Your face, my book
The Facebook client works much better, and is even integrated in the phone's operating system. For example, in the standard messaging menu, there's a shortcut link that takes you directly to your Facebook inbox. Unfortunately, the Cedar's level of net connectivity isn't always convincing -- the Access NetFront Web browser struggles to cram image-heavy pages into the phone's 2.2-inch, 240x320-pixel screen, for example.
A curious inclusion in the Cedar's software armoury is video calling, perhaps influenced by the recent hype surrounding the iPhone 4's FaceTime feature. The Cedar lacks a front-facing camera, so users are expected to shoot a still image of themselves and present it to the other caller for the duration of the conversation. It's a neat bonus, but we can't imagine many people will actually bother to use it.
On the whole, the Cedar's user interface and selection of software makes a pleasing impression. The operating system has remained essentially unchanged for years, but Sony Ericsson has slowly been adding in more modern features.
For example, there are plenty of smooth transition animations to liven things up. Even something as simple as receiving a text message results in a little animated sequence in the top-left corner of the display, as the message envelope pushes it way past other, less important icons. These are minor things, but they go a long way in enriching the user experience.
As a continuation of the GreenHeart brand, it's hard to see the Cedar as anything but a success. It boasts a better design, improved functionality and a generally pleasing interface -- although the poor camera and often sluggish widgets do diminish the impact slightly.
The phone's biggest challenge is finding an audience. It could be argued that the sector of the market it seeks to conquer is rapidly falling to budget smart phones, against which the Cedar looks technologically anaemic. If you're looking for a device with impressive features but don't want a confusing selection of PC-like options to contend with, we recommend it. Who knows -- its environmentally focused manufacturing ethos may even make you feel good about yourself.
Edited by Emma Bayly