Swivel phones are a strange breed. They open up like flip phones and look like candybar phones when closed, yet are different enough to have their own little niche. The Sony Ericsson S710a (an 850mhz compliant quadband GSM phone specifically for the Americas) is one such phone that turns heads whenever I use it.
The black scheme of the S710a is a nice finish, with silver D-pad and action buttons in the standard SE layout. The back cover is also black with the obvious camera lens with a metallic ring showing where it is. There is a sliding mechanism to expose the lens, which keeps it from geting dirty, however, it doesn't help all that much to be honest. There's a single LED for light, which is convenient when you need a strong light source, and to take pictures I guess. The back cover for the battery and SIM card requires quite a push to get open, but it is very secure. The battery life for the camera is relatively good, given the massive and vibrant 320x240 2.3" screen it has to power, at about 4 hours of full talk time and about 3 days of standby.
The swivel mechanism is very solid and isn't spring loaded, so you need to swivel it open yourself. It ends with a solid 'click' in place, so it doesn't move around when in use. With practice, this can become second nature. Upon opening, this unlocks the phone for use. It does not, however, answer calls upon opening, like a flip phone would do, which would have been nice to have. The number pad is clear plastic with silver edges, and the keys light up blue. They are slightly indented, but aren't too hard to press and have good tactile feedback. When open, the swivel is angled slightly inwards, which is good, as it matches the shape of most faces and is held easily with the bottom section. The microphone is still held at cheek level, since it still is part of the screen/D-pad section of the swivel.
The camera is 1.3MP and is a decent performer in good light conditions. Low light and fast motion photos area stretch for this camera, so don't expect great shots. Still photos of friends and family are great though. The retail box comes bundled with a 32mb memory pro duo stick, up from the 16mb that comes with the S700i. However, this phone is hardware limited to a 128mb maximum, which I think is ridiculous, since there's no reason for it. Still a decent number of pictures and ringtones can be kept on a 128mb card, but don't expect a fully loaded jukebox.
This phone is a hefty, coming in at around 140gms and is about 2.5cm thick. With this weight, the phone is very solid and handles bumps and tumbles like a champ. Even two years in, the swivel is as solid as the first day I had it. It uses Bluetooth 1.1, which is great to transfer items to PC and back, but can also use a USB cable (which is NOT included in the retail box mind you). Class 6 EDGE and class 10 GPRS are also possible with this unit for data usage (I've never used it really). The S710a is beautiful and is always a pleasure to look at, and if the size doesn't scare you off, its a great performer with many functions that even some newer phones don't have.