Tuesday September 27, 2005 8:03 pm
SonyEricsson W800i Walkman Phone Review
While the Motorola ROKR landed with a dull thud, SonyEricsson has launched the W800 with almost no noise at all. While the this phone doesn’t have iTunes (although you can hack it to make it seem like it does), what it does have is far more features and versatility than the ROKR, and a price tag to match. Let’s get the hard part out of the way. The W800i is going to cost you $499. No service providers in the US are offering the phone at this point, which means that you’re not going to be able to get a subsidy to offset the cost of the phone. What do you get for your five Benjamins? Let’s take a look ...
First, the W800 is a tri-band GSM phone (900, 1800, 1900) that will work on any GSM network, since the phone isn’t tied to a provider. Just pop your SIM card into the phone and you’re ready to go. (A SIM card is the little thumbnail sized card that you put into your phone that tells it who you are and what your phone number is. It can store contacts as well.)
The phone has a 176x220 pixel display with 262,000 colors. It’s a bright, vivid display, and while on the small side, it fits the tiny size of the phone (which is small enough to fit into that tiny fifth pocket in your jeans). There’s a 2.0 megapixel digital camera with auto-focus, and a focus-assist white LED “flash” that can double as an SOS beacon.
The biggest draw will likely be the music player. The phone has been given the “Walkman” branding from it’s Sony parent, and the phone ends up with a very unique identity as a result. The face is soft while with metallic orange accents (and key backlight), and it’s unfortunate that white has become a color so fully identified with Apple that people will instantly mistake the phone as “the new iPod phone”, despite attempts to differentiate the phone like the “dual faces” (the back of the phone looks like a small digital camera).
The music player is decent, and it was possible to cram about three to four albums on the included 512MB Memory Stick PRO Duo. There was a bit of a problem with the phone recognizing playlists, but using the included software can fix the problem, or you can create a playlist of your own directly from the phone. If you listen to the radio more than your MP3’s, well, SonyEricsson thought about you as well … there is an FM radio built-in, which uses the headphone cord as an antenna. ROKR be damned, I was even able to broadcast my iPod songs to the W800 using the Griffin iTrip accessory, allowing me to use a single set of headphones for both devices.
If there is a drawback to the phone’s diminutive size, it’s that the Memory Stick port is difficult to open, and the card itself is very hard to remove. Considering that you can use stored MP3 files as ringtones on the phone, you may be inclined to simply leave the card in the phone long-term. Sound quality is good with the included headphones, and the included earbuds can be replaced with any standard headphones while not losing the ability to use the included microphone and answer button.
Sony PSP fans will note that the memory card is the same used in Sony’s game player. Sure enough, photos taken with the W800 can be viewed on the PSP’s large high-res screen for sharing with friends and family. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for recorded video, nor for MP3’s simply copied to the card, since the PSP uses specific directory structure for it’s files. Perfect synergy between the two different units of Sony was clearly too much to ask. It should be noted that if you put the music files on the Memory Stick Duo in the format that the PSP expects, the phone should still recognize them.
With all of the major features, it’s the little features that truly impress. Animated menus and Themes are a nice touch, as is the ability to set up recurring alarms for specific days of the week. The phone is SyncML compatible, so it syncs up nicely with most standard software that uses the format. There is a sound recorder, a fully-functional Voice Control, and a decent WAP 2.0 browser.
Finally, it’s important to note that the battery life of the W800 is fantastic. It’s possible to go for several days on a single charge with moderate phone and MP3 usage. This is all coming from a battery smaller in size than a CompactFlash card, and is truly amazing. Frequent travelers will be happy to know that you can turn off the radios in the phone and use the MP3 player alone.
It’s really a damn shame that the this phone out of the mass market, because the W800 could kill the Motorola ROKR dead. Instead, the ROKR’s slick marketing and tie-in with Cingular will keep the W800 off the radar, despite the fantastic features of the first phone to be branded with the Walkman name. That said, the W800 is a bargain even at $500, with an impressive feature set and far better styling than the ROKR, and without tying users to specific software.
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