Sony Ericsson W960i
- Versatile interface, impressive camera, 8GB internal memory, excellent music player
- No memory card slot, no built-in 3.5 microphone jack, price, occasionally sluggish interface, erratic predictive text input
The W960i ticks most of the boxes we expect from a good music player, including smart applications, great functionality and oodles of on-board memory. Unfortunately, a few design blunders have left it slightly wanting as a mobile phone.
Price$ 1,099.00 (AUD)
The Sony Ericsson W960i marks yet another entry into the increasingly crowded 'touch screen' mobile phone market. With the Apple iPhone setting its sights on trendy videophiles, and the LG Viewty (KU990) catering to amateur photographers, this latest addition attempts to wow the music-loving demographic. Proudly displaying the Walkman name, the W960i is a 3G-capable smartphone and fully-integrated music player with 8GB of internal memory. A surprisingly solid 3.2-megapixel camera, Opera Web browser, FM radio, plus Bluetooth and WLAN connectivity round out this feature-packed offering.
Unlike some of the other touch screen phones we've looked at, the W960i comes equipped with a full numeric keypad and jog wheel, in addition to its interactive screen. This vastly improves the overall user experience, allowing you to navigate certain menus in any way you see fit. The keypad is quite spacious and should pose no problems during texting (although with that being said, fans of predictive text should brace themselves for some uneven and bizarre behaviour -- so much so, that we often found ourselves keying in each letter at a time). Apart from this one caveat, we were quite pleased with the overall quality of the W960i's interface, which maps everything out in an intelligent and straightforward manner. Similarly, we found the touch screen to be equally responsive when using our fingertips or the included stylus. At 55x16x109mm, the W960i is quite hefty for a mobile phone while retaining a slim width.
First and foremost, the W960i is a music player. As already mentioned, the versatile controls make navigation a dream, allowing you to cycle through track lists and adjust settings effortlessly. As with previous Walkman phones, the W960i offers access to the PlayNow music download service, as well as Track ID; a fun application that lets you record a few seconds of a song with the phone's microphone and then get the title, album and artist name sent back to you. (Naturally, this is particularly helpful when you hear a song on the radio and have no idea who sings it.) If the track is available, you can then download it directly to your phone. Handy.
The W960i's other main claim to fame is its 3.2-megapixel camera. Equipped with a 3x digital zoom and LED flash, it certainly doesn't seem like anything special, yet the photos we took were surprisingly sharp and vibrant. While it falls a long way short of a dedicated compact camera, it will prove more than capable of taking regular happy snaps.
Unfortunately, Sony Ericsson has neglected to include a memory card slot with the W960i, leaving you stuck with the 8GB of on-board memory. While this should be more than enough to satisfy most users (up to 2000 MP3 files can be stored at any one time), it does mean you can't swap and load data on the fly.
For calls, the W960i has a reasonable voice quality, but volume could have been louder, as it is sometimes difficult to hear when there's a lot of background noise. Thankfully, the included headphones go a long way to eliminate this issue -- but this brings us to another problem altogether. Somewhat belligerently, Sony Ericsson has once again refused to equip its phone with a dedicated 3.5mm headphone jack, despite the W960i's musical leanings. Instead, users must make do with a portable adapter which slots into the rear of the device. While audio remains perfectly adequate, it seems like a baffling omission for an MP3 player. (Naturally, Bluetooth headsets are also supported.)
One other problem we noticed with the W960i was a general sense of sluggishness. Certain applications took a lot longer to load than we're used to, and powering up the device took an astonishing 46 seconds. While not a huge issue, this does tend to grate over time, especially if you're an impatient type.
Battery life is rated at three hours of talk time on a HSDPA network and up to 300 hours of standby time; a reasonable result.
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GGG Evaluation Team
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