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Sony Ericsson W950i
- 4GB flash memory, Excellent music performance, Touch screen and stylus operation, Compact size for smart phone
- No Wi-Fi, 3G but no video call, No memory expansion, Keypad hard to press, Sluggish interface at times
An excellent music phone thanks to the Walkman application and a massive 4GB of storage space, but no camera or Wi-Fi and a poor keypad detract from the package.
Price$ 1,099.00 (AUD)
A cross between a smart phone and a 3G phone, Sony Ericsson's W950i point of strength is 4GB of flash memory for music storage. The device does not have a camera or Wi-Fi but it does perform reasonably well as a smart phone. Unfortunately, there is significant room for improvement in the keypad design, so much so that we recommend potential buyers try the keypad out before purchasing.
While in call volume could be louder, the W950i functions as a phone quite well. Sony Ericsson includes a generous set of phone functionality on this handset, with SMS, MMS, push e-mail support and full T9 predictive text input. The W950i runs a Symbian v9.1 interface, so a 1000 entry phone book and regular call logs are included, along with a range of useful applications, from the standard PIM functions like calculator, calendar, converter, stopwatch and timer to multimedia offerings like a video player, picture viewer and the MusicDJ application for editing and creating polyphonic ringtones.
The Symbian interface was slightly slow, especially when switching between running applications. Navigating the menu and opening applications is a little more sluggish than normal, although it is far from the worst offender of the phones we've reviewed.
For connectivity, the W950i offers Bluetooth 2.0, infrared and USB 2.0, but there is no Wi-Fi, nor is there a camera. A USB data cable is included in the package, which means users can transmit and synchronise data between the phone and their PC straight out of the box using the supplied PC Suite software.
The W950i shines when it comes to music, thanks to its Walkman application and 4GB of flash memory. It is capable of playing MP3, AAC and MPEG4 files and there is also a stereo FM radio with 10 presets; the sound quality produced is above average for a mobile phone. Audio can be tailored using either the five band equaliser or with four presets including Sony's Mega Bass. The included headphones come with a handy adapter that not only allows a standard 3.5mm pair of headphones to be connected, but also doubles as a remote control. One negative point worth noting is that although 4GB of flash memory is very generous, the phone does not include a flash memory expansion slot.
The Walkman application uses a list format, with an icon representing each menu giving a sleek and structured feel. The standard system for searching music (artists, albums, artists, tracks and playlist menus) is used, but now phone users can also separate tracks into different colour coded "moods". The W950i also supports album art; when you transfer music from your PC, any available album art is automatically downloaded and associated with the track.
TrackID is available and is one of the coolest features we've seen on a phone. This allows you to record a few seconds of any song you wish, either through the external microphone or the built in FM radio. The recording is then sent to a music database and if the song is recognised, the title, album and artist name are sent back to you. It then allows you to purchase the full track if it is available from Sony's online music store. The W950i also features A2DP (Advanced Audio Distribution Profile) which enables you wirelessly stream music to a pair of Bluetooth headphones.
The W950i is almost identical in design to the M600i, measuring 106mm x 54mm x 15mm and weighing just 112g. This is one of the thinnest smart phones currently available on the market, so it can slide easily into a pocket or bag, and fits comfortably in the palm of your hand.
The touch screen is large and clear and is capable of displaying 262,144 colours. The viewing angle is acceptable but the screen is difficult to comfortably read in direct sunlight. The touch screen can be operated via the included stylus or even using the fingertips.
The W950i doesn't have a defined keypad, rather it has an attractive flat surface on which the key information (number, letter) are printed in white. A bullet point for each key protrudes from this flat surface to help guide the user to press the correct key. The key 'area' to press is small; those with large fingers are more likely to inadvertently press the wrong buttons while typing. The Walkman and clear keys are located on the left and right edge of the phone respectively. Where the key meets the edge is not part of the keys pad, even though the phone user is naturally drawn to pressing the key at that point. While the keypad does work, the user needs to be constantly focussed on avoiding mistakes.
In addition to the keyboard, the W950i has three-way scroll wheel and an adjacent back button, located on the left hand side. This jog dial makes screen navigation very simple; it can be rolled up or down and pressed inwards like a regular button. It can be used to scroll through lists, adjust sound volume or move through a multimedia message. It's quite an effective way of navigating the phone, although a five-way pad would have been preferable.
Sony Ericsson rates the W950i battery life at an average 2.5 hours of talk time and 250 hours standby time using a 3G network. When you consider the handset doesn't have a camera or Wi-Fi, this could have been improved. The figures increase to 7.5 hours talk and 340 hours standby time on a standard GSM network. We found ourselves changing the handset every two to three days on average, which is standard for a smart phone. The W950i is charged via an included AC adapter.
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