Sony Ericsson’s W800i

31 Jan 2006

Another victory for the hyphen makers: Sony Ericsson’s W800i, which travels under the Walkman brand, is a phone-camera-music player. The good news is, it performs each of these tasks well enough to avoid being saddled with another obvious name: jack of all trades. Given all its features the W800i isn’t overly heavy — you could say the greatest weight of all comes from carrying the Walkman name, but it wears the load lightly.

The phone clearly trades heavily on its audio features: it can be used purely as a music player by disabling the phone function; alternatively, in standard mode it interrupts song playback whenever the phone rings. Once the call is finished, the song resumes. The phone plays MP3s even without headphones, albeit at a very low level, but you have to use the supplied headphones to listen to the radio. The headphones’ rubberised tips are snug and help to ensure that the audio quality in all cases is very good.

Ironically for a hybrid phone and music player, possibly the most impressive feature on the W800i is the 2MP camera with a range of settings that would embarrass some single-purpose cameras. The picture quality is not too bad either.

I have mixed feelings about the keypad. For a phone clearly pitched at the younger end of the market, texting isn’t easy as I found the keys somewhat heavy to the touch. A mini joystick placed just above the keypad is useful for navigating through the menu screen, although this takes a little bit of mastering.

Some critics have carped at the lack of storage — the phone holds up to 125 MP3 music tracks — though this should probably be part of a wider debate over whether hybrid devices are genuine replacements for their single-function cousins. Do people really want a phone with their entire CD collection ready to hand? I’d argue that a fair selection of 10 or so albums’ worth of music is plenty to be getting on with. In any case, the W800i includes a slot for Sony’s proprietary memory stick format, so additional storage is sorted.

I’d also suggest a more important criterion is battery life and the Walkman scores very well on this front. It keeps its charge for several days when used for the usual combination of text messaging, phone calling, music listening, photo taking and assorted fiddling. If anything had to give with the phone’s many functions it is that the organiser features are fairly basic, but then the business user is clearly not the target market Sony Ericsson is aiming for.

By Gordon Smith