Toybox: Walkman phone too pricey for features

Sleek-looking phone comes with 4GB of storage, track recognition and built on FM radio but navigation is a bit clumsy

At first glance, I liked the form factor of Sony Ericsson’s W950i Walkman phone, a rectangular block, dressed in deep purple with orange details. But after playing around with it for a couple of days, I’m not too impressed. I found it a bit clumsy to use, and too expensive, but it also has some nice features.

The Walkman phone comes with an impressive 4GB of storage — a definite plus for music lovers. One of the really cool features is the TrackID application, which identifies unfamiliar tracks for you. If you hear an unfamiliar track somewhere, you simply record a few seconds of it and TrackID will send you a text message with information about the song. The device supports MP3, AAC, AAC+, E-AAC+, WAV and m4a.

Other features I liked include voice recoding, handwriting recognition, speakerphone and the built-in FM radio. Surprisingly enough, the device does not have a camera.

The W950i has a bright 240x320 pixel touch screen, which is best operated with the onboard stylus, unless you have very small fingers. Actually, not using the stylus will drive you crazy after a while. The music-phone also offers jog-dial navigation, which is a bit fiddly to use but works all right. The jog-dial is located on the left side of the phone, meaning that right-handed people will have to either navigate using their index finger, or using the left thumb. A back button below the dial takes you back to the previous view.

The right edge of the 3G handset holds a play/stop button and volume button. The speakers are on the back of the phone, in the shape of three orange dots.

The keypad sits under the top cover on the W950i. At first I liked the sleek look, but when I started using the phone I found hitting the right button was a bit of a mission. Texting was especially frustrating.

The W950i is based on the Symbian 9.1 platform and runs Opera 8.0.

Recommended retail price for the W950i is $799, which, in my opinion, is a bit pricey for what it can do. It might be unfair to compare it to Apple’s iPhone, but I feel I must. The iPhone is a media player, phone and internet device, it has 8GB of storage, a camera and a big touch screen with no stylus required.

It also has some really cool functionality, such as grouping texts into conversations and very easy navigation. But the iPhone is still likely to be cheaper than the W950i. My guess is that the iPhone will retail for around $700, when it gets here. I would be surprised if it costs as much as $799.

But if you are just after a media player/phone, if you like fiddling with a stylus, if you don’t need a camera, and if you have got $800 lying around, the Walkman phone could be for you.

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Tags WalkmanSony Ericsson

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