You know Sony Ericsson means business with its WALKMAN series of mobile phones when it launched the new W950i, the company’s flagship WALKMAN phone that not only looks to be a viable alternative to standalone digital audio players but also a PDA as well. With a whopping 4GB flash memory that lets you store up to 4,000 songs on the go, the W950i does have a big gut to match its WALKMAN logo but it’s not a behemoth of a handset as you might think. Modeled after the business oriented M600i, the W950i is definitely made for the road, which should attract hardcore music lovers who have been praying for a truly competent but sleek MP3/PDA mobile phone.
Like the Nokia N91, the 4GB storage in the W950i can be easily filled with digital music, but instead of using a hard disk drive as storage, solid-state memory was preferred because of its smaller profile, fewer moving parts and lower power consumption. Nothing much has change in the way of software with the latest Sony Ericsson handset. It’s powered by the same Walkman Player 2.0 GUI as seen in the W850i, which means music is sorted by artiste, album and playlist, making navigation as easy to use as MP3 players from Creative and Apple. Taking advantage of the large touchscreen display, the W950i also allows songs to be searched via album art, which is similar to Apple iTune’s cover flow concept. This, we think, is a brilliant implementation. Disappointingly, the W950i only has a mono speaker and tracks with Japanese and Chinese characters are not supported – likely a result of differing operating system from that of the W850i.
Another cool feature about the W950i is TrackID. By recording a few seconds of songs that are unfamiliar to you, TrackID will return song titles and album and artist names after it has filtered the information through Gracenote’s database for CD recognition.
Happily, the W950i can also be used to browse for information on the Internet, as it supports 3G connections and comes preinstalled with a very capable and fast Opera handheld Internet browser. Just about the only thing missing in the W950i is Wi-Fi, which is quite a shame given its large 240 by 320 pixel touchscreen.
Also for the working folks
Although the W950i is largely similar to the M600i, it does not have a full-sized QWERTY keyboard. A more traditional numberpad is furnished instead and this is paired to a very intuitive predictive text input system for swift message composition. Office folks who are constantly on the move will appreciate the native push email function in addition to wireless email printing via printers that support Bluetooth connection. Of course, being a Symbian phone means the W950i can be loaded up with 3rd party applications to help make your digital lifestyle much easier.
Though it’s not the first of its kind to be equipped with 4GB of storage, the W950i WALKMAN phone is by far the most versatile and lightweight music/smartphone we’ve come across. However, while there’s no denying that it is a very capable smartphone and music player, we couldn’t help but feel that Sony Ericsson had intentionally held back by excluding a high-resolution camera, which also means it doesn’t support video chat.
Had the W950i been equipped with the same camera found in the K800i, we would easily be looking at the phone of the year. Nevertheless, for what it brings to the table at US$625, the W950i should be strongly considered if you’re looking for a competent music/smartphone.