The Walkman series has a long and illustrious history that started with the cassette based Walkman back in the 1980s. The brand eventually made its way onto a new wave of Sony Ericsson phones, where it continues to thrive. We take a look at the next product bearing the Walkman legacy, the Sony Ericsson W350i.
There is a certain sense of minimalist chic about the W350i due to a simple design that exudes elegance. Our Electric Black model is lined with thin orange metallic streaks on the borders, punctuated in the middle with a circle. It is also small and compact, weighing a mere 80 grams and measuring only 1 cm thick. However, due to its petite nature, some trimmings had to be removed to accommodate its size.
The placement of its proprietary connector for the headphones on the left profile of the phone makes it slightly unwieldy to listen to music, which also contributed to awkward moments when we tried to do some track selection on the phone. Additionally, the slightly stiff and slippery keypad did make texting slightly cumbersome, but this was easily rectified by prolonged use. The inclusion of a separate lock to the Walkman function is pretty nifty though, as this removed the need to unlock the entire phone to change the track. The phone can also play music without a SIM card, letting you use it purely as a MP3 player.
The W350i is a flip phone (quite a rarity these days) but its flap neither protects the screen nor conceal the keypad; it just locks or unlocks the phone. However, the flap features one of the unique selling points of the W350i, the Walkman on Top Function. The Walkman on Top function utilizes 'buttons' (which are really pressure points that contacts the keypad below) on the flap, so you can control your music without having the need to unlock the actual phone. Considering that the flap makes it cumbersome when trying to SMS, the choice of this on the W350i is questionable. Gimmicky or innovative? You decide.
Running the standard Sony Ericsson interface which has been tried and tested, we found no problems operating multiple applications at once. Being a Walkman phone, its ace in the hole is its focus on music. Bundled with a 512MB M2 card on top of its internal memory, it will prove adequate for light to moderate music fans. In line with its music functionality, whenever the flap is closed, the phone automatically reverts to Walkman mode, which makes browsing music a breeze. In Walkman mode, almost all audio controls can be handled with just the buttons on the flap and side. The audio quality is good, though we wished that it can be just a little bit more.
We were a tad disappointed by the file transfer rate using the USB cable provided, as it is slightly slower then we expected. In addition, there was an absence of certain features on the device. One such example is the fact that it only has a 1.3-megapixel camera with no video recording function. We would have liked a 3.5mm audio jack for the phone too, but after seeing numerous Walkman phones without one, we can't hope for much. The phone ran for about 3 days whilst on moderate usage of calls and SMS, with the occasional music playback. For purely music playback, the battery length met with the specifications given.
Retailing at $298 (RRP), the W350i seems a sweet deal for consumers looking for a MP3 player and phone. While it may not appeal to everyone, the phone will be welcomed by users searching for a portable audio player that leads a double life as a cellular phone and which is stylish yet functional.