Since Sony Ericsson first introduced its Walkman cell phone line last year, music-friendly phones have had mixed success in the United States. Though they’re lauded by users and critics alike, together with us, U.S. carriers, haven’t clamored to include the handsets in their lineups. Sure, Cingular offers the W600i, but that’s the exception rather than the rule. Sony Ericsson no doubt has taken notice of this discrepancy, which may be a reason behind the Sony Ericsson W300i. While previous Walkman phones were packed with the most expensive features, the W300i aims to be a low-end Walkman phone. Although you still get Bluetooth, a VGA camera, and the full range of Walkman music compatibility, the on the whole effect is a step down from models like the Sony Ericsson W810i. We weren’t crazy about some design elements, but call caliber was good, and we commend Sony Ericsson for bringing mobile music to the masses. No carrier was set at the time of this review, so the GSM handset will run you $299.
So far, Sony Ericsson has stuck to swivel and candy bar designs for its Walkman phones, so we were glad to see the company roll out a flip phone in the series. From the exterior it’s quite elegant; our version came in black, but You can get it in white too. It doesn’t bear much of a resemblance to the company’s few other flip phones; we like the clean lines, the looped antenna, and the textured covering on the bottom of the front flap. The phone is moderately compact at 3.5 by 1.8 by 1.0 inches, so it’s easily put in most pockets. It’s also quite light for its size at 3.3 ounces, but the trade-off is that the all round construction feels just a bit flimsy. We didn’t have any problems when using the phone, but it felt almost too light in our hands.
In the center of the front flap is the postage stamp-size outside screen. Although monochrome, it’s quite bright and displays the usual information, not to mention the date, time, battery life, signal strength, and caller ID (where accessible). you are not able to change the backlighting time, but a quick flick of the volume rocker will activate the display for inspection. Above the screen is the VGA camera lens and a self-portrait mirror (but no flash), while the speaker is on the top of the rear face. The aforementioned volume control is on the left spine along with a control for activating the music player and playing and pausing music. The infrared port is on the right spine, while the connection port for the charger, the wired headset, and the USB cable is on the bottom of the handset. One design flaw of the new Walkman phone connection port is that you can’t connect two cables at once.
Inside the phone you’ll find the 1.75-inch (128×160) inside display. Sony Ericsson always does a good job with its displays, and the W300i is no exception. Radiant and vivid, it displays all 262,144 colors beautifully and is perfect for viewing photos and videos, playing games, and scrolling through the user-friendly menus. You can change the brightness but not the font size or backlighting time.
On the other hand, Sony Ericsson doesn’t have a great track record with navigation controls and keypad buttons. While it made positive strides with the W810i, the W300i shows a slip back to bad habits. The five-way toggle is big and doubles as a shortcut to four user-defined functions, but it’s flush with the surface of the phone and thus takes time to get used to. The flat soft keys, clear button, and back control are spaced far from the toggle, but they’re quite small given the phone’s size. Also, while this isn’t a bad thing, hold in mind that most Sony Ericsson phones do not have dedicated Talk and End keys.
The keypad buttons are worse, on the other hand. Designed similar to overlapping circles, they are flat with the surface of the phone and slippery, which made for a few misdials. Enen more, they don’t lend themselves to quick texting. On the upside, they have a bright orange backlight. Below them are a dedicated power control and a button for activating the Walkman player, but these are much too little. The Memory Stick Micro slot is under the plastic battery cover, but thankfully, you don’t have to remove the battery, to get at it.
The W300i has a 1,000-contact phone book with room in each entry for five phone numbers, e-mail and Web addresses, business and home street addresses, a birthday date, and notes (the SIM card holds an additional 250 names). You can classify contacts into groups, pair them with a photo for caller ID, or attach them one of 28 (40-chord) polyphonic ring tones. Support for MP3 ring tones is present as well, but be informed that caller ID images do not appear on the outter display. Other features include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, voice dialing, a calendar, a task list, a notepad, a calculator, a timer, a stopwatch, and a code memo for storing passwords and other secure information. There’s also a recorder for both voice memos and calls; length is sparing by on hand memory. Although the W300i is considered an entry-level Walkman phone, it still comes with a pretty good number of business-friendly applications. Inside you’ll find a speakerphone, PC syncing for contacts and calendar appointments, a newsreader for accessing RSS feeds, USB cable support, and full Bluetooth for not only connecting to a headset but also for wirelessly exchanging files and electronic business cards. And like many other Sony Ericssons You can use the phone as a modem and use the Bluetooth feature as a remote control to connect with other Bluetooth devices.
The W300i’s Walkman music player doesn’t differ much from the previous handsets in the series. It supports a broad range of formats, inclusive of MP3, MP4, 3GP, AAC, and WAV files. Opening the player takes you directly to the main menu, where You can organize music by artist, track name, or playlist. Settings consist of album/song shuffle and loop, Sony’s Mega Bass, and an equalizer. Toggling between the cell phone and the music player is seamless, as music automatically stops when you receive a call. Hang up and mash the dedicated music key, and your song picks up from the point you left off. There’s an airplane mode that lets you listen to your tunes in flight with the cell phone powered off, and You can minimize the player while using other functions. There are stereo speakers also but still no stereo Bluetooth profile.
Music capacity is sparing by the accessible memory. Internal space is somewhat tiny–just 20MB–and have in mind, that since it’s shared with other applications, your actual storage space may be less. We promote investing in a Memory Stick Micro for extra space; our test phone came with a 512MB card. Getting music on the phone is relatively easy. As well as using the included USB cable and Disc2Phone software, You are able to send tunes via e-mail, a multimedia message, Bluetooth, or infrared port. You also get an FM radio with 20 presets, While you must use it with a headset, which acts as an antenna. You can set it to automatically scan and program Radio Data System info from stations that digitally broadcast their names and call letters, and You are able to use the radio as an alarm clock.
Since the W300i is meant for a more or less average cell phone user, Sony Ericsson included a VGA shooter instead of a megapixel model. You are able to take pictures in three resolutions (640×480, 320×240, 160×120) and choose from a variety of editing options, together with four color effects, a night mode, two quality settings, a self-timer, 19 fun frames, and a brightness control. There’s also a digital zoom, which varies by the pictures size–at the lowest resolution it’s 4X, but it’s not on hand at the highest resolution. Other special picture effects include a burst mode for taking four shots in rapid order and a nifty panorama choice. For audio effects, You are able to choose from four shutter sounds, but there’s no silent choice. The camcorder takes MPEG-4 videos in two resolutions (176×144 and 128×96) with sound and offers a comparable set of editing alternatives. Clip length is capped at two minutes for multimedia messages; otherwise length is sparing by the available memory.
Although we realize the camera is a VGA, picture quality was rather inadequate. Shots were blurry and grainy and colors washed out. Likewise, video quality was run-of-the-mill. Still, the W300i does offer a few creative applications for the amateur photographer. With Photo DJ, You can add one of six fun frames; inverse the shot’s orientation; and use various image effects such as brightness, contrast, tint control, and photo marking. There’s also a Video DJ, and if that is not satisfying, more picture-, video-, and multimedia-editing options are on the software CD, along with QuickTime, Adobe Photoshop Album Starter Edition, and a multimedia message composer. Moving photos and videos off the phone is painless. You are able to send them in a multimedia message, import them via Bluetooth, or the infrared port, or use the included USB cable and software.
You can personalize the W300i with an array of themes, wallpaper, and screensavers. As always, You are able to purchase more choices and ring tones from Sony Ericsson via the WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser. Alternatively, the phone comes with a Music DJ application for making your own ring tones and a quirky application called Music Match that plays guitar chords and piano notes. Though it was fun, it wasn’t tremendously proficient. Gamers can enjoy three Java (J2ME) titles, Neopets, QuadraPop, and PuzzleSlider, with additional titles accessible for purchase.
We tested the quad-band, dual-mode (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; EDGE) Sony Ericsson W300i world phone in San Francisco using Cingular’s service. Call quality was quite good with remarkable clarity and volume. We had no trouble getting a signal and rarely were met with static or interference. Callers reported the same conditions, and they could make out us under most conditions. Speakerphone caliber was slightly worse–voices sounded hollow, but it was fair as a whole. We connected to the Plantronics Explorer 320 Bluetooth headset and was met with admirable call caliber too. The EDGE connection was sufficiently speedy for transferring small files.
Using the included Disc2Phone software and USB cable, which also charges the phone, we tried loading music onto our W300i. transfer time was relatively slow at 30 seconds for a 5MG song, so you’ll have to be patient for a large import. As a whole, on the other hand, the software is easy to install and exhibited few of the quirks we found on previous models. And another thing, the phone didn’t switch off automatically when we disconnected the USB cable. Music quality was on a par with that of other Walkman phones: clear and crisp, Though one transferred song had some very minor hiccups. The W300i won’t replace a stand-alone MP3 player, but it does the job admirably for short stints.
Our one real disapproval was that the phone had a tendency to freeze during normal operation, such as when we were going through a menu or when we were using the USB connection. More than one time, we had to restart, but more often, the phone unfroze after a couple seconds.
The W300i has a rated talk time of 9 hours and a presumed standby time of 16.5 days. Our talk-time test result came in a little short at 8 hours, but that’s still respectable. According to FCC radiation tests, the Sony Ericsson W300i has a digital SAR rating of 1.42 watts per kilogram.