Well folks, here it is – the long awaited Sony Ericsson W960i review is before you, divided into several sections. Hope you’ll find it useful, and in case you still have questions after reading it, please use our comments form — I’ll do my best to answer in one of the future posts. Ready? Let’s roll…
The Sony Ericsson W960i is the most beautiful UIQ 3 based smartphone ever made. It’s slick and slim, and fits the hand like not many other devices do. Except for the stylus, the phone is very solidly built. The plastic has that cool matte finish and is made so that it doesn’t slips easily from a hand.
As for the stylus, unfortunately I must report I hate it. Compared with the stylus of the P990i, it looks like an unfinished piece of plastic, like it was simply cut from some raw material. Still, it’s not the reason to hate the device as stylus is useful after all — it’s just an area which I would like to see improved in the future Sony Ericsson Walkman smartphones. Since I use a finger for most of the interactions with the device, this doesn’t fully counts.
Going from the Nokia N93, at first, I hated the buttons. They are smaller and I thought I would be making typing mistakes all the time. Luckily, I was wrong — you get used to them pretty quickly. Above the buttons, there are three touch-sensitive music-dedicated controls for (from left to right) previous song, play/pause and next song.
Besides the numeric keypad, the Sony Ericsson W960i has dedicated Walkman, along with back and “C” buttons on the front; scroll wheel on the left, and volume up and down keys on the right side. Plus, there’s the small power button on the top of the device.
D-pad remains the thing to crave for on Sony Ericsson smartphones, especially for those looking to play a game on their mobile. In addition, I would love to see the dedicated home button. Exiting the Walkman player is a real pain, as I have to press the back button for at least three times. (UPDATE: Just press the Walkman button and you’re back on the homescreen – didn’t catch that).
The screen is now merged with the phone’s surface allowing you to freely use your fingers — something that I personally see as a direct response to the “iPhone challenge.” But let’s not forget that at this stage Symbian with UIQ3 software platform is a more flexible and expandable platform.
Back to the screen. Sony Ericsson uses the same 2.6″ on P1i and W960i, which can display up to 262,144 colors (why not 16 million?) in the QVGA (240×320) resolution. I was asked how it’s protected and I can report there’s some kind of plastic layer on top of the display. So far, I haven’t experienced any problems with the screen. It does get dirty, but you can easily clean it with the Walkman-branded casing, which is also included in the box.
The device comes with a 3.2 MP camera with auto-focus. Those who have used earlier Sony Ericsson smartphones know they are quite fast when it comes to auto-focusing (compared with Nokia’s smartphones). Still, Nokia leads the pack when it comes to video recording. The Finish giant’s phones like N93, N95 and E90 have set the standards which we rarely see in other phones.
Then again, Sony Ericsson is touting the W960i as the music phone. Camera is just an addition, and for taking photos from time to time – it’s great!
Sony Ericsson uses a 220 Mhz processor with both P1i and W960i smartphones. And while it does sound slow, the device performs better than expected — and just for the record (and as I’ve already stated) I was using the Nokia N93 previously. Guess it’s the 128 MB of RAM we should thank for the solid performance.
So far, I’ve installed several Java and Symbian UIQ3 native applications and I still have to see it slowing down. I have no idea whether this has to do with the code itself, but the device is working perfectly. Not that I wouldn’t like it to run on a faster processor, but even this way – it performs great. Almost two weeks after I started using it, the W960i hasn’t blocked for a single time.
The Sony Ericsson W960i is a tri-band GSM/GPRS phone (900/1800/1900 Mhz), and also includes the UMTS radio (2100 Mhz). In addition, it supports stereo Bluetooth (A2DP) and WiFi wireless connectivity. No EDGE, though.
Where’s HSDPA and an accelerometer
HSDPA is not supported and the device doesn’t have the built-in accelerometer. I guess it’s the dimensions of the device and the battery life that made the Swedish-Japanese handset maker go this way. It’s still faster than the iPhone, but can’t match the download speeds of the Nokia N81, another device the W960i competes with.
As for the accelerometer, I would expect it to come on-board, especially when we know that it’s present in both K850i and W910i models. Plus, let’s not forget the W960i is competing with Apple’s handset, hence including all the things iPhone has and add some special sauce on top of it seems like an obvious move…
It’s a music-dedicated device but…
…where’s the standard 3.5mm jack? I do use stereo Bluetooth headsets, but I know many people love the idea of using standard wired headsets on their phones. To be fair, there is a cable converter included in the package, but that’s not actually the “real thing.” And yes, earlier reports were true — there are no Bluetooth headsets in the box, or at least not in my box… However, this will make the device more affordable.
Next, where’s the other speaker? The W960i has only a single speaker. Even some mid-range Nokia NSeries phones come with stereo speakers. Not to mention that we see an increasing number of Chinese phones coming with two and even more built-in speakers. And while most people actually don’t listen to music this way, it’s still a strange call Sony Ericsson has made. It doesn’t cost that much more, but provides an additional checkmarks in the device comparison table.
8 GB of Walkman love
The Walkman software is fully integrated with the device. You can reach it from the home screen — by touching it — or using the dedicated button. It’s stylish and quite straightforward. Not exactly the “iPhone like stylish,” but more than good enough. Scrap that, the W960i provides the users with the so-far-best out-of-the-box music experience on a UIQ 3 based smartphone. Plus, you have 8 GB of available space to put many of your favorite songs and take them with you, wherever you are. I know some people like the idea of exchangeable microSD/Memory Stick Micro cards/sticks, but I’m not one of them. As far as I can see, 8 gigs should keep me pretty happy for a while.
Finally, Sony Ericsson integrated its PlayNow offering with the device, allowing users to purchase mobile content — music included — while on-the-go.
The retail box comes with a CD that contains the Sony Ericsson PC Suite and the Sony Ericsson Media Manager. The latter is a real pain killer, making transfer of media files to the W960i a snap. Still not the iTunes, but they’re getting there.
As for the pre-installed applications on the device, besides the standard UIQ package that includes such apps as calendar, notes, calculator, converter, alarm clock and stopwatch; and of course the Walkman app, the W960i also comes bundled with third-party applications and games like Opera Browser (yes, it can handle full HTML pages), FM Radio, QuickOffice, RSS reader, Business Card Scanner, PDF+, ExchangeActiveSync, as well as two games – QuadraPop and Vijay Singh Pro Golf 3D. Furthermore, like with other Sony Ericsson smartphones, users can get (buy) additional mobile content from the Sony Ericsson’s Application Store from the “More applications” link.
Here’s one area where much could be improved. If you haven’t used any UIQ-based smartphone, you won’t like the W960i. It’s everything but user-friendly and sometimes I even think it was made by programmers who may not be fully aware of the end-user’s needs — this is not to say that I have anything against programmers. Menus are not that logical and some things require more clicks than it’s needed on other phone. I’m not here bash UIQ as I know they work hard on these issues, but it’s important to note that first-time UIQ users may — and most probably will — experience headaches.
Final word – do I recommend it?
Yes and no!
Yes to the current UIQ smartphone owners who will find the W960i the most polished device so far. It has the best media player, enough RAM and tons of storage capacity. Alternatively, you may want to go for the business-centric Sony Ericsson P1i, which basically has everything the W960i has except for the Walkman player and 8GB of built-in memory.
On the other hand, if you’re coming from the Windows Mobile, S60 or feature phone “background,” get something else – this isn’t the thing you’re looking for. Or prepare to spend at least a week adjusting to the weirdly organized (sub)menus.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the device, but I do consider myself to be an experienced (smart)phone user. For instance, after moving from the Nokia N93 (which also has WiFi) I’m still annoyed with the fact that the W960i doesn’t prompt me which connection it should use — it connects to 3G without asking me whether it should look for WiFi networks first. In addition, I don’t like the idea of having to use the touchscreen for some common tasks. For instance, you can’t access your “Sent” messages folder without a touchscreen. But, I’m getting used to it…
At the end, it’s your call. The W960i is not a cheap device. Stefan says you should avoid buying the Nokia N81. If that’s the case, you should avoid the W960i as well. But if you like how UIQ works, go for it. There’s no better non-business UIQ phone on the market at the moment…
Again, if you have any questions please use the comments form bellow…