They don't come much slimmer, or indeed, much sexier than the W890i. Gone is the garish black and orange of previous Walkman branded models, and in its place is subtle silver or mocha brown brushed metal. Adding a millimetre in depth to the W880i, the W890i clocks in at a very pocket-friendly 10mm thick. When you take its 78 gram weight into consideration, the W890i is a phone that's so small and light you'll pat your pockets twice to be sure you have it before you leave the house.
The W880i made quite a splash when it was released last year, being the iPod Nano sized music phone everyone had been crying out for. While it was received well, and , criticism about some aspects of its design lingered, particularly in regards to its tiny keypad. Sony Ericsson have rectified this, to a point. The keys on the W890i look to be twice as tall as those on its predecessor, but this still doesn't make for enormous keys. The navigation buttons in particular are very small -- there are 10 selection keys crammed into the space of two adult thumbs. We haven't had problems using this keypad, the keys are raised well enough to provide definition, but we predict this pad may still cause problems for the large-fingered and less dexterous.
Another irksome design aspect of last year's model that has unfortunately remained is the side positioning of the proprietary headphone jack. Attaching the supplied headphones adaptor to this port adds another inch to the phone's width, and while this may not sound like much, it does make slipping the handset in and out of your pocket on the bus or train more cumbersome than if the jack had been located on the top or bottom of the phone.
Extra, extra: W890i has a Walkman music player. Ok, so no surprises there. The bundled 2GB M2 memory card was, however, a very pleasant surprise. This isn't the same as having 16GB in your iPhone, but it's definitely a step in the right direction, and better than having to fork out extra cash for memory, like with the similarly sized . The position of the M2 reader above the battery means you can hot-swap your memory without powering down the phone.
In terms of hardware, the W890i includes two notable improvements over the previous model. Firstly, the 3G network speeds of the W880 have been given a speed boost and the W890 now features HSDPA (3.6Mbps) data transfers. In a way HSDPA data is overkill for a device without a Web focus, and the installed Web browser is really only suitable for browsing mobile sites. That said, the extra download speeds should come in handy forover-the-air.
The second area of growth is the phone's camera resolution; swelling from 2-megapixel to 3.2-megapixel. While the higher resolution sounds fantastic, our tests of the camera have been far less encouraging. Colour reproduction is strong, if a tad over-saturated, but the absence of auto-focus means we've struggled to take sharp pictures. Also, without a photo light or flash you can expect a majority of photos taken at night to go straight in the trash can. The use of the camera seems to be limited to wide-shots on sunny days.
One feature that has caught our attention is the RSS Web feeds ticker on the home screen. After updating your favourite RSS feeds in the "messaging" menu the results are slowly scrolled on the main standby screen. It's a very handy feature and a great way to sift through the day's headlines without opening the browser.