The W380a has a 1,000-contact phone book with room in each entry for five phone numbers, both an e-mail and a Web address, a job title, a company name and work address, a home address, a birthday, and notes (the SIM card holds an additional 250 names). You can save contacts to groups and pair them with a photo and any of 14 polyphonic ringtones for caller ID. Other essentials include a vibrate mode, a voice memo recorder, text and multimedia messaging, an alarm clock, a calendar, a task list, a notepad, a timer, a stopwatch, and a calculator. More demanding users will find Bluetooth, PC syncing, a speakerphone (usable after you make a call), USB mass storage, and a code memo for storing sensitive information.
The music player on the W380a is similar to other Walkman handsets. Unlike the W580i, it offers no visualizations or album art, but the interface is simple and easy to use. Settings include playlists, an equalizer with four settings as well as Sony's Mega Bass, and shuffle and loop modes. You'll also a Music ID application and an FM radio.
To load music, you use the included USB cable and the Disc2Phone software. The software is improved over the previous clunky version; we like the slicker interface and the easier phone navigation. Internal memory is 14MB, which is far too small. We recommend using a Memory Stick Micro card for additional storage space. The W380a has an airplane mode for listening to your tunes while in the air.
The W380a's 1.3-megapixel camera shoots photos in three sizes (1-megapixel, standard VGA, and QVGA). Other options include two quality settings, three color effects, a night mode, white-balance and brightness adjustments, multishot options, a self-timer, a 4x digital zoom (unusable at the highest resolution), and four shutter sounds (however, there's no silent option). Photo quality was acceptable. Colors looked natural but the lighting was dim and smaller objects were blurry. Oddly, the W380a has a video player but it lacks a video recorder.
You can personalize the W380a with a variety of color themes, wallpaper, and screensavers. If the options included on the phone aren't enough, you can purchase more with the WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser. You also can download more ringtones or create your own using the MusicDJ application. Extreme Air Snowboarding, QuadraPop, and The Sims 2 are the included Java (J2ME) games, but you can buy more.
We tested the triband (GSM 850/1800/1900) Sony Ericsson W380a in San Francisco using T-Mobile service. Call quality was respectable, on the whole. The audio clarity was fine and voices sounded natural, but we noticed that the volume could be somewhat louder. We didn't have any issues most of the time, but when we were using the phone in a noisy place, we had to make sure the volume was high. If you have hearing impairments, this may not be the phone for you. On the network side, we had no troubles getting a signal in the city.
On their end, callers said we sounded fine. Like us, they didn't encounter clarity or static problems, but they also said they had trouble hearing us at times. In particular, a few reported that the W380a picked up a fair amount of background noise. Callers could tell we were using a cell phone, but that's not unusual. Speakerphone calls were mostly clear, but the volume on our end was rather weak.
The Walkman music player offers the best performance through headphones. The W380a's external speaker gives only moderate output, and our music sounded rather tinny.
The W380a has a rated battery life of seven hours talk time and 15.5 days standby time. In our tests, the W380a had a talk time of 8 hours and 57 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the W380a has a digital digital SAR rating of 0.69 watts per kilogram.