The Sony Ericsson W350i is a Walkman entrant with a retro appearance and pseudo-candy bar form factor. It's out now on a range of networks, coupled with both pay as you go or for free on contract price plans.
The W350i's retro appearance is the result of the seldom seen flip phone design. When open, the flip panel reveals an easy-to-use glossy keypad comprising fairly large, smooth buttons. When closed, concealing the keypad, it plays host to dedicated Walkman buttons on its exterior, making the handset much more like a Sony MP3 player when in standby.
The flip panel does its job well enough, but it's quite flimsy and actually bends -- a result of Sony Ericsson's desire to keep this handset just 11mm thick, though the rest of the handset is reasonably rugged and should survive the odd drop.
We also found it to be a nice phone to use -- it's ergonomic, fairly lightweight and sports an attractive finish in a range of colours. While small, the 176x220-pixel screen is bright and clear.
A small annoyance: while the Walkman buttons on the front of the flip panel allow you to play, pause and skip tracks, you have to fold it down to navigate to other albums or artists.
Slightly annoying too is that unlike almost all MP3 players, neither protected nor unprotected WMA files are supported -- only MP3 and AAC files are compatible, including DRM-free downloads.
You can use Windows Media Player or Sony Ericsson's bundled media manager software to sync content and the latter supports podcast subscriptions. You can also simply drag and drop content using Windows.
Aside from weak audio compatibility, there's a rear-mounted 1.3-megapixel camera without a flash for still images only, plus FM radio, stereo Bluetooth, email and RSS support, games, but sadly no 3.5mm headphone socket. This is a standard seen across the industry, despite our constant complaints.