Sony Ericsson's W710i is the second phone we've seen recently that offers some special features for sporty types -- the first being.
After giving the W710i a solid workout we think the seriously sporty would be better off with something more specifically attuned to performance measurement. Like the Nokia 5500 Sport, this handset lacks the accuracy of a GPS antenna-based system when it comes to measuring distance travelled, and what it offers is only really suitable for runners. But at least this time round you can calibrate the built-in pedometer to your own stride length.
It's not all about sports features here, though. The W710i boasts full-blown Walkman-style music capability and an FM radio among the features that make this phone rather appealing.
The Sony Ericsson W710i is a clamshell phone and when closed it's nice and neat in the hand and pocket. It's not as thin as some phones we've seen recently -- indeed, its 25mm depth could be referred to as somewhat on the thick side.
There are a couple of side buttons -- two on the left for volume and camera control (the volume rocker can be used for voice dialling if held down, too) and one on the right edge that locks all the outer buttons. There are also two controls on the left and two on the right of the front screen. These are large, rubberised and very easy to find without looking at the phone at all, which is important as one of the times you'll be using them is when exercising -- more on that later.
The front screen is generously sized, and while it only displays four colours it does so with great clarity, showing its information in bright orange, which fades to grey. When the pedometer is active its main display shows the number of steps you've taken to date.
When you open the handset up it grows from its 88mm in height to a rather large 160mm -- clamshells are cute in the hand when closed, but unwieldy beasts when opened.
The main screen is bright and clear, but at just 30mm by 37mm it is small. Its 176x220 pixels aren't at the leading edge, either.
The number pad area is very well laid out. The main number keys are large and well spaced -- it's very easy to number dial with them. The navigation key is smaller than we'd like, but you can use it to shortcut into a lot of the handset's features. Hold down its top section to jump into the fitness applications, left to go into messaging, down to get to the stored contacts and right to any shortcut you care to set up for yourself.
Add in the two softmenu keys, a button dedicated to a more complex tabbed shortcuts area, one that takes you online and one that launches the handset music player, and you can see that effort has been made to make it pretty fast to get to what this phone has to offer.
The Sony Ericsson W710i is a quad-band handset with GPRS. Infrared and Bluetooth are built in, and there's 10MB of internal memory, which you can add to with Memory Stick Micro cards. You get a 512MB card with the phone to get you started -- the slot is visible on the left side of the phone, but you have to remove the battery cover to get to it.
The handset comes with a belt clip and arm strap. You need these when using the fitness software as it's based around a pedometer -- if you don't wear the phone either on your waist or arm the pedometer won't work, and it won't work when the phone is open either.
The pedometer has two fitness modes -- walking and running -- and you can calibrate it by walking (or running) a certain distance and telling it how far you've gone. It calculates your stride length from this information but there's a problem with this -- if your stride length is not constant, the distances measured won't be accurate. If you tell the phone your height, weight, gender and year of birth it'll also have a stab at working out how many calories you burn.
The pedometer resets itself at midnight and stores past infomation so you can check back.
The buttons on either side of the screen are brought into play when you are wearing the phone. They can be used to skip about between music you are playing, start and stop measuring or start a new lap counter. This works a lot better than the Nokia 5500 Sport's tapping system.
Aside from the sports features and music player, the Sony Ericsson W710i has a lot more going for it. There's an FM radio, and you can choose to use your own headset. Sony Ericsson's offering is two-piece -- the end with the FM antenna has a proprietary connector to the phone but halfway up is a 3.5mm jack.
The camera shoots stills at up to 2 megapixels. It's mounted on the front of the casing, and when you open the clam the main screen becomes the viewfinder with the camera pointing away from you. The front screen does act as a sort of self-portrait mirror but it's awkward to use.
You can browse the Web, though the small screen isn't ideal for this, and access RSS feeds. A calendar and the contacts database can synchronise with your computer and you get the software and USB cable to do the job.
There's also a sound recorder, a timer, a stopwatch and a calculator, and MusicDJ, PhotoDJ and VideoDJ for fun editing. You can photoblog from the handset too.
The Sony Ericsson W710i was fine for voice calls with clear, sharp sound, and music playback was good, too. When we tried to use the phone on a run we found the belt clip was not all that secure with Lycra running shorts -- the arm band suited us better.
We like that you can calibrate the pedometer as this gives a more accurate measure of distance travelled, but it's still not a substitute for GPS-accurate kit aimed at serious training. If your chosen activity is anything other than jogging or running -- or just counting how many steps you take during the day -- you are going to need to look elsewhere.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Kate Macefield