Sony Ericsson kicked off the GSMA World Congress by sneaking in a press conference the day before the show actually began. Held at a cramped but painfully hip studio far off the Barcelona tourist trail, the event included an solidly international audience and some of the most interesting appetizers I've ever seen (squid Catalan style anyone?).
But I digress, because I'm sure you just care about the phones. Sony Ericsson's announcements solidly illustrate its GSMA themes of music, imaging, and the Web. First to hit the stage was the Sony Ericsson W980. As a Walkman phone, it offers all the usual music goodies that you'd expect. Besides the music player, you'll also find an FM radio, a music ID application, an FM transmitter, support for Sony Ericsson's PlayNow music download service, and the company's signature "shake control" that allows you to change tracks by shaking the phone back and forth (see our
Outside of the Walkman player, the W980 also has a 3.2-megapixel camera, a speakerphone, a Web browser, personal organizer applications, Bluetooth, USB support, text and multimedia messaging, a Web browser, and an impressive 8MB of internal memory. The flip phone design has a rather unique look; though the black color is unassuming, I was glad to see the dedicated music controls on the front face. What's more, Sony Ericsson promises that the large external display will show the full music player menu (called "Walkman on top"), which would eliminate the need to open the phone when listening to your tunes.
The W980 is quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) but it supports only the European 3G band, which is going to be a running theme at GSMA. So while it may arrive on North American shores (the company promised it would have a "global release"), it will be available only as an unlocked handset at least for the time being. But that doesn't stop me from thinking it looks promising.