Sony Ericsson W600i
If 2004 was the year of megapixel camera phones, 2005 has been the year of cell phones with MP3 players. Although the overhyped grabbed the biggest thunder, Sony Ericsson countered by quietly introducing the and Sony Ericsson W600i Walkman phones. After a review of both mobiles, we found the W800i to be a superior alternative to the Motorola phone, and we now can say the same for the W600i. Sporting an eye-catching swivel design, which will soon be available to Cingular customers, the W600i offers a slightly different feature set than the W800i. The W600i's camera has lower resolution and lacks an external memory card slot, but the phone offers changeable faceplates and advanced gaming options as consolation. The W600i will put a crimp in your wallet at $399, but Cingular's service rebates will lower it to a more reasonable $199. At first glance, the Sony Ericsson W600i vaguely resembles the . Color scheme aside (orange vs. black), the W600i has the same rounded edges and similarly designed navigation controls of the S710a. Yet, a closer look will reveal some more distinct differences. The W600i comes with a looped antenna resembling that of the , and the phone is comfortably smaller than the S710a, at 3.6 by 1.8 by 0.9 inches and 4.3 ounces. And if you don't like orange, you can swap out the front and rear faceplates in favor of white or blue versions, which are sold separately.
As a swivel phone, the Sony Ericsson W600i rotates 180 degrees to expose the keypad. The swivel mechanism is solidly constructed, and though you can open the phone with one hand, using both hands is more comfortable. As with the Sony Ericsson S710a, you can open the phone to the right or the left, but you can't rotate it a full 360 degrees, so you must then close it in the direction you came from. You can make calls with the mobile open or closed, but be advised that when open, the W600i doesn't wrap around your face, as would a standard flip phone. The 1.8-inch-diagonal display is up to the usual Sony Ericsson standards. Supporting 262,000 colors, it's bright and vibrant, as well as ideal for viewing pictures, games, or the user-friendly menus. It's harder to see in direct light, and it goes completely dark when the backlighting is off. Unfortunately, you can't change the backlighting time or the text size.
Immediately below the display are the navigation controls. There's a five-way toggle that doubles as a shortcut key to four user-defined functions. The toggle is a decent size, but we didn't like that the center OK button is somewhat recessed. As a result, scrolling through menus without a misdial took some practice. Flanking the toggle are two soft keys, a Back button, a Clear key, and dedicated buttons for the Web browser and the media player. Pressing the last button instantly brings up the last song played; if you press it again, you can minimize the player interface while the song continues to play. Although useful, the navigation buttons are too small, and as is the case with other Sony Ericsson phones, there are no dedicated Talk and End buttons; the soft keys serve this purpose instead. Sony Ericsson tends to produce less-than-stellar keypads, and the W600i is no exception. The keys are large enough, but they are set in three vertical rows that are flush with the surface of the phone, which made them less tactile, and we found that our fingers slipped to the wrong button by accident when dialing a few times. They're lit by a bright backlighting, but we wouldn't recommend dialing by feel.
On the back of the phone are the camera lens, the flash, and a self-portrait mirror. As with the S710a, the Sony Ericsson W600i's rear face resembles a real camera, but unfortunately, there's no lens cover this time. On the left spine is a handy phone-locking switch, as well as a play/pause key that automatically starts and stops the last-played song with the player interface minimized. The right spine holds a camera shutter, which automatically starts the camera, the infrared port, and the volume rocker/voice dial control. The volume becomes a zoom control when the camera is in use. Speaking of the volume rocker, it's in a much better place than it is on the S710a. Since it's located on the front half of the phone, it's always on the right side, whether you're talking in the open or closed position. The power button is also better situated on the top of the phone, so you can turn the W600i on and off even when it's closed. Don't go looking for a memory card slot, though, because you won't find one--in all, a disappointing omission.
The Sony Ericsson W600i's included stereo earbuds use a proprietary connection to the phone, but they have a comfortable and secure fit. Alternatively, you can disconnect the earbuds from the lower cord to insert any headphones with a 3.5mm jack. The placement of the earbud port struck us as odd, however. Because it's on the bottom of the W600i, it was more comfortable to put the phone upside down in our pocket or on our belt when in the closed position. We much prefer the Rokr E1's port, which is located on the top of the mobile. We were pleased, though, that unlike the , the W600i comes with stereo speakers.Naturally, the Sony Ericsson W600i is all about its multimedia features, but we'll get to those in a moment. First off, you get an impressive 1,000-contact phone book, with room in each entry for five phone numbers, an e-mail address, a Web address, a street address, business title and company, birthday, and notes; the SIM card holds an additional 250 contacts. You can organize callers into groups and pair them with a picture for caller ID. There's ring-tone caller ID as well, but you get a choice of only 8 polyphonic (40-chord) tones. Other features include a vibrate mode, voice dialing, an alarm clock, a calendar, a task list, a notepad, a timer, a voice recorder, a world clock, text and multimedia messaging, a stopwatch, a calculator, and a code memo for storing passwords and other secure information. Business users should be pleased with the generous selection of work-friendly features, including PC syncing with Outlook; a speakerphone, which is operable only after you've made a call; conference calling; an infrared port; POP3 and IMAP4 e-mail support; a wireless business-card exchange; and Bluetooth for calls and file transfers. The fully enabled Bluetooth is especially welcome; you can even use it to take control of a Bluetooth-enabled device. On the more offbeat side, you get an application for reading RSS news feeds, and you can use the camera flash as a flashlight or set it to blink off and on as a distress signal.
The interface for the Sony Ericsson W600i's MP3 and AAC music player is no different from the. That's to say it's austere but nonetheless extremely user-friendly. Opening the player takes you directly to the main menu, where you can organize music by artist, track name, or playlist. To navigate through the player, you use the toggle while choosing between the left soft key and the side-mounted play/pause button to control songs. Settings include album/song shuffle and loop, Sony's Mega Bass, an equalizer, and stereo widening. Unlike the iTunes interface on the , the W600i's doesn't display album art when a song is playing, but we didn't miss it. Switching between the cell phone and the music player is seamless, as music automatically stops when you receive a call. Hang up and press the dedicated music key, and your song picks up again from the same point you left off. There's also an airplane mode that lets you listen to your tunes in flight with the cell phone turned off. Here again, though, you must download music from a PC with the included USB cable and Disc2Phone software, and you can't listen to music through Bluetooth headphones.