A learned philosopher once remarked of the human race: "We fear change". Alright, so it was Garth in the movie Wayne's World, but regardless of who said it, there's no denying that most of us find comfort in the familiar. Sony Ericsson seems to have taken this principle and run with it in releasing the W700i, which, apart from a few details and a marked-down price, is basically last year's W800i all over again.
A candy bar model with accents in trademark orange, the W700i adds to an already formidable Walkman phone line-up. At 100mm by 46mm by 20.5mm and weighing 99 grams, the W700i is exactly the same shape and weight as the W800i. The main difference looks-wise is that the W700i has been given a Midas touch, with "Titanium Gold" being the colour of choice. We'd probably call it "Bronze Lite" or even "Dishwater Tan", but at least it's more subtle than the yellow gold finish of the D&G V3i.
Turn the W700i on its side and it becomes a 2-megapixel camera, just like -- and this will become a familiar refrain -- the W800i. For some reason though, Sony Ericsson has chosen to omit the autofocus feature that made the W800i stand out among its competitors.
Like the rest of the phones in the W series, the W700i has a Walkman shortcut key to take you directly to your tunes. Menus are navigated using a circular joystick, which is small but precise and doesn't leave a telltale indentation on your thumb.
Yep, you guessed it: the features list is near-identical to the W800i. For connectivity, you've got Bluetooth, infrared, GPRS, WAP and USB. Multimedia features include an FM radio; DJ software to play around with your photos, videos and audio files; and a voice recorder.
Mac users who appreciated the W800i for its software compatibility are out of luck -- the synchronisation software that comes with the W700i is not made for Mac. Apple aficionados can still drag and drop files to the phone, as it appears as a USB drive in Finder. Snapshots can also be imported to iPhoto, which should automatically recognise the W700i as a camera device.
Memory is an important consideration for those who want their phone to double as an MP3 player. In the only other deviation from the W800i's specs list, the memory card in the W700i has been halved to a 256MB Memory Stick Duo. So we've waited a year for a phone that's almost the same, but not quite as good? It may be a harsh thing to say, but we don't get the rationale behind the decision to release the W700i, especially as part of a Walkman phone onslaught that includes the Editors' Choice award-winning W810i.
We've said it before and we'll probably say it long into the future -- Sony Ericsson phones pump out some sweet sounds. We were pleased to see the return of the earbuds that so magically shut out sonic surroundings, a real bonus for in-transit music playback. Bass was rich and free from distortion, even at high volume.
While we initially assumed the lack of autofocus on the camera could only be a negative thing, there was less shutter lag when taking a shot, as there was no need for depth field adjustment. Those with an unsteady photo-taking hand might be pleased with the swifter snapping, but photos were a touch less sharp that those taken by the W800i.
Battery life was a pleasing three days with moderate use of voice calls and music playback.
We're giving the W700i a good score, as we judge all phones on their own merits, and it is a well-made device with quality sound and camera. If you've never owned a Walkman phone, and are keen to see what the fuss is about, this model is certainly a solid choice. However, in light of the similar-but-superior W800i being released 12 months ago, we continue to be a little baffled by the W700i's very existence. Then again, perhaps we're being fussy, and the fact that it's essentially the same phone but a whole lot cheaper will suffice as a raison d'etre.