Editors' note: The Sony Ericsson W760i is unlocked and AT&T offers the Sony Ericsson W760a. Features are similar between the two devices, but the W760a adds support for AT&T's music and video applications.
Almost three years ago we reviewed our first Sony Ericsson Walkman phone, the W600i. Since then, we've seen quite a few models pass through our hands. For the most part we've approved of the Walkman series, even if there was the occasional dud. Designs are typically easy to use, features are plentiful, and performance is satisfactory. Fortunately, the latest Walkman handset, the W760i, didn't let us down in the slightest. It first captured our eye at CES 2008 where it was a finalist in the cell phones category for CNET's Best of CES. At the time, we admired its slick design and its laden feature set, which includes a motion sensor, an accelerometer, and support for three UMTS/HSDPA bands. And now, seven months later, we can report that this super world phone offers so much to like that it earned our Editors' Choice Award. In the United States, the W760i is available unlocked for about $300 while the W760a is offered by AT&T for $129 with a two-year contract and after a mail-in rebate.
The W760i features a classic Sony Ericsson slider design that's sure to catch a few eyes on the street. The curved edges and clean lines make for a very attractive phone with some unique style touches. In particular, we liked the textured material on the bottom end of the phone and the shiny metal skin below the camera lens. Three color versions are available: fancy black, rocky silver and intense red. The black model, which we reviewed, features a bright yellow stripe across the battery cover. Though it gives the W760i a faint bumblebee impression, we approved of its overall look.
At 4.1 inches tall by 1.9 inches wide by 0.6 inch deep, and weighing 3.5 ounces, the W760i is compact and lightweight yet still has a comfortable solid feel in the hand. The slider mechanism is sturdy; you can open and close the phone with one hand, and it clicks firmly into place on either end. The 2.25-inch display is nothing short of excellent. With support for 262,144 hues, it is bright and vibrant with an intense color resolution. Everything looks great, from the easy to use menus to the graphics and photos. You can adjust the brightness and choose from a selection of menu styles.
In the past, Sony Ericsson has stumbled when designing navigation controls. Usually this has happened when the company's product design team tried to be too creative. But with the W760i we were glad to see that Sony Ericsson kept things simple. The four-way toggle and surrounding buttons are spacious and tactile and we rarely had a problem navigating through menus and selecting options. The four-way toggle and central OK button double as music player shortcuts, and you can set the toggle to give one-touch access to an additional four user-defined functions. Though we'd prefer dedicated music controls, such an arrangement is common on other Walkman phones.
The two soft keys have tactile ridges, and we were glad to see Sony Ericsson break from another tradition by providing dedicated Talk and End/power buttons. Both controls are intuitive and, in an unexpected touch, they're surrounded by small speakers for the music player. Our only complaint with the W760i's controls is that the Clear key and the secondary shortcut button are a bit crowded and they lack any definition. On a couple of occasions we mistakenly hit the End key when we meant to press the Clear button.
As is the case with most slider phones, the W760i's keypad buttons are hidden by the sliding face. Of course, that also means that they're completely flush, but they make up for it by being relatively large. When texting or dialing we didn't have any misdials. What's more, the backlighting is bright, and the numbers on the keys are big. On the downside, we weren't crazy about the plastic feeling of the keys. It made us wonder about their long-term durability and whether they could crack over time, as we found on the Sony Ericsson W580i.
Rounding out the exterior of the W760i are a thin volume rocker on the right spine and a Walkman player shortcut on the left spine. The charger port sits just above the Walkman control, while the Memory Stick Micro slot rests in a handy location on the top of the phone. The camera lens sits on the rear face of the front slider, so you must have the phone open to snap pictures. There's no flash or self-portrait mirror; we expect both on a 3.2-megapixel shooter.
The W760i has a 1,000-contact phone book with room in each entry for five phone numbers, an e-mail, Web address, job title, company name, work address, birthday, and notes. You can save contacts to groups, and pair them with a photo and one of 42 polyphonic and MP3 ringtones for caller ID. That is quite a decent selection of tones and you also can choose a video ringtone for callers. Other essentials include a vibrate mode, a voice memo recorder, text and multimedia messaging, an alarm clock, a calendar, a task list, a notepad, a timer, a speakerphone (usable after you make a call), a stopwatch, and a calculator.
But the W760i doesn't stop there. You'll also find full Bluetooth (including a stereo profile and a Bluetooth remote), e-mail support, PC syncing, a file manager, USB mass storage, and a code memo for storing sensitive information. You'll also find a selection of applications, ranging from functional to unusual. There's a tip calculator, a unit converter, two world clocks and a Rock Bobblehead app where you can make a cartoon Elvis-like bobblehead dance by shaking the phone. As we said, some apps are useful and some...not so much. Music Mate 5 takes advantage of the W760i's motion sensor, as well. When you're not using the handset as a metronome, you can play a variety of percussion instruments by shaking the W760i in various directions.
Speaking of music, the W760i's player offers the usual refinements you'd expect from a Walkman phone. Settings include an equalizer, playlists, stereo widening, and shuffle and loop modes. The interface is minimalist, but functional. The player supports album art as well, but it won't recognize every song it plays. You also get an airplane mode for listening to your tunes with the phone transmitter off. Like the W580i, the W760i's player is integrated with the "shake control" application. By holding down the Walkman button when music is playing you can advance to the next track by flicking your wrist. It works quite well and it's an attractive feature.
Loading music on the phone is relatively easy. The needed USB cable and the Disc2Phone software are included, which means you're saved the pain of shelling out more money for a music kit. The Sony Ericsson software can be a bit clunky, so we're glad that you can also drag and drop music from your PC to the W760i. Internal memory is capped at a relatively low 40MB, so it's advisable to use a Memory Stick Micro card. You also get the standard FM radio, as well as a Music ID application for identifying likable tunes you can't name.