Those wanting to get their hands on a Walkman™ Sony Ericsson handset but not leave their much loved 3G service behind will be over the moon with Sony Ericsson’s new W900i model. The W900i brings 3G network compatibility into a Walkman™ handset for the first time.
The W900i brings all of the best features from their other handset lines including a high-resolution camera, the latest local connectivity support, media functionality, and more.
With functionality for both a business user and demanding media-oriented user, the Walkman™ W900i covers all bases.
As I just mentioned, the W900i is the first Walkman™ handset to add 3G network compatibility for high-speed data transfer – allowing video calling, music/video downloads, and many other benefits. 3G networks are booming all around the world (Australia included, now we have more than one 3G network) and is the future of mobile telecommunications. The W900i has also got high-end imaging capabilities with a 2mpx auto focus camera, a whopping 470MB of internal memory, FM stereo radio, Walkman™ functionality, and MP3 ring tones.
We first saw 2mpx digital cameras in Sony Ericsson’s in the W800i (also a Walkman™ handset) and K750i. These models both had auto-focus features, some of the first Asia-Pacific available handsets with such features. The W900i has the same camera and auto focus capability, as well as a dedicated flash-light. The quality of images captured by this camera is print-worthy, and I’m sure that’s what many people will do with these shots. The auto-focus feature is generally spot-on, so your images look perfect when viewed on the W900i’s display and a larger (ie computer) display.
This handset has almost 500MB of user accessible memory! To be exact it’s 470MB, but that’s still a hell of a lot. 300+ 2mpx shots can fit here, as well as numerous MP3’s and other files. What you do with it is up to you.
The FM stereo on the W900i is a little different than your usual FM stereo function on a Sony Ericsson handset you may have seen. Instead of having an icon for the stereo, or a submenu under Entertainment, the W900i’s radio functionality is built into the headphone adapter that comes with the handset. The adapter plugs into the Fastport and has a small LCD with several buttons. This is used to tune the radio (no need to touch the W900i after the adapter has been plugged in), change the volume, swap the band (AM/FM) and a couple of other functions. The actual headphones plug into a cord coming out the opposite side of the adapter. The headphones have a separate button for pick-up/hang-up of a call.
As with any Walkman™ handset, you would expect MP3 ring tones. Well the W900i delivers with MP3 and several other ‘true-tone’ file format support. There’s PlayNow™ functionality if you’re not quite able to make your own tones on your computer. The stereo speakers on the W900i sound awesome.
One last thing before I move onto the next section – the W900i sports a QVGA 240 x 320 pixel TFT LCD with 262,144 colour support. I can’t say enough good things about this display, it’s amazing. QVGA displays always mark well in my books, and we can thank the swivel form factor for giving us the extra room for a bigger display ;)
The W900i comes in two different colour schemes – black and white. Both models are very sexy handsets. I received the black model, which I didn’t have a problem with at all!
The W900i’s font side has the QVGA TFT LCD display in all its glory occupying the most space. Under that is the 5-way navigational pad-come-Walkman™ controls. The usual two soft keys, return key, and cancel key are also included. The W900i has an additional set of three buttons below these – Web Browser, Video Call, and the shortcuts button.
The left hand side of the handset has the Memory Stick Duo hot-swappable port, flash/key-lock slider, and the dedicated Walkman™ button. The opposite side houses the infrared window and dedicated two-stage camera key.
The W900i weighs a little bit more than your average handset, coming in at 148grams. The handsets measurements are 109 x 24 x 49 mm – slightly thicker than your average handset; but this is because of the form factor. I find that the 2mpx and QVGA display made up for the extra size and weight!
I find the swivel form factor to be quite a good choice for this sort of handset. It leaves heaps of room for the numerical keys, is very sturdy and feels strong in hand, and looks very new-age. As I’ll go on to explain in the next section, it has some major user interface advantages too.
User Interface & display
A 240 x 320 pixel TFT LCD with 262,144 colours needs a good user interface to be successful – you can’t let the greatness of this display go unused! Thankfully, Sony Ericsson have done the LCD justice (and maybe over powering it with the colour orange, but that’s for another section ;) with their colourful, (almost) fully themed user interface.
The user interface is the same as we’ve seen on the latest Sony Ericsson handsets, so nothing much has changed. The now-common spotlight effect is back in the main menu, and the icons are absolutely massive! Some of the interface is tabbed for easy access; the rest is in a list view or list with option view.
Themes on the W900i can change just about anything except for the main menu icons. Personally I don’t have a problem with this as the icons are very attractive and work most colour schemes. The unfortunate thing is that the Walkman™ application cannot be skinned and will always remain bright orange.
The user interface was a tad slower than the K750i and W800i models, which may have something to do with the larger display. Some aspects of the user interface were very slow; but you can find information on that in the Problems/Issues section.
I just loved using the W900i’s interface, as I know you will too if you get your hands on one!
Making and receiving calls
The W900i has a VGA camera built in to the front of the handset, so it faces towards the user and can be used for video-calling. Simple audio calls can still be held on the W900i, there’s a regular earphone, speakerphone, and the stereo headset is equipped with a microphone.
When you input a number into the W900i you can push the left soft key and start a voice call with that number. If you would like to instead make a video call, you’ll have to push the right soft key and then “Make video call”. If you want to go straight into the video calling function go to the main menu and select the appropriate icon. The video calling window will open and you’ll see the outgoing picture in the bottom left corner, and a grey spot where the other person’s video will be displayed. You can press the right soft key and then input a number/grab a number from the phone book to call.
In the video calling interface there are two tabs. The first, and default tab, sends the video from the inward-facing VGA camera. If for any reason you want to stop the video just push the middle navigational button and then “Stop Camera”. The same process applies for turning back it on. If you want to display something other than streaming video press the right soft key to go to the next tab. Here you can share a picture with them from the W900i’s memory. A list of thumbnails will be displayed on the left hand side for you to choose on, and your recipient’s video is shown on the right hand side.
In a video call you can zoom in (2x) with the inward-facing camera, and unfortunately cannot access the 2mpx camera. I like handsets with this functionality as you can show them your surroundings. Moving on, the camera also has some advanced features: brightness, normal/sharp/smooth video quality, night mode, mirror image option, and displaying an alternative picture. Audio options let you mute the microphone, speaker, or both. You can switch pictures (so outgoing video comes in the bigger box) at any time. When in an active video call you can even save an image! You can do this from pressing the options button or simply pushing the camera button.
Audio calls are as you’d expect – the speakerphone has excellent quality and the earpiece is perfect. There are no hang up/pick up buttons on the W900i so the soft keys are used for that. External volume keys can be used for both video and voice calls, and are located on the left hand side of the handset (when closed).
The Sony Ericsson W900i supports all of our favourite messaging standards – SMS/EMS, MMS, and e-mail – all with T9 predictive text! The buttons on the W900i are huge, which is perfect for quickly tapping in messages with predictive text input.
The e-mail client on the W900i supports e-mail servers of the POP3, IMAP4, and SMTP protocol type. There’s also support for push e-mail, which basically means as soon as a new message arrives on the server it is “pushed” directly to your client – so you’ve always got the latest messages and don’t need to manually check the server (when you can remember to do it!).
Images captured by the W900i’s 2mpx or VGA camera are automatically re-sized (if necessary) when being sent in an MMS message. MMS messages have strict size requirements, so to ensure you can put the most into your messages this is a necessary step before sending MMS messages. Because of the quality of the 2mpx camera and the probable size of the display on the receiving end the images are still going to look amazing.
Audio clips, animations, and even video can be added to MMS messages. Oh, and not forgetting text (up to 1000 characters) either! The MMS composition window on the W900i is very easy to use, just select what aspects you want and type any text (if required). Assign some recipients and press send – you’re done! The high-speed WCDMA network is perfect for sending picture and video MMS messages.
Bluetooth, Infrared, USB 2.0, WCDMA, and GPRS are all built into the W900i Walkman™ handset. A heap of Bluetooth profiles are included to ensure full compatibility with the latest devices. A USB 2.0 compatible Fastport data-cable comes in the sales package, along with all of the software needed to get the handset and your PC communicating. If you prefer Bluetooth or Infrared local connectivity you’re going to have to buy a USB adapter separately.
I never have issues with the Sony Ericsson software that comes with their latest mobile phones. It installs fine and works just as it’s supposed to. The latest Sony Ericsson’s (including the W900i) support the Mass Storage Device USB profile, which basically means when you plug it into a Windows PC, the drivers will install and the W900i’s internal and external memory will show up as a removable drive in My Computer. This is the easiest way to transfer files as you can simply drag & drop.
One issue I had with this was that the internal memory and external memory both showed in My Computer even if there was no external memory card inserted. When you tried to click it you simply get the “Please insert device” error message.
The second issue was the same that I had with the W800i handset, when you set the W900i to “File Transfer” mode after connecting via USB (must be done to activate the Mass Storage Device profile), the handset will reset. I’ve put more information in the Problems/Issues section about this, though.
The infrared window on the W900i is on the left hand side of the handset, but if you have the black version like I did it’s a little hard to find ;)
Overall I had no problems connecting via USB, Bluetooth, or Infrared to my PC. The GPRS and WCDMA data protocols were flawless, too.
The W900i is of top-quality craftsmanship, as we’ve all come to expect from Sony Ericsson. The swivel mechanism is great to use and the feeling of the handset flinging open is almost addictive! The handset clicks firmly into place when open and closed, and cannot be fully rotated 360°. This most probably makes the handset a lot more secure and less problematic – you can only close it the same side that you opened it.
The back cover of the W900i is the only removable part. The usual SIM insert is under the battery, and the Memory Stick Duo slot is on the right hand side for hot-swap functionality.
The battery that comes with the W900i should give you approximately 8.5 hours of talk time on a 2G network, and just over 2 hours on a 3G network. Video calling you should get ~1.5 hours of talk time. The standby times are 300 hours or 3G networks, and 370 hours for 2G networks.
These times are just estimates and don’t take into account any additional usage of the handset. If you’re roaming in-and-out of 3G networks the battery life is going to be altered. Using Java applications, the camera application, and other power-hungry applications will reduce your battery life substantially.