Those who are aware of the mobile phone market and particularly of the Sony Ericsson range would be familiar with the popularity of Walkman (W) phones and the revolution made by MP3s upon the mobile phone kingdom. No doubt, Sony Ericsson has enjoyed the huge profits made by the series and they can attribute this on the series’ re-known ability to play MP3s. Buoyed by this success, the company decided to expand the W range further by creating the W200i. The difference with this handset is that it is categorised as a budget phone. While it is unusual for Sony Ericsson to summon a phone for the budget conscious audience, the handset probably sits close to the top of the hierarchy in relation to other available budget phones. Along with its capability to play music files on the fly, the W200i has a strong list of features that, to some extent is only lesser than its more advanced and more expensive rivals.
The W200i has the typical interface and physique that is common among the Sony Ericsson phones, as evident with its buttons, keypad and joystick alignment. In comparison to other phones, the handset is slightly thick but is below average in size and weight. Like most Sony Ericsson handsets, this one is candy bar shaped. The Walkman function button is nicely placed on the side – the same side as the entry/exit point for the Memory Stick Micro. The relatively responsive keypad is plastic in texture and feel and each button is large enough to punch a quick text or scroll through contacts. The joystick is highlighted by an orange circumference and protrudes out in almost perfect unison with the keys so that even as the user acknowledges its presence and function, it does not interfere when untouched. The W200i screen is protected by a smooth transparent case that encompasses just over half of the phone, while the rest is taken over by the large keypad. In the Rhythm Black version, the entire phone is mostly black plastic with minimal lustre and sports the orange markings that have made the W series distinctive from other Sony Ericsson handsets. The phone is also available in a white variation (called Pulse White) – where the black is simply replaced by a white case. Appearance wise, there is nothing unique about the handset and in general, shares the same standard that accompanies the W range.
Due to the apparent similarities, there’s the temptation to judge the W200i’s merits amongst its closely resembled siblings. Fortunately, the phone is able to carry itself fairly well with or without the comparisons. The W200i’s decent set of functions are relatively easy to access and use. Even without realising its budget tag, the phone impressively governs a nice list of inclusions. It contains a Walkman media player, VGA camera, 65, 000 colour screen, polyphonic/MP3/AAC ring-tones, web browser, organiser, phone book, alarm clock, stopwatch, calculator, calendar, speakerphone, USB and infra red connectivity. In addition, to fully support its MP3 playability, the phone also has an expandable memory – utilising the new Memory Stick Micro (most other Sony Ericsson phones use the Memory Stick Pro Duo). You would be hard pressed to find any budget phone under $200.00 that has a strong list of features found in the W200i. Read on for the review.
There’s nothing innovative or new that would mark the W200i as an amazing phone. The decision for Sony Ericsson to throw much of the features found in more advanced W series models was a good one. The fact is, though the W200i does not stand out as a Walkman phone it is quite outstanding as a budget phone.
Perhaps the best feature of the W200i is the Walkman media player. The ability to play MP3s has become a frequent trend amongst many companies, but the functionality of Sony Ericsson’s Walkman software makes this feature an absolute joy to use. It is not only simple to use, but gives the user the option to continually play music and/or shuffle the order of play as well as vary the bass, treble and mid settings via the equaliser. The Walkman media player is able to deliver decent, clear music that is loud enough for daily commuting. To obtain these files from a PC, the user must use the Sony Ericsson PC Suite and use either the File Manager or the Disc2Phone software while connecting the phone via USB. Music files can be selected and dragged to the appropriate folder or deleted from the phone – either in its internal memory or in the Memory Stick Micro. The user can also send/receive these files via infrared. The only issue would be the lack of initial memory - remedied by purchasing a higher capacity Memory Stick Micro.
The mediocre 0.3 megapixel VGA camera is barely worthy of mentioning considering the 2 megapixel plus phones we see in the market today. It does have 4x digital zoom and video capture but the quality of the pictures and screen is such that user may be reluctant to use the camera. The biggest irritation with the W200i would be the lack of Bluetooth connectivity – given its ability to view and take pictures and play music files. Sharing the contained files mean connection via USB onto a PC or infrared. This is perhaps an inflated complaint, knowing the budget status of the phone. It sure would have been nice to have Bluetooth included but I guess you get what you pay for.
The rest of the W200i’s features are nothing to write home about and won’t astound anyone who has viewed models that are more expensive and more advanced. Suffice to say the phone does take/receive calls and create/receive SMS/MMS/E-mails very well, has the ability to navigate online via web browser, play MP3/AAC music tones, take sub-par photos, and has a calendar, stop watch, FM radio, speakerphone, handsfree kit and an expandable memory. The W200i is the most basic handset of the W series but it is quite possibly the best budget phone around.
The design of the W200i is neither unique nor devastating to its cause. As with many Sony Ericsson handsets, it is candy bar shaped and has a solid build. There are no extra sliding bits which hide the camera or keypad – it’s as stock standard as they come. That’s not to say it’s a boring piece. The phone is available in two colour variants: Rhythm Black or Pulse White. Enclosed in a predominantly black (or white) plastic cast with bursts of orange to highlight its Walkman capabilities, the W200i is still a fairly attractive phone.
The only issue might be the constant branding of the Walkman logo (found on every side of the phone) which might turn off some potential buyers. Though it is not the tinniest phone available it is still fairly small and light. Measuring at 101 x 44 x 18mm and weighing around 85 grams, it fits satisfactorily within most palms, pockets and handbags, making it comfortable to use and carry. The phone’s cast is mainly a dull plastic – the only shiny parts are the reflective transparent cover of the screen and the joystick. The keypad, buttons and joystick match the efficient design nicely as does the placement of the Memory Stick Micro slot and the infrared device (that sits on top).
The joystick and navigation buttons is typical of the Sony Ericsson range (it is identical to the K750 and the K800i) and is also a breeze to use. The keypad is moderately textured and fairly firm. There were no issues encountered when navigating through the phone or using its functions. All front buttons including the joystick emit a beautiful orange glow. This might turn some people off, but for me, it was quite striking and appealing. A sweet inclusion is that when the phone is locked, the phone will respond to any presses by strategically glowing only on the asterisk button, as if to prompt the user to hit it. When the user does finally hit the asterisk button, the phone will then glow to the right navigation button to prompt the user to finally unlock the phone. It’s only a small inclusion but it is certainly part of the clever, simple and very practical design of the W200i.
One of the best things that Sony Ericsson has done to this phone is enveloping the fragile screen with a hard, transparent plastic casing. It reaches past the screen and makes up about half the phone. It is an excellent way of protecting the screen from any nasty falls and still makes the phone look good. For its price and status as a budget phone, the W200i does an exceptional job of looking sophisticated. It does not necessarily catch the eye of trendy individuals but it is by no means an ugly phone. The orange lighting and sections as well as the bits of Walkman branding may be an issue to others but for the most part I was quite pleased with the appearance of the W200i.
User interface & display
The W200i shares almost the exact interface and layout as the rest of the Walkman range and most of the more advanced Sony Ericsson models. The main difference here is the actual quality of the display. The screen is fairly bright and decent enough for navigation but lacks the amount of colours and detail that would greatly illustrate camera photos and images. The 128 x 160 pixel colour display does not justify the brilliance of photos exported from other phones (such as the K800i) and it also displays the limitations of its camera. The wallpaper is interchangeable and can utilise camera photos, though the user might make second thoughts due to the poor display.
Like other Sony Ericsson models, the themes, start up screen and screen saver are all interchangeable though for some reason, only one theme is available on default. Screen brightness is adjustable but there are no contrast controls. Fortunately, this does not hinder the display. In the end, the W200i’s display is no where near as spectacular as the higher classed phones. However, at its purchase price, the phone’s display is adequate enough to please the majority of its target audience.
As mentioned, the interface is distinctive of the Sony Ericsson range. This is a very positive thing since the interface determines the usability and accessibility of the phone’s functions. For this budget phone, it was an appropriate decision that Sony Ericsson have chosen to keep their classic interface intact while making some sacrificial quality cuts. Featuring the same clock and date, reception level bars and battery life indicator graphics shows the phone’s no-nonsense layout. Hitting the menu button (or central joystick) and the menu layout is simply a downgraded Sony Ericsson set-up. This means that while it is not of the same quality as its more expensive siblings, the interface of the phone is very easy to navigate and thus makes it very easy to use.
This is one major plus, especially since the phone will likely tag new mobile phone users or those who want a simple phone. Individuals of the latter variety will find a downgraded screen but will also find a phone that is thoroughly packed with features compared to other budget phones. Thankfully, the W200i also does not suffer the same amount of lag as other Sony Ericsson phones (though there is still some lag). This could be attributed to its downgraded display.
Making and receiving calls
With so many features on hand in many of today’s models, it is easy to forget what mobile phones were originally used for. The W200i is full of nice features but is more than capable of making and receiving calls. It is a tri-band phone, able to connect to GSM 900/1800/1900 – which essentially means it can be used in almost every continent. Flight mode is also available – useful when in areas where mobile transmitters must be turned off such as airplanes and hospitals. The phone, while utilising the Optus Network, had generally great reception in the metro areas of Sydney – rarely did reception levels fall below two bars unless within enclosed areas. In comparison to my benchmark, the K800i, the phone was similar in reach reception in most tested areas.
The volume and clarity of the calls made – whether through speakerphone, handsfree kit or regular speaker is quite impressive, and is again, similar to the K800i. Just as important, the accessibility of the speakerphone and the easiness of using the handsfree kit are very good. While on call, one press of the left navigation button provides several options – one of which activates the speakerphone. The same procedure is made if the individual wishes to revert back to regular speaker. The handsfree kit is easy to attach and simple to operate. One press of the button (on the microphone) will collect an incoming call.
The W200i contains 27MB of internal memory to store files including contact numbers and messages. If this is not enough, and given the phone’s MP3 playability, it won’t be, the phone has external memory in the form of the tiny Memory Stick Micro. The tested model came with 128MB of memory which is great for storing more contacts and messages. Finding names and numbers is uncomplicated, thanks to the excellent address book that is common to all Sony Ericsson models. When it comes to the variation of ringtones, the W200i offers a measly 4 polyphonic ring tones to choose from. Luckily, the individual can immediately add their MP3 files and set them as ring tones for contacts, alarm signal, message alert and the standard default. Whatever their set, MP3s generally work quite well, if not better, than the polyphonic ring tones provided.
Profiles on the phone are interchangeable, suiting to the purpose and situation. These range from Normal to Meetiing, Handsfree to Outdoors. Setting the phone on silent (and tagging it back to normal) is as easy as holding the hash button.
The W200i supports SMS, MMS and email from POP3/IMAP that are featured in many decent mobile phones. Entering messages – no matter what length is straightforward and sufficient. I have yet to experience any sort of lag while entering and sending a message or receiving and reading through messages. The keypad is quite responsive and almost perfect in precisely keying in characters. Having the T9 dictionary and predictive text will greatly help first time users. The W200i can also distribute sounds, pictures and/or video files via MMS. Pictures can be scaled to fit various sizes – from 640 x 480 to 160 x 120. These sizes will have a bearing on the overall quality of the picture sent.
Like other Sony Ericsson models, the phone has allocated a different menu within the Messages function for e-mail. Sent e-mails are often saved automatically in a separate folder, as are received e-mails, pending outgoing e-mails and draft e-mails. While it is possible to accept attachments via e-mails with this phone, it is unlikely the user will want to muster the memory space for high quality pictures. Receiving such large e-mails will likely cause heavy lag.
The available options for messaging, its capacity to store a good load of messages and having a great keypad to navigate and create messages mean the W200i is definitely a decent phone for this purpose.
The W200i is a tri-band phone that utilizes GSM networks 900/1800/1900. This means the phone is operational in Europe and Asia-Pacific and in North America and South America. Flight mode is included but can only be activated when the phone is turned on. This is a good idea if you turn the phone on whilst on a plane but didn’t set flight mode earlier (not that you can anyway).
The W200i makes use of the Web Front browser for full support of mobile and PC webpages. Users, however, may be turned off by the quality of the screen and the low speeds offered by the phone, so web browsing may be a minimal activity for many. When transferring files at close range (phone to phone), the W200i leaves the user with one option: infra-red. This is not a terrible option, as the speed of file transfer is mediocre. The unfortunate tragedy is the lack of Bluetooth. For its price, the missing Bluetooth connection is a forgivable downfall of the W200i though it does mean the Bluetooth handsfree and faster, more convenient file transfers between phones are a no go.
The W200i uses a USB cable for PC connections and this connection allows the phone to be recharged, using the PC’s power supply. Like other Sony Ericsson phones, it has two modes of PC connection – Phone Mode and File Transfer. Phone mode requires the Sony Ericsson PC Suite (which as the drivers and software) installed on the PC and permits data synchronisation, while file transfer mode allows direct access to the Memory Stick Micro and does not need special drivers to work. To change between modes, the phone has to be turned off/on or the USB cable removed from the PC. This may or may not be attributed to the PC I used but for some strange reason, the phone seems to appear disconnected when the ‘file transfer’ mode was selected. I have not had major dramas with the PC Suite software. The included software, Disc2Phone, the software that can be used to transfer music files straight onto the phone (similar to I-Tunes software for the I-Pod) has been very frustrating to use. The quickest way of transferring files from PC to phone or from phone to PC is via the phone mode and through the file manager. The phone will then show up as two sets of memory: the memory stick and the phone memory. Allocating files to specific folders is a matter of selecting and dragging or deleting. This process is simple but can be rather slow.
Typical of all Sony Ericsson phones of the Walkman range, the W200i has a very good music player interface and provides the user with great audio on the go. For one thing, the phone is capable of immediately accessing the music player application from the initial start-up screen by one quick press of the ‘Walkman’ button. The application will bring up all stored music files including the polyphonic ring tones, according to artists, individual tracks, play lists and videos (if there are video clips). The joystick will need to be used to play a chosen file from the mentioned categories. Songs can be shuffled or looped (repeated) or both.
As a bonus, the phone also has an equaliser that can either be manually set or preset under the settings: normal, bass, Mega Bass, voice and treble boost. The equaliser works quite well, and its impact is felt, especially when using the provided stereo earphones (handsfree). I primarily used either the treble boost or the Mega Bass. On most occasions, the earphones are good enough to contend with ambient noise. Only true audiophiles will complain about the lack of oomph. That can be solved by replacing the earphones with another handsfree kit for the more advanced Sony Ericsson W phones. Unfortunately, there is no 3.5mm jack to attach your own set of better earphones/headphones. Music can be played through the external speakers of the phone but this is probably not desirable due to inability for the tiny speakers to produce decent bass and treble.
The W200i has an FM Radio which can only be used when the earphones are plugged. The radio is fairly good – receiving good reception, though this is dependent on the radio station. 20 FM stations can be saved. Both RDS and AF are supported.
The biggest disappointment for the W200i is the rest of its multimedia package is much of a letdown compared to its music player. Though the phone has a games folder, a themes folder and a pictures folder; there were no games pre-installed, and only one theme and four pictures were found.
The W200i also has special processor performance measuring applications. These are JB Benchmark1, JB Benchmark2, JB Benchmark 3D and JB Benchmark HD. This basically examines the capability of the phone to run Java games. Too bad the phone doesn’t come with any default games.
The W200i is loaded with a stack of other applications including a an alarm clock, calendar, task lists, notes, a calculator, timer, stopwatch and a code memo program for storing important passwords. These applications add greatly to the value and functionality to the phone.
The first feel of the W200i would reveal the phone’s light yet solid build. Strong, hard plastic encloses almost the entire phone. The screen is well protected thanks to a large, transparent cover that separates the screen from any grubby fingers or asphalt that could come into contact. The rubbery keypad has very small gaps between keys and the smooth, durable plastic means that cleaning the handset should be easy. The only minor gripe would be the lack of protection or cover on the camera at the back. Besides this, the phone is built well, despite its budget phone status.
Many of today’s phones carry an 800+ mAh battery to contend with the multitude of features offered. The W200i does have a smaller capacity battery (780 mAH) but it was found to be more than capable of providing adequate talk time and general stand-by time.
I examined the battery life by fully charging the phone and using it as normal. This meant calling and receiving calls, making about 30-40 minutes talk time per day and sending and receiving a few messages. At the same time, the music player was used for about 2-3 hours a day. The camera was also used as well as the alarm clock. With this daily ritual, I found that the phone need not be charged until about 40+ hours from when it was last charged. This is a good achievement though it must be said that most of the energy must be sapped from the music application. The battery generally takes about 1 ˝ hours to be fully charged.