Slipping the stylishly slim W890i music mobile phone into its Walkman phone line-up, Sony Ericsson is aiming to repeat the W880i’s feat of combining classy minimalist design with crowd-pleasing functionality. And with this successor boasting an upgraded feature set, enhanced 3G HSDPA high-speed data connectivity, and a smattering of well-judged design refinements, the Sony Ericsson W890i is a refresh that could well have even broader appeal than the super-slim original.
The latest and greatest Walkman
Naturally, with any Walkman phone, the music player takes centre stage. Sony Ericsson has loaded up the Sony Ericsson W890i with the latest Walkman 3.0 software, and supplies the phone with a 2GB Memory Stick Micro (M2) card in-box. An FM radio is included in the spec too. But the W890i isn’t just about tune-playing. Camera quality has been boosted, with a 3.2-megapixel shooter squeezed into the back panel (albeit still without a flash).
The Sony Ericsson W890i’s 3G HSDPA data speeds promise faster downloading of content and an improved web browsing experience, while video calling is possible using its secondary front camera. Interestingly too, Sony Ericsson has pre-loaded a Google Maps mobile application which delivers a handy location mapping, satellite imaging and navigation service without onboard GPS.
Slim but sturdy
Sony Ericsson hasn’t tinkered too much with the fine-looking W880i’s design, although it has toned down some of the bolder elements. Its dimensions are comparable to the W880i – 104(h) x 47(w) x 10(d) mm and weighing a satisfyingly slight 78g.
Despite its thinness, the Sony Ericsson W890i’s casing is all classy brushed metal, which gives both a luxury-crafted air and a robust feel to the phone.
There’s been a subtle smoothing of the design, with more curves where there was previously sharp angles, and the colour scheme is more restrained – it’s available in espresso black, sparkling silver or mocha brown - without the vibrant orange that’s something of a Walkman phone trademark.
A more practical mobile phone
Pleasingly, Sony Ericsson has reworked the Sony Ericsson W890i’s numberpad, replacing the W880i’s ultra-thin and admittedly funky keys with a set of larger, less cutting-edge - but more user-practical - number buttons. These make button tapping much easier, and the keys are nice and responsive to press. This general smoothing off, toning down and refinement of the W880i’s more radical design touches gives the impression that the Sony Ericsson W890i is being targeted at a more mainstream consumer.
Similarly, the control key set-up below the 2-inch 262K-colour QVGA display has been given a functional makeover too. The round central navigation D-pad still doubles up for menu control and music player operation (there are music controls etched on to them). The keys surrounding them, though, have been simplified, giving a more conventional and intuitive feel to the buttonry, with regular Call and End buttons added.
As well as softkeys flanking the D-pad, there’s an Active menu shortcut key (taking you into a handy menu of shortcuts to most-used or useful functions and applications), plus a standard clear key. It’s a small but tidy change that again will make the user experience for a newcomer to Sony Ericssons that little bit better
The D-pad can be used for additional shortcuts, or you can simply hit the menu button to enter the straightforward icon-led grid-style main menu. Negotiating the apps and functionality onboard is straightforward. There is also an onboard wizard for initially setting up email, and help to find your way around apps easily.
Bundles of memory
On the side of the phone, there’s a fast-access camera button and a dedicated Walkman key to initiate the music player. The phone’s M2 memory card slot has been hidden away for safe keeping under the rear panel rather than behind a plastic bung on the side (as used on the W880i).
It may be a hassle if you’re constantly switching cards, but realistically for most users it’ll be no big deal; you don’t have to take out the battery to swap cards, and the 2GB card supplied in-box will carry up to 1800 tracks before you have to start swapping for more tunes.
Great earphones supplied
One not-so-good design element remains the same though - the side connector slot for the charger, data lead and headphones. Using Sony Ericsson’s relatively chunky connector, it makes for a pocket-unfriendly arrangement for listening to tunes when the headphones are in place. A top or bottom of the phone socket would be far more practical.
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