Review by Sunetra Chakravati,
12/12/2011 3:53:37 PM
The first Sony Ericsson Walkman phone to boast a five-megapixel camera.
Although an 8GB memory card is included, for a music phone to only offer 25MB of internal memory is disappointing.
Mobile Choice has always been puzzled as to why Sony Ericsson has never combined the camera prowess of their Cyber-shot range with the audio delights of their Walkman offerings. While the W902 is still very much part of the Walkman family, it is the first to sport a five-megapixel camera that promises a better snapping experience than any other Walkman phone, even matching that of the popular C902 Cyber-shot device.
Sony Ericsson Walkman phones come in all different shapes and sizes; clamshells, sliders and candybars are all present in the range. The W902 is an expertly designed candybar-style handset. Made from a combination of polished and textured plastic, it fits comfortably in the hand and is neither too big nor too fiddly. Available in a range of colours, we had the privilege of reviewing the volcanic black. The handset feels solid, which is surprising due to the lack of metallic trimmings. What’s more, due to its plastic build, the device weighs just under 100 grams. While we were keen on the textured design on the back of the phone, it did feel a little loose, though we will give Sony Ericsson the benefit of the doubt and assume that it just affected our sample.
The keys feel great, audibly clicking as you depress them; although not tall, they are wide enough to avoid any unwanted presses. The dedicated music keys and the camera key sit on the right side of the handset. Both the volume keys and the camera key are gold in colour, while the rewind, fast forward and play/pause keys are in the same tone as the handset. Due to their close proximity, it may take some getting used to before you are successfully changing tracks in your pocket without accidentally switching the camera on.
On the subject of pockets, it is once again disappointing to find that Sony Ericsson has placed the headset port (also where the charger is inserted) on the adjacent side. This is disappointing because, as with an iPod, your phone rests far more comfortably in your pocket when the headphones are connected to the bottom or top of the device. As has become typical of Sony Ericsson, the headset port is not the preferred 3.5mm, but at least the manufacturer bundles in an adaptor so that you can use your own headphones.
Something Sony Ericsson has placed on the top of the phone is the dedicated Walkman key. Press this and you will be instantly taken to your Walkman player. The only time you actually need to shut down the application before you can access your music this way is when it is in camera mode. The key also plays a part when using the phone’s shake control. For those who don’t know, shake control allows you to change tracks, alter the volume and even shuffle tracks by flicking your wrist while holding down the Walkman key. While we were slightly cynical about the merits of this service at first, we are coming round to the idea. This could be down to one of two things or perhaps a combination of both. Firstly Sony Ericsson could be improving the service and secondly we could be finally mastering the shake control. Our tip is that while a simple flick of the wrist is needed to change tracks, to alter the volume slowly, tilt the phone away from you to turn it down and towards you to turn it up.
As well as shake control, the W902 has all that we have seen in previous Walkman handsets. There is TrackID, SensMe and the audio experience is once again excellent. Tracks can be arranged via artist, album, title or year and while the onboard memory is just a measly 25MB, at least Sony Ericsson has included an 8GB Memory Stick Micro (M2).
Although the Sony Ericsson W902 has HSDPA, the maximum speed is 3.6Mpbs. With increasingly more high-end handsets boasting speeds of up to 7.2Mpbs, we were often left twiddling our thumbs while web pages loaded. The built-in accelerometers worked seamlessly, proving a useful addition when viewing pages in landscape format.
As mentioned, the Sony Ericsson W902 is the first Walkman device to sport a five-megapixel camera. There is no protection for the lens, so a degree of care will be needed to avoid damaging it, while a regular clean may help to preserve the picture quality. As we had a Sony Ericsson C902 (another five-megapixel camera phone) handy, we decided to establish just how good a snapper the W902 actually has. Could it really hold itself alongside one of the top Cyber-shot phones of the year? In a word, no. Despite the megapixels, the W902 is somewhat lacking in specifications. There is no face detection or image stabiliser as found on the C902 and each time we used the zoom, the quality of shot deteriorated dramatically. Even when shooting in near perfect conditions, the C902 produced clearer, brighter and more colourful shots than the weaker W902.
As has become standard with top-end Ericsson handsets, Google Maps is onboard. Due to the lack of GPS, your location is determined by triangulation, which cleverly locates the three nearest phone cells to you before estimating your position. As a result, you are generally placed a road or so away from your actual location but it is fast and acts as a useful tool if you find yourself lost. Planning routes is simple. Either use your location or enter an address or postcode and then enter your destination or select a point on the map. Results can be viewed as directions or as a route visible on the map itself.
There is something very familiar about the Sony Ericsson W902. The Walkman experience is once again commendable. But while it is easy to get to grips with, it lacks the wow factor. There is nothing new here. It is a well-built handset without being jaw-dropping and the camera experience, despite the megapixels, fails to measure up to that of its Cyber-shot counterparts. In light of the recent American presidential campaign, when all the talk was about change, we wonder if Sony Ericsson needs to take a similar approach in order to avoid the brand becoming stale.