The road to transforming the humble mobile to a hybrid device has been commonly trodden by most companies in recent times. Among the competition, Sony Ericsson has made the MP3 playability a signature feature in one of their ranges and can credit a certain amount of success in doing so.
A plethora of the aptly named Walkman phones have set the standard for future phones with regards to the pure functionality of the portable music player. The Walkman range isn’t just dedicated to playing music though; the user is assured that plenty of other features can be found, packed in a neat, candy-bar form (except the W300i), displayed in a simple interface and accessed via a very distinguishable keypad alignment.
The Sony Ericsson W610i is the newest and perhaps, the thinnest and most stylish phone in the range – having similar dimensions to its more advanced but older sibling, the W880i. Having such tininess, however, did not mean the phone was to lack the heavy list of features that have become a generic quality in Sony Ericsson phones.
The W610i boasts a Walkman media player, a 2mpx camera, 262,144 colour screen, polyphonic/MP3/AAC ring-tones, flight mode, web browser, organiser, phone book, alarm clock, stopwatch, calculator, calendar, timer, tasks compilation, speakerphone, USB, Bluetooth and infra red connectivity. It doesn’t hurt to have a sizeable memory card to obtain all those mp3s, photos and videos.
As with most Sony Ericsson phones, the functionality of the W610i is outstanding. For more details, read on!
With the exception of the W880i, Sony Ericsson phones are not known for having slim, lightweight forms. The W610i not only adds variety for the company, but also more choice for those who wish to buy a great handset without having to splurge.
Despite the ultra thin exterior, Sony Ericsson has not limited the W610i’s capabilities. Take its 2mpx camera. It has the same usability as the more expensive K800i, matches the quality found in the W880i and stores a respectable amount of photos. Like larger Sony Ericsson phones, the W610i is powered by a 950mAh battery, which means its battery life will be fairly similar to other models in the Sony Ericsson range.
Unfortunately, like the W880i, the keypad design tends to provide more aesthetic appeal than practicality. Eventually, I did start getting used to the thin keys. However, users with large fingers could face possible frustration when using this phone.
One short glance at the W610i, and it is easy to see what handset Sony Ericsson has decided to prototype. The ultra slim candy-bar shape, complimented by the shiny chrome-like, thinned out keypad and soft illuminating buttons are physical designs that are unmistakably taken from the W880i. Even its dimensions are almost identical to the measurements of the W880i. Surprisingly, the W610i is heavier, at 93 grams in weight (the W880i is 71 grams).
The biggest differences between the two are the missing silver façade, and the video conferencing lens at the front in the W610i. Nevertheless, the phone is nothing short of aesthetically pleasing. It comes in two colour schemes, Pulse Orange and Satin Black - named after the colour of the back cover.
The W610i’s front is 50% composed of the keypad and the other 50%, made up of the screen. The entire front is enclosed in a clever reflective screen cover that is easily cleaned and harder to dirty. The back and undersides are a contrasting shade of either shimmering orange or black, giving the impression that the phone is split in two. Like the W880i, the camera is positioned top right. It does however, have a self-portrait mirror. The Walkman and Sony Ericsson symbols are branded on the back as well as the front. Finally, the speakerphone is located on the back, on the bottom right.
Besides the attractive body, one key feature (no pun intended) of the W610i is the keypad. As with the W880i, the keypad differs from those found on the majority of the Sony Ericsson phones. For one thing, the keys are barely a millimetre thick and have a chrome-metallic shimmer. As complimentary as they are to the phone’s appearance, the fact is, the keys will provide a constant challenge for those with large fingers (I’m guessing, most males). Button mashing is inevitable.
I don’t regard myself as having large fingers, yet I still had some initial difficulty in creating a quick message. This is unfortunate for the phone, as the rest of its keys and buttons work perfectly well. These are found above the keypad but below the screen.
The centre navigation key is a circle with a very thin perimeter, used for navigating in four directions. At its the middle is the orange confirm button. On its left is the left navigation key and ‘back’ keys, and a soft button for the Walkman player. On its right are the right navigation and clear keys, and a soft button, for shortcuts.
During low light, the key captions etched on the face illuminate a nice orange glow. The left hand side of the phone is the memory card slot and Walkman shortcut key, below these is the charger/hands free/USB cable port. The position of the port makes it a little bit taxing to use the included hands free kit as the earphone cords can get it the way of the connector. The easy to remove battery cover hides the SIM card slot.
User interface & display
The W610i carries the trademark interface found on most Sony Ericsson phones. The interface is perfect as it is very simple to navigate and displays everything that needs to be shown. It exhibits the time, date, reception level bars and battery life indicators in an effective layout. It also makes every application easy to access and very straightforward to use thanks to the representation of the functions and the heavy reliance on tabs.
Those familiar with Sony Ericsson phones will quickly recognise the main menu as the 12 large icons assembled in symmetrical format. Number shortcuts can be used to access these icons as well as the text list menus underneath. Since it is part of the Walkman Phone range, it must be said that the W610i can utilise most of its applications even while the music player is in use. For instance, while keying in a SMS, the user can listen to his/her list of MP3s by minimising the player. Should he/she wish to go back to the player, a quick press of the Walkman shortcut key will take them straight there. If he/she wishes to turn off the music immediately, a press of the Walkman shortcut key will trigger a pause. Pressing the same button again will playback the song.
Fonts are similar to other Sony Ericsson phones. Seven lines of text can be displayed in menus and when writing/reading an SMS. There are four different themes included with the phone. All of these are found in the phone’s internal memory. The themes change the phone’s colour scheme, though with the W610i, even the icons and graphics change. One of the themes adjusts the main menu layout to have its icons arranged horizontally.
The handset I assessed was equipped with support for six languages – Dutch, English, French, Turkish, Zulu (African) and Sesotho (South African). It had T9 predictive text dictionaries for all of these except the African languages. The phone presents its graphics through a sufficient 2.0 inch TFD screen that has a slightly lower resolution than the W880i. Nevertheless, the display is still quite clear and bright enough for outdoor use.
Making and receiving calls
When it comes to calling, the W610i is comparable to other Sony Ericsson handsets.
Making and taking calls is very simple, as is the transitioning of conversations from microphone to hands free, microphone to speakerphone, and vice-versa. The volume and clarity of the calls made is very good.
Reception was excellent, and is similar to my personal benchmark, the K800i.
Disregarding the amount of numbers stored on the SIM, the W610i still has enough capacity to store many numbers in the internal phonebook. Up to five numbers can be stored per entry, and they all have to be different types – one mobile, one home, one fax, etc.
To add more detail to a contact, one can also attach three email addresses, a web address, picture, a ring tone and voice command for voice-activated dialling. On another tab, one can set business and personal address details, while on the final tab a birthday date and random note information can be added. The phonebook supports speed dialling and even while on lock mode, the emergency numbers can be entered and dialled.
The W610i has 18 ring tones to choose from as default – 12 of these are in MP3 format. Music files added by the user can also be used as ring tones.
The W610i has seven different profiles with separate settings for ring type, vibration, answering mode, etc. On any of these profiles, the phone can be put on silent mode on the standby screen by holding the hash (#) button down. Holding this button again will deactivate silent mode.
The W610i supports SMS, MMS and email from POP3/IMAP4 servers. Several messages can be composed continuously.
The T9 dictionary and predictive text helps immensely as does the fact that the phone does not lag while writing such large messages. Whether the individual would want to might be a different story, the keys of the handset are a deterrent.
The thin keys will guarantee difficulty and they are frustration at best while messaging. Text messages can be decorated with symbols, pictures, sound effects and moving animations – although, if the receiver has a phone that isn’t a Sony Ericsson, these attachments might not work as effectively.
MMS is supported, but like most phones, you will have to resize images before attaching them due to size limits.
E-mail is accessed via the messaging icon, but is separated from the SMS and MMS shared-inbox. The composition interface looks like a PC email program, with tabs for recipient, subject, body and attachments. Messages with 6 to 7 megabyte attachments could be sent without any issues.
One of the biggest differences between the W610i and the senior W880i is the connectivity options. Unlike the W880i, this Sony Ericsson does not have 3G network connectivity. It is a quad band phone, with support for GSM 850, 900, 1800 and 1900MHz bands with GPRS and EDGE data protocols. This means the phone can be used internationally without issues. Flight mode is included but can only be activated when the phone is turned on.
The W610i utilises the Access NetFront browser for full support of mobile- and PC-oriented web pages. One of the best things about this browser is that it allows the user to create folders with files and bookmarks for easy reference. The user can also view pages in full-screen mode, landscape mode, text-only mode, or zoom mode.
Close range connectivity is facilitated by USB, Bluetooth and infrared. Clearly, USB connection will be used with PCs, while Bluetooth and infrared are ideal for communication with compatible devices.
All the typical Bluetooth applications in Sony Ericsson phones, such as the remote control functions (presenter, media player and desktop) are supported. Like most Sony Ericsson models, the W610i has two modes of PC connection – Phone Mode and File Transfer. Phone mode requires drivers and software to be installed on the PC and allows data synchronisation with Sony Ericsson’s software, while file transfer mode allows direct access to the M2 memory card and doesn’t need special drivers to work. Both modes allow the W610i to recharge from the USB port.
The software package is Sony Ericsson’s typical PC Suite software. Having had a few Sony Ericsson phones myself, I am accustomed to the software. The only issues I had is that when I switched the phone to File Transfer mode for some bizarre reason the phone seems to appear disconnected. The included software, Disc2Phone, the software that can be used to transfer music files straight onto the phone is therefore very frustrating to use.
The quickest way to transfer 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. Files can then be selected and dragged, or deleted.
Sony Ericsson may have slimmed down the W610i’s exterior but underneath, is as jam packed full of multimedia features as with the rest of the Walkman Phone range.
As usual, the Walkman music player functions perfectly, is very easy to use and is loud enough for general commuters. Play modes are limited to shuffle and loop, and a number of presets are included for the equaliser including Treble Boost and Mega Bass. Personally, being able to manually adjust the equaliser settings is very positive thing as adds to the player’s dexterity and means that the user doesn’t have to rely on the default presets.
Album covers can be seen though only when the music player isn’t minimised. These appear small and contain very little detail. Alternatively, visualisations can also be utilised. As mentioned earlier, the player can be minimised with music playing while the user is trying out other applications such as the camera. Obviously, a function that uses sound such as when receiving or making calls will automatically turn off music.
As to be expected, the small speaker, generally used during speakerphone mode, is not great for showing off those tunes. The best way to go is to use the hands free kit, which is actually a set of stereo earphones that are better than most included hands free headsets!
The W610i’s included earphones sit well inside the user’s ear and produce great bass and treble to please a number of audiophiles. For those who are harder to please, the hands free kit has a 3.5mm jack, giving the user the option to use their own headset. Video playback is the same as other Sony Ericsson phones – via the file manager.
The TrackID service was not successful when attempting to identify my MP3 tracks. This could be caused by a number of factors and might not have anything to do with the phone - one of my colleagues assures me that the service is almost foolproof. I’m not 100% sure why it failed to register during this assessment. Some of my music files were remixed editions, but even when examining original songs, TrackID failed to receive information.
Other multimedia applications worth mentioning are the VideoDJ, PhotoDJ, MusicDJ and Music Mate applications.
VideoDJ is a nice inclusion that allows the user to compile photos, clips and music to create his/her own video clips. The clips can then be stored in memory to be replayed or sent.
PhotoDJ is also a great addition as it allows the user to edit any picture/photo in memory. The following can be adjusted: the light balance, brightness/contrast levels, red-eye effect, positioning of the picture, appearance (negative, cartoon, frosted glass and painting effect) and the addition of frames and clipart. If the user accepts the changes made, he/she will end of creating a new picture from their editing. The original photo will be left intact.
MusicDJ allows the user to create their very own ring tones while Music Mate is a fairly useless application that can play the various keys and notes of three instruments (piano, guitar and metronome).
The W610i is equipped with a number of personal organiser tools. The alarm and the calendar will probably be most frequently used of the lot. There’s also a task list, notepad, timer, stopwatch, and a code memo program for storing important passwords.
It is worth mentioning that phone utilises a white light to brighten areas for photography and also serves as a flashlight (under the light function in the Organizer icon). The light can be turned on permanently, for one minute or in SOS mode.
At first glance, the W610i appears as fragile as it is thin. Looks can be very deceiving!
The handset is relatively durable and solidly built. Even though I have yet to drop the handset, the phone certainly appears to have a tough casing that should withstand minor falls. The screen, at least, should be intact, thanks to the smooth plastic casing.
Perhaps the only downfall is the camera lens being prone to damage due to the lack of a proper lens cover.
The W610i comes with a 950mAh battery. After testing the phone it was found that the battery provides less life than the claimed 7 hours of talk time and 350 hours standby time on a GSM network, which is to be expected.
I tested the battery life by charging the phone completely and using it for the duration that the battery would allow. During this time I used the phone as normal, creating three to five text messages a day and making two to three calls (lasting 10 minutes maximum). I tend to receive at least one call a day – such conversations last a maximum of 10 minutes.
The W610i lasted for about 60+ hours before another charging was needed. Admittedly, the camera, music player and alarm clock were the most commonly used applications, some of which are very battery intensive.
During the use of other applications, the music player was sometimes minimised and music continued to play. In comparison to my personal benchmark, the K800i, the battery life of the W610i is similar and in my opinion, very sufficient. The battery takes 2-3 hours to recharge completely.