|Review Placed firmly in the musical youth market, the W550i is one of latest edition to the Sony Ericsson Walkman series: a tri-band GSM phone with music, Java, web and email capability. As with the K750i/D750i, Sony Ericsson has again introduced a cluster of phones with a common theme and brand, all based upon the same internal technology. The good news is that Sony Ericsson gets it right and has a selection of solid phones to suit the needs of media-hungry consumers.|
The W550i's two stand-out components are the speakers and the flip mechanism. Tired of clamshell designs, I found the spin refreshing, though there's no lock at the 90° position, as there is on the W600. And it opens upside down. Did the designers consider pinning the top piece the other way around?
The speakers are prominent on top and side, and this helps send out the 'music on the move' message. Sound-wise, there's no discernable difference on the inside from the K750. Both handsets use the same sound processor and emit the same 40-voice polyphonic range.
The speakers are good for voice too, perhaps better than playing the world (or night bus) your latest tracks, but some Mega Bass and stereo phones make the best of the MP3s and AAC files.
The W550's insides may be the same as other Sony Ericsson devices, but the external design is different and so is the functionality. Even for the Nokia-influenced user, they're easy to pick up.
Turn on the phone and you will be prompted to choose between phone or music-only modes - the latter handy for aircraft, hospitals and so forth as the radio is disabled. The phone is Bluetooth enabled.
Expect 510 minutes of talk time and a whopping 400 hours of standby time in ideal circumstances, claims Sony Ericsson. The phone is light - just 121g.
Aside from the upgradeable firmware and Java support, this phone is POP3 ready, enabling email from a third-party email server. The WAP service is complemented by a fully compatible HTML browser. Hardware-wise, the camera is 1.3mp digital camera with flash. The camera has its own button, but the phone needs to be closed to use it. There's no optical zoom, but the quality is high. The flash is bright enough to get a clear capture in a dark room. Video capture is easy with such a nice screen.
Other on-board amusements an FM radio complete with Radio Data Support (RDS) feeds, essentially a weather/news ticker over the radio screen, and some nice pre-packed games, including Worms, Fortress 3D and the classic Gauntlet.
News of the iTuneMyWalkman crack will no doubt be of interest to some potential punters, but the majority of music transfers will be done using the bundled software. It's simple enough, PC-based, and drag and drop, although a simple plug-and-play folder system is always my preference. The main problem for music fans is the lack of a removable storage card. The W550i relies entirely on the 256MB of on-board memory, which also has to hold contacts, diary appointments, emails, images, ringtones and downloadable apps.
With little in the way of direct competition, save from the other members of the Sony Ericsson Walkman range and the Motorola ROKR, the W550i almost fills the small niche market of music-based handsets distancing themselves from the core functionality of a telephone.
Yet I see the gaming, web and email elements of this phone as important and enticing as the MP3 playback.
Furthermore, the good use of buttons and the comfortable in-hand feeling when the phone is side-on sets this above the likes of the Nokia 6101 and the Siemens CX75. Consider the W550i a smaller, tri-band alternative to the 3G, 2mp, 470MB W900.
It might be branded as a Walkman, but it is also a good all round phone. Entertaining and stylish.