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I have had the strong urge to purchase a new mobile phone for a few months now; I have always been a gadget boy. Amazingly for the technological revolution going on in mobile phones at the moment, very little is about. The sort of phones I go for tend to be at the higher end of the price bracket. I looked at many different phones but none have compared in my eyes to the W550i. For me when I first saw this phone I knew it would be mine.
I first saw the W550i last year, I was immediately struck by its colour a very bright orange. The W550i was the very first Sony Walkman phone, since the W800i has been launched which has an expandable memory, but to me it does not have the unique look of this phone. I purchased the W550i from The Link, the price was £179.99 and it comes on the 02 Network.
About the phone:-
The phone itself is around 3 inches in length and just over an inch in width. It features a revolving flip; this makes the front part of the phone revolve 180 degrees either to the left or to the right. Underneath this flip is the keypad, which is silver in colour, with keys that glow bright orange. The facia and back panel of the entire phone is orange in colour, but the phone comes with a contrasting silver/white colour facia and back to blend it closer the colour of the rest of the phone. When you open the phone a noise triggers, on mine it makes a kind of futuristic water trickling effect.
The phones menu is simple and straightforward; underneath the screen to the centre of the phone you have a kind of joystick to navigate you around the phone so ease of use with the menu is not an matter of concern. The menu has 12 options, which are broken up into 4 lines of 3 options. The options are as follows:-
O2 Home, here you can access the O2 wap internet portal, from here you can read the latest news, download games and ring tones. During your first 30 days with O2 you can use the wap internet for free.
Internet Services, don't be deceived into thinking its the same option renamed. From here you can download for free the latest updates for your phone, for example should a new music format be released to better the mp3 your phone comes equipped to handle the change. You also have a search option to find exactly what you're looking for; this is the Sony version of google for wap. The next option is picture gallery this is where you can store your pictures from the phone if you run out of room, or just want to make your pictures available to the world. You can also obtain pictures from this option, a quick glance through lets me find images of almost anything. Next we have Video Gallery, again you can take video with your camera then store it online, or you can download video clips like the infamous Star Wars kid, or movie trailers and music video's. Accessories allow you to browse through the accessories that came with the phone, and a variety of items you can buy for the phone. Finally settings let you install custom settings for your phone from a series of different providers.
Games option speaks for itself really, or does it? Here you have three built in games, I should also add that the W550i comes 3D game enabled so the games that you can get for your phone and that come installed are probably beyond your expectations, I compare the graphics to the Nintendo DS there is little or no difference. The first game is Extreme Air Snowboarding, as the game proceeds the graphics just get better and better. With fantastic scenary as you snowboard your way along assault courses or downhill. The second is the arcade favourite Gauntlet, this is an exact conversion of the original arcade game, with voices and over 1000 levels to complete. You can choose between four different characters, or link your phone through Bluetooth with someone owning a similar handset and play a two player game battling with each other. The third and my favourite game is Worms Fortress here like the desktop version of worms you declare war on another group of worms; in a style similar to lemmings you have a goal for each level. What makes this different to the desktop version however is that you have to also build a fortress. I played worms last evening for about 3 hours, much to the annoyance of my partner who sat giving me death stares each time a worm cried out, you can turn the sound down or off. The games fun does not end here however, as you also have video DJ, and believe it or not you can record a video and then blend it in with some music you have stored on your MP3 player. In enhanced mode you can even add titles. You also have Photo DJ which works in the same way, and music DJ which allows you to mix your own tracks should you be that way inclined. Next is remote control, turn your phone into a Remote control via the power of Blue tooth. And finally you have record sound; this will record sounds or act as a Dictaphone allowing up to two hours recording time. Did I say finally? Well in fact "Finally" we have a demo, which is a graphical video that shows you how everything works.
Camera: here you have your super doper high quality camera; it enables you to take pictures in a variety of qualities with or without flash. You can also use it you can use the phone as a video camera to record your memories. The quality of the picture taken is by far the best I have seen in a camera phone.
In messaging you have the usual choices Text Messaging, Picture Messaging, and E-mail (I'll go more into this later) the nice touch with this phone is that you can configure the phone for "proper e-mail" normally you would need to set up a specific new account with a pay as you go phone. But here you can use your existing e-mail address whether you're on AOL, MSN, or Bob Dog mail. You can also configure your phone to receive messages via MSN Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger, and Yahoo Messenger. And no configuration is too difficult to achieve after all I did it.
Walkman lets you listen to your MP3 tracks either through the rather nasty earphones, which is my one dislikes of the whole phone. The earphones that come with the phone seem to need to go further into your ear than any other phone I have encountered. As I was pushing them in my ears I remember the words of my doctor "Never put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear!" but here am I putting a small soft rubber device beyond the realms of a normal earphone in my ear "SCARY!". That being said it works, the sound is better and once you familiarise yourself with the discomfort it's not too bad. Thankfully those clever Sony Ericsson people have taken this idea onboard and you can add any earphone you want to the phone. The second listening option is through the phone itself, it comes built with a couple of speakers, we are not talking particularly loud, but loud enough that two people could be in a room or at work listening to music on it and hear every word. There are a variety of sound options on this from Stereo Widening, to Sony's infamous MEGABASS. Transfer of MP3 tracks is done via computer, and the clever Sony software adapts music in any format to play on the phone. Whether it be something you purchase from Napster, or your favourite CD the software converts the tracks in seconds. When I Purchased the phone I was told that I could only get 32 MP3 tracks on my phone, which I thought might not be great but it would do. However I currently have 61 tracks with easily enough for another 7 or 8 tracks. The phone comes complete with a data cable to enable you to connect your phone to your PC, many phones you need to pay for this separately.
File Manager holds all your files, pictures, videos, sounds, phone themes and pretty much anything you can sore on the phone.
Contacts is where you find your all your phone numbers you can store mobile work and home numbers along with the contacts e-mail address. You can store these either on the phone or on your sim, if you choose your sim to me the store for your numbers it will only allow one contact number per contact. For those that don't know the sim I speak of is the place that all your phone history is stored on, this is the essential part of the phone that enables to make and receive calls.
Radio speaks for itself; you can store all your favourite radio stations here with almost crystal clarity. So if when out and about you're sick of your games and your MP3 player you have this to fall back on.
Calls is where you can look at you call history, who you called when you called them how long the call lasted and what the call cost you. Likewise you can find out who called you and how long they spent on the phone to you.
Organiser allows you to set alarms, make a diary, plan events, make notes, and look at the calendar. But it does not end there you have a great timer, stopwatch and believe it or not even a torch. Turn your mobile into a torch to see down dark tracks (handy for me living in the country), or for putting your key in the keyhole.
The final option is settings, here is where all you select your phones theme (how the phone looks, colours, different style screens like a computer), and the ring tones you choose to have. You also can adjust memory options from here as well as a variety of volume settings. You can select connectivity options for synchronisation with a pc, or friends via USB cable, Bluetooth or infra red. From this Settings menu you can also divert calls to your home phone or another mobile.
To make access easier when the phone is closed you have the following: - At the top of the screen you have two see-through buttons; you can use this for mixing music and playing games. Just below the screen in the same location, you have two what I call ever changing buttons. These adapt depending on the type of programme or usage of your phone, as you start up the phone the left hand button takes you into a list of most recent calls either made or received, the right button takes you into the menu. Just below these buttons on the left is a back button which will take you back to the previous menu or hang up the phone if on a call. On the right you have a C button which cancels you most recent movement. Just below these again you have an internet button to the left and your walkman button to the right. As well of course you have the Joystick button previously mentioned. On the left hand side of the phone you have a play and pause button for your MP3 or video player, and a lock to stop buttons being accidentally pushed. On the right side of the phone you have volume controls and a one touch camera button.
A couple of other things, you have an allocated memory on this phone which is not shared. So you have a specific memory for games, MP3's and files (i.e. video, or photo's) so don't be fooled into thinking you need to delete a favourite game to get an MP3 on. The other thing is the charger, the phone can go from a flat battery to fully charged in just 20 minutes. The battery life is pretty good and you should not need to charge the phone more than twice a week if that.
I can easily say I am most pleased with this phone, it does everything you expect a phone to do like making calls to much more. It has by far become my best phone ever. Many of the options I'll never use such as the Video DJ, but you have to admit it's impressive that the option is actually there.
Here are the technical specifications as taken from the O2 Website:-
Camera - Yes - 1.3 megapixel
Video - Yes - Record, playback, download & streaming
MP3 Player - Yes
FM Radio - Yes
3G - No
Email Client - Yes
Ringtones - MP3 & Polyphonic
Screen Colours -262k
Changeable Covers - Yes
Java Games - Yes
Picture Messages -Yes
Photo Phonebook -Yes
WAP - Yes
HTML Browser -Yes
Instant Messenger - Yes
GPRS - Yes
Bluetooth - Yes
PC Sync - Yes
Memory - 256MB
Band - Tri
Internal Antenna -Yes
Size - 93 x 46.5 x 22.5mm
Weight - 120g
Standby Time - Up to 400 hours
Talk Time - Up to 9 hours
The O2 Sim Card
The phone call element of the scenario I'll explain now. I am explaining only the options I chose to select this way I'm not baffling either you or me. This is the option that suits me best if you want to review other options please visit the O2 website.
Calls cost 30p per minute for the first 3 minutes of the day and then 5p per minute thereafter. Text messages cost 10p per text or 25p per picture text.
O2 offer something called Bolt Ons, this allows you to buy a specific item on a monthly basis for your phone, this can be done via credit/debit card or paid by your remaining balance, or by Direct Debit.
I have the following Bolt Ons
Calls 50 £7.99 per month gives you 50 anytime minutes to any network Calls and messaging £10.00 per month gives you 50 text messages and 50 anytime any network minutes.
Two benefits with this are that it takes you above £15 top up a month this gives you 150 off peak calls to use free of charge at evenings or weekends. Also if you send picture messages instead of the usual 25p charge O2 take two text messages from your available balance.
When you join O2 there are good benefits for a new user
30 days of free wap access 5 free picture messages 1 free O2 ringtone 1 Free Game 1 Free Picture Messaging photocard (send a personalised postcard to a friend)
If you notify O2 of your details they will give you £2.50 of credit too.
On top of that if you register to pay for your top up's online they give you an additional £3 credit, plus if you top up at the same time they will give you 10% of the top up amount back in credit.
You can also register for the rewards programme, every three months they give you 10% of your top ups back in credit.
Finally if you stay with O2 for 6 months then you qualify for free calls, free texts, free games, photo messaging, or wap time. You pick which one you want and provided you top up with a minimum of £10 per month you keep that option for good.
Just to baffle you a bit, I was already an O2 pay as you go customer as a result, I can choose to get all this or do what they call an upgrade. I opted for the upgrade, and O2 let me keep my existing number and as a loyalty offer they gave me £50 in call credit for upgrading