Advantages Good looks, easy use, great MP3 player, built-in transmitter
Disadvantages Slow start-up procedure, no flash on camera
|Look & Feel|
|Durability & Robustness|
|Battery standby time|
|Value for money|
|Range of features|
The world of mobile telecommunications these days is a complicated one. Not because of the satellites involved, or the are-they-or-aren't-they-carcinogenic transmitters that litter our landscape these days in order for us to speak and text. Nor is it complicated because of the array of different providers you can get, from a Tesco Value Pay As You Go mobile phone to a steel-clad device made by Tag Heuer.It's made complicated by trying to decide which phone to buy. These days, you can't simply walk in to your local People's Phone and ask for a mobile that will make a telephone call. Advances in devices mean that it is all but impossible to buy a phone that doesn't have a camera on it. Indeed, trying to buy a phone that is simply a phone with a camera built in to it is hard enough, such has become the complexity of these devices.
Mobile phones are lifestyle choices now. They say a lot about the person who holds it, and as much thought is put in to the type of phone you own as is put in to the type of car you drive or the colour you choose to paint your bathroom.Should you be seduced by the fashionista, names such as Prada, or should you go for the phone of the moment, the iPhone? Do you want a phone that plays music, shoots high quality video or can thrust your e-mail at you at any given moment of the day? Does the screen need to be high quality enough to replay your latest selection of illegally downloaded films, and should the camera be of a sufficient resolution to take comic up-skirt snaps of your girlfriend, sans culotte, for later viewing by your mates in the pub?
Buying a camera - sorry, phone - these days is so complicated that there are literally hundreds of shops scattered across our high streets, all with glossy magazines detailing the benefits of each and every telephone in order to try and help you make a decision. And if you still can't make your mind up, there's always the commission-incentivised sales person to guide you in the right direction."The N96, sir?" he'll say, his voice sounding as if his throat has been lined with satin. "Not a very good phone, I'm afraid. Lots of faults. I'd recommend the Blackberry Storm..." But next door it'll be a different story: "yes, of course. The N96 is an excellent choice. The Storm has such poor battery life quality..."
I'll let you decide which way around they were being heavily commissioned.So when I went shopping for a new phone recently, I already knew in my mind what I wanted: it had to be a phone, it didn't have to have any fancy gubbins on it, but I would like it to play music. I like music, but I didn't have an MP3 player. The choice, as far as the mobile shops (and the websites, gadget mags and, to be fair, most of my customers) were concerned was simple: it had to be either the iPhone, with its multi-touch screen, Olga Kurylenko looks and much-heralded iPod music player built in, or Blackberry's new Storm which, despite being more Penny Smith to the iPod's Natasha Kaplinsky, is fitted with as much, if not more, software and a very clever 'clickable' touchscreen.
But I wanted neither. My phone of choice was the Sony Ericsson W980. Understated, elegant and, first and foremost, a mobile phone. It's a flip-design that, when opened up, reveals a classic Sony Ericsson simple design and familiar interface. The keys are responsive, nicely laid out (except for the clear key which I keep getting confused with the back key when typing messages, often resulting in the message being deleted) and of a size that, despite the phone's diminutive proportions, could be pushed easily by Chris Moyles' thumb without making a mistake.The Sony Ericsson user interface is easily operated: a simple grid that allows you to move from messages to contacts to options, settings, applications and so on quite easily by the little directional pad. Sony have ditched the fragile thumb-stick in favour of a circular pad and this works much better, but the navigation is the same as Ericssons have been for some time.
The screen is bright, clear, legible. Sound quality in conversations is crisp. The biggest failing of this device as a phone is the length of time it takes to switch on. You'd think it was pre-loading Windows Vista, rather than trying to figure out whether you want it to switch on in Phone Mode or Flight Mode but, once it's up and running, it's responsive.Like most phones, this one does have a built-in camera (two, in fact, one facing you in case you want to do video calling) but it isn't this phone's priority. A 3.2megapixel lens gives adequate quality images for a mobile phone, but the camera software is sluggish and there is no built in flash, meaning night-time or indoor pictures can be a bit dark and grainy. Unusually, Sony Ericsson haven't even bothered putting their BestPic software in there either. The camera on this phone is clearly nothing more than a gesture towards having one.
Its party trick, however, is its built in MP3 player. Sony Ericsson have set out to prove that you really don't need all the gimmickry of an iPhone or Storm in order to listen to music on your phone. The Walkman software can be accessed while the phone is open, giving a nice clear display of what is playing and even showing album covers but, when the flip is closed, the front comes to life with a small screen and neat touch-buttons that allow you to deftly navigate your music.Haptic feedback means that the phone vibrates briefly in your hand each time you touch a button, letting you know it's responded to one of your commands, and you can even flick the phone right or left to change tracks or up and down to adjust volume. All very clever, but possibly a little disconcerting for passengers on the train if you're doing that in your pocket whilst commuting...
Navigation of tracks, artists, genres etc. is all very easy, thanks to version 2 of Sony's Walkman software being preloaded and a built-in (but not expandable) 8gb of memory space allows for more than enough songs to see you through a London to Edinburgh train journey.Music can be played through the phone's built-in speakers, which is okay when kept at low volume but ridiculously tinny and muted when turned up. The provided stereo headset is more than adequate for anybody other than Pete Waterman, but a connector is provided to allow you to choose alternative headsets if you desire.
It's piece d'resistance, however, is that it has a built-in FM Transmitter. No need to spend extra money on anything separate, the W980 simply provides you with it. Start up the MP3 player, go to the options and select Transmitter, choose a frequency and then tune your car stereo in to it and, hey presto, there's your music. Blaring nicely through your car stereo. The RDS receiver on the car's head unit will even display the artist's name and track details so that you don't have to fumble around looking at the phone and getting in to trouble with any passing policemen.For amusement, a small disco light flashes at the bottom of the phone in time with the beat of the music. Handy for those of you spending a night alone in a hotel and looking for some amusement when you've realised the screen isn't really that great for watching pornography on.
Finished in a glossy piano black, this truly is a chic phone, pleasing to the eye, although the gloss finish will need constantly wiping to prevent thumb and smudge marks from detracting from its svelte looks. Small and neat when closed up, it's large and easily usable when opened.In fact, the only true downside to the phone is the fact that, when the flip is closed, the front screen announces the arrival of text messages. Sadly, you cannot switch off this function, and neither can you stop it from simply announcing the arrival of a message. Instead, if you leave it on the side, it will proudly display Message Received From: Your Mistress. Message: Hi Sexy...
This can have rather awkward repercussions. Sadly, I don't have a mistress right now, but I keep my phone hidden in my pocket anyway...In short, if you want a simple phone that plays music but have absolutely no desire to have your e-mail constantly pushed in your face, or the need to have widescreen movies at your command at any given moment, I'd recommend the W980. It's small, good-looking, functional and great-sounding.
Free on most contracts, this is a must for your pocket.
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** IMPORTANT. PLEASE READ BEFORE ORDERING ** NEW & SIM FREE TO ANY NETWORK (NOT THREE). Accessories included. Does not include SIM card or Memory Card
amazon marketplace electronics
Availability: Usually dispatched within 2-3 weeks
NEW & SIM FREE TO ANY NETWORK (NOT THREE). Accessories included. SIM Card and Memory Card not included.
amazon marketplace electronics
Availability: Usually dispatched within 2-3 weeks