Sony Ericsson roundup: W380, Z555, W350, T280 preview
Sony Ericsson W350
The Sony Ericsson W350 is a lower midrange Walkman phone. It specializes in thin design (only 10.5 mm) and an innovative (or rather neo-classical) flip down form factor. Beside all that it offers the essentials for a music-oriented device - dedicated music keys, M2 memory card slot, and stereo Bluetooth. It also has a 1.3 megapixel camera, a 176 x 220 pixels display and Flash Lite themes support.
The Sony Ericsson W350 is expected in Q2 2008, so it's understandable that our unit is a rather early prototype - even the external looks are subject to change in the near future.
Sony Ericsson W350 360-degree spin
Design and construction
The Sony Ericsson W350 doesn't have hip features such as gesture control, but comes with a novel (or well-forgotten) flip down form factor and it's really compact and thin. The really thin plastic flip has external music keys on it. In order to use them though, you have to unlock the handset with the hardware slider key on the top of the device. Probably the coolest thing about them is that they offer haptic feedback with slight vibratons. The other curious thing about those keys is that they are not really functional keys - when you press them on the thin flip in fact you press the alphanumeric keys below the flip.
The Sony Ericsson W350 has the same 1.9-inch TFT display with 176 x 220 pixels resolution as the two previous handsets in this roundup. Just below the display there is an ambient light detector that automatically controls the display backlighting.
The flip below the display is rather easy to open or close single-handedly as it has an assisting spring. The alphanumeric keys below the flip have a great tactility and texting is a real pleasure. However the navigational D-pad is probably the biggest downside of the W350. The confirming center is way to small to be presses with a larger thumb. Most of our attempts in pressing it ended up with pressing the central key along with one of the directional keys on the D-pad. So in the end we were stuck with using the left soft key as it provides identical function throughout the user interface and the available applications.
The back panel of the Sony Ericsson W350 features only the loudspeaker grill and the 1.3 megapixel camera. The battery cover is again the pry-to-open type (what's with that cover fashion Sony Ericsson?). Once you get past that, you get access to the SIM card slot, the M2 memory card slot and the Sony Ericsson BST-36 Li-Po battery with a capacity of 780 mAh. The manufacturer rates it at up to 300 hours of standby time and up to 7 hours of talk time. Again, we can't comment on those figures.
User interface with Walkman style
The Sony Ericsson W350 features the well-known user interface we've already written dozens of times and more. It comes with Flash Lite theme support. With the help of Flash Lite themes you can change its looks beyond recognition.
The image gallery of the W350 is something most of the Sony Ericsson users have already seen. It allows filtering images based on the memory they are stored on. Further on, much like W380 you have Timeline view, which allows you to filter the photos in the camera album based on the date they were taken on.
You can browse your photos in either portrait or landscape view mode.
The Sony Ericsson W350 is equipped with the Walkman music player 2.0. It has several equalizer presets including the proprietary Mega Bass. It can be set to run in background so you can do other things with the phone while listening to music. When in background mode, there is an indication of the name of the song and artist of the track currently playing in the top part of the screen. The control of the player is intuitive and really easy to use.
There are two other skins beside the standard black one and you can use those to suit your themes, since the theming itself doesn't change the music player interface.
The Walkman music player can display the album cover during playback or you can choose from the other available visualizations.
The Sony Ericsson W380 also has a FM radio that supports RDS. A good thing about the radio is the TrackID music recognition service. If you want to get the name of a track that's playing on the radio, you just fire it up, it records several seconds from it and hopefully, gives back the name and artist after a quick check up with the Gracenote servers (data charges may apply if you are not on a flat rate data plan).
The Sony Ericsson W350 1.3 megapixel camera has pretty much the same interface as the camera on the previous two models. The only thing that's lacking here is the Panorama shooting mode we saw on W380.
So that's about our hands-on experience with the Sony Ericsson W350. Jump to the next page for an overview of the Sony Ericsson T280 - a nice budget model, and don't forget to hit the last page of this article for some comparative camera samples.