Sony Ericsson W550 review: Walkman for less
If only the keypad was a bit better...
Sony Ericsson works with SMS, EMS, MMS and emails. Beside them, however, it also ensures communication through instant messages. And that is not everything. It even offers voice messages that are MMS, which contain nothing else but a sound path. Unfortunately, once having created a 5-seconds voice message, I did not manage to send it.
When you write texts, you may want to use predictive help in the form of the famous T9 dictionary. The W550 model backs long SMS, allowing for writing of up to 20 consecutive messages. An interesting extra function is the option to teach the T9 dictionary how to use frequently used expressions, which are then displayed in the writing process with priority.
A single MMS can be up to 100 KB big. It fits pictures and texts as well as a video or a voice record, a business card, an item from the calendar, a graphic theme etc.
Creating MMS • writing emails
All applications of the phone run and react fast. It does not slow down, even if a complicated MMS or a long SMS is being written. The only function that seemed to require a bit more time was the insertion of a bigger attachment into a message.
Pure standard in the calendar
The calendar application in Sony Ericsson W550 is no different from those in other Sony Ericsson models. It offers a basic month view, from which you can switch to a week view, where detailed information about leisure time activities is displayed. Only one type of event (not repeated) can be saved into the calendar, accompanied by details about the date and the length of the activity as well as the exact alert time.
The phone has a very well elaborated alarm clock. It rings using a polyphonic melody, a selected music file or the radio broadcast. Alarm can be repeated every day at predefined time.
The task manager provides several additional time organizing options. It stores standard types of tasks as well as a call alert. Event alerts at predefined time are a matter of course. There is good news for those forgetful, who hate carrying thousands of reminding papers, for the notebook of Sony Ericsson W550 fits in basically everything.
Organizer and its tools
The list of the time organizer options is quite long. The phone has a timer, a stopwatch, a calculator and a code memory function. In the menu of the organizer you will even find an item called "light", which activates the additional light diode to be used as a small pocket lamp.
Extras are worth having
There are three games in the phone: Extreme Ai rSnowboarding 3D, Gauntlet and a mobile version of the legendary combat game Worms Forts 3D. All three games are optimized to be played with the phone being held horizontally (landscape mode).
The VideoDJ, PhotoDJ and MusicDJ applications, which modify videos, pictures and music respectively directly on the phone's display, and which we already know form former Sony Ericsson models, do not miss either. A smart extra is the remote control option, made possible due to the wireless technology Bluetooth. It enables you to send orders to the computer's MediaPlayer program as to which file to play next, or make the presentation application switch to the next photo.
Entertainment menu • remote control options • sound recorder
New web browser and RSS reader
Let us now take a look at two of the Sony Ericsson W550 functions, which are extremely interesting - the brand new internet browser (featured for the first time in a Sony Ericsson phone) and the unsophisticated RSS channels reader.
Main menu • standard view • fullscreen view and zoom options
Display fits everything
As all current web pages are optimized to be viewed on standard computer screens, software companies has been long working on the developing of various technologies that will allow the tiny display of mobile phones to fit in the content of an entire web page. Up until now, however, we have only chanced upon such technologies in the browsers built in smart phones, which were equipped with OS.
The browser installed in Sony Ericsson W550 is one of the first exceptions. It displays pages through the use of a function called Smart-Fit. Incidentally, this same function is also used by one of the best browsers for Symbian OS phones ever, the famous NetFront. The basic task of the Smart-Fit technology is to modify and setup pages in a way so that they do not have to be scrolled horizontally. The option for fullscreen web view is another important and quite useful feature of the web browser.
Using the Smart-Fit technology
The NetFront icons shown before the pictures are downloaded only come to prove that Sony Ericsson has taken over the Smart-Fit technology from nobody else but the developer of NetFront - the Access Company.
Zooming is another useful function. Page views can be modified from 50 to 200 % of the original size. The smallest font size is meant to be mainly used for reading longer texts. The maximum view size then allows for viewing pictures in detail. It is necessary to point out that even work with the smallest view is rather good. Their quality is gradually starting to resemble the brilliant views provided by the yet unrivalled Opera Mini.
Options for saving bandwidth
If you pay per KB, you may want to use the option to disable the graphics and display the webpage content in a text mode. Even though you may run into difficulties in the form of chaotic text setting, caused by the lack of graphics, when you work with certain more sophisticated websites, it is still a negligible tax to pay with respect to the amount of KB you lay aside.
If memory is not enough
When standard web pages containing higher amount of graphics and multimedia elements are downloaded, the browser happens to sometimes report the following error: This page is too big to display. Select another link. No matter the fact that the process of page downloading continues, once the OK button has been pressed, the entire page will simply not get displayed. This is one of the crucial inconveniencies of the browser, aside from some minor drawbacks. Let's hope Sony Ericsson will manage to eliminate it in the near future.
Apart from the mentioned above, my overall impression of Sony Ericsson W550's browser is quite positive. Unlike the browsers in older Sony Ericsson models, which were used for web pages viewing rather exceptionally, the new model provides the user with truly high-class web tool.
RSS channels with you wherever you go
Another piece of news is the News Reader application, which reads RSS channels. News Reader is pretty simple, offering most basic functions only. But as it is a part of the standard equipment of the phone, I consider it worth mentioning. The application manages source adding and deleting as well as source importing and upgrading.
Worth mentioning is also the interface between RSS and the built-in internet browser. RSS only downloads the overview of the latest news. To view the details, however, you will need the web browser.
RSS environment • the page is displayed in the web browser
News Reader works smoothly with "unsophisticated" channel addresses (for example http://www.mobilmania.cz/system/RSS.xml). But if only does the format of the address deviates from the common standard (for example. http://gadgets.zive.cz/index.php?q=node/feed), you are off luck. The reader will not accept it in any way.
Nevertheless, the News Reader application is generally an interesting extra, which comes to prove that Sony Ericsson has started to place more efforts into the field of mobile internet technologies.
To my greatest disappointment, one of the most significant drawbacks of all Sony Ericsson models persists on in the new W550. I am talking about the absence of EDGE. I can do nothing but hope that the GPRS Class 10 technology, which is a part of the phone's equipment, will manage to satisfy most of you.
As most current mobiles, Sony Ericsson W550 is delivered with a great amount of accessories. One of them is the CD-ROM containing applications to help you manage the phone and transfer files. Once you install the PC Suite on your computer and you connect your phone to the PC through an USB port, W550 will appear as an extra drive under the My computer folder. From this moment on you can work with the phone in just the same way as you would do with any another device that supports USB Mass Storage. The phone is able to charge its battery through USB too.
As many programs on the disk are identical to the PC Suite for Sony Ericsson K750, I have dared extract their description from the review of the mentioned model:
File Manager: provides access both to the phone's memory and the memory card. The memory card is also accessible directly from any common file manager, which is basically the only available option if the phone is connected through a cable. In a cable connection the File Manager displays the capacity of the inner memory only.
Image Editor: an application for work with pictures - it helps create wallpaper on the display.
MMS Home Studio: designed to help you create a master form for your MMS. The multimedia messages are recorded into the phone and then sent to the addressee.
Sync Station: a program, which synchronizes data with the computer, i.e. with Microsoft Outlook or the address book in Windows. The first synchronization I started was not only quite slow, but also led to an error in the middle of the process. Synchronizing became much faster as soon as the phone was loaded with data and only information alternations had to be transferred.
Mobile Networking Wizard: its purpose is to quickly set up data connections. Even if my first impression was that the Wizard was not able to detect the network correctly, in the end everything worked properly. The standard setup managed the connection successfully too.
All described programs are being offered as free downloads on Sony Ericsson web site.
Box is somewhat boring
Do you remember the luxurious box, in which Sony Ericsson W800 is delivered? Now in the case of Sony Ericsson W550, simply leave your memories behind. What you will bring home is a standard cardboard box.
Without a memory card the chances are much too limited
I dare say that this new phone from Sony Ericsson could have become a real Christmas hit, only if the manufacturer had designed it to support the usage of memory cards. The W550 model combines two gifts in one device - a Walkman and a mobile phone - and all this for the reasonable price of approximately 280 euros. Yet, its winning race will probably be stopped by the lack of memory card slot. The trouble gets even more serious considered the fact that the forerunner Sony Ericsson W800 is being already sold at a price not much higher.
Apart from the mentioned above, Sony Ericsson W550 is an excellent mobile phone with fast reactions and top-quality equipment.