Sony Ericsson W8 review: Robot dance
Despite its size, you get pretty decent connectivity options on the W8. For starters, you get quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE for worldwide roaming and two versions with either dual-band (900/2100 MHz) or tri-band (850/1900/2100 MHz) 3G with HSPA.
As for local connectivity, the W8 offers USB v2.0, Bluetooth v2.1 with A2DP support and Wi-Fi. The USB interface is standard microUSB and it can charge the phone over a USB connection to a computer.
The microSD card is accessible in mass storage mode or you can plug it into a card reader, which is the fastest way to do bulk data transfers.
Web browser lacks multi-touch and Flash support
The Android browser on the Sony Ericsson W8 is pretty decent but there are a couple of major disadvantages - the lack of Flash support and no multi-touch.
That aside it retains the same minimalist user interface as most of its droid peers – all you get on the screen are the zoom controls. The address bar is hidden by default to save some space as the low resolution doesn’t allow much content to fit on the screen anyway.
Still the UI is functional – hit the menu key and four keys pop up. You can open/switch tabs, refresh the page, go forward, open bookmarks.
Unfortunately, the Android browser on the W8 supports only a single zoom method – the dedicated onscreen buttons. Even double tab doesn't work in the browser.
On the positive side, the browser supports text reflow – as soon as you zoom, columns of text adjust to fit the screen width. But the nice magnifying glass we saw in the Xperia X10 and X8 isn't featured here.
A good organizer
Our Sony Ericsson XPERIA W8 came with no preinstalled document viewer so we had to snatch one off the Android Market. There is plenty of choice there so we don’t consider it too much of a disadvantage.
When you download an app it automatically integrates with the Gmail app as well, so you can view attachments. Unfortunately, you can’t save them in the phone memory (that only works for images). Attaching saved files (and we mean all kind of files) is possible though.
Another option is to use the Preview option of Gmail, which renders the Office file (or PDF) into HTML which is then displayed on the phone.
The calendar has only two view modes - daily and monthly. Adding a new event is quick and easy, and you can also set an alarm to act as a reminder.
There is also a calculator, and a note application. The calculator is nicely optimized for the smaller screen, offering big buttons for ease of use. The notes app is self-explanatory.
There are a stopwatch and a timer on board.
The W8 features a decent alarm clock application, which allows a huge number of alarms to be set, each with its own start time and repeat pattern. Also featured is the Sony Ericsson Backup and restore application, which can safe your precious data should you lose the phone or it brakes down.
Finally, the YouTube app partially compensates for the web browser's lack of Flash support. Its interface is simple enough to let you find whatever you're looking for as quickly as possible.
Android Market has what you want
The Android Market has grown a lot. It offers over 100,000 apps, the majority of which are free.
The Market organizes apps and games into two separate tabs, and each tab shows the best in the relevant category. The third tab keeps track of what you’ve already downloaded.
Searching is very easy – just tap the search button, type what you’re looking for (e.g. “navigation”). From then on, it’s pretty easy to choose – each app has a rating, a short description by the author, user comments and screenshots.
Applications vary from pretty basic tools (such as the one that turns the display into a flashlight) to real must-have's (including file managers, navigation software and more), but that’s true for every other app store.
GPS navigation the Google way
No surprise, the W8 comes with Google Maps out of the box. Multi-touch doesn't work so you’re stuck with the traditional zoom keys or double tapping.
A tap-and-hold on the screen activates a popup menu which ,among other things, can launch Street view. As usual, you can enjoy the 3D view of the area, which is controlled by sweep gestures with impressive fluidity. They can also make use of the built-in compass for an even better experience – just hold the phone in your hand and turn around and Street view will follow you.
If you’re in one of the supported countries you could try Google Maps Navigation – it should work on Android 1.6 Donut, even if some of the features from the Eclair version aren’t available (e.g. voice commands). Google Maps Navigation is the voice-prompt enabled version of Google Maps.