Sony Ericsson W980 preview: First look

GSMArena team, 12 May 2008.
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User Interface Walkman style

The user interface in Sony Ericsson W980 is almost identical to the one we found on its smaller brother - the W760. It has the company's typical feature phone styling, all niceties included.

Sony Ericsson W980 has four different menu layouts. Except the traditional 4 x 3 grid, the main menu can now be diversified with a couple of alternative views: rotating and single icon. Plus, if a Flash Lite theme you have installed supports another layout, you can enjoy that as well.

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The user interface of W980 is one of the best among Sony Ericsson's feature phones

The icons in Sony Ericsson W980 come in playful colorful and offer nice animations. There are a number of animated transition effects throughout the interface

The well-known Activity menu offers quick access to some of the most frequently-used functions. It also takes care of multi-tasking on Sony Ericsson W980.The other features of the Activity menu include quick access to recent events and a nice web menu.

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The activity menu is also present

FM transmitter

Sony Ericsson W980 is the first phone we've got a hold of to feature an FM transmitter. Quite understandably, we were excited to see it in action. As it turned out, it does quite well and manages to outperform even some of the dedicated FM transmitting devices.

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FM transmitter interface is rather simple

The quality of the sound transmitted isn't strictly Hi-Fi one but it is does the job. A pleasant surprise was that it transfers the artist and the song name via RDS. The FM transmitter does a great job in a car and it can be very useful during a party too. We are pretty sure it will be put to good use in practical jokes.

When first announced, the Sony Ericsson W980 was also expected to have another cool feature concerning the radio. Back there in Barcelona the prototypes used to have a built-in antenna that allowed listening to music without plugging in a pair of headphones. However this feature has been dropped for some reason and now the W980 is no different than any other phone in this department.

Camera is a letdown

Regrettably, Sony Ericsson W980 follows the trend of recent Walkman phones in terms of camera performance. This means it has an oversimplified and not really user-friendly camera interface. The picture quality is also unimpressive. In fact, the lack of auto focus actually tells the whole story here - Sony Ericsson never meant to make the W980 a worthy cameraphone.

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Camera interface managed to get on our nerves in no time

We are somewhat missing the days when Walkman phones had one of the best cameras on the market (think W800) as that made them really tempting multimedia devices. As things stand now, you have to choose between imaging and music capabilities with most recent Sony Ericsson handsets.

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Sony Ericsson W980 sample camera photos

Music player is the thing

Although it's probably the most important feature of Sony Ericsson W980, we chose to leave the music player for the end of this preview. This way we could give it the proper treatment.

There seem to be no real changes to the music player compared to the latest Walkman phones. On the other hand, we can hardly think of something that can be improved in the Walkman 3.0 player.

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Walkman music player is simply great

It boasts a great number of supported file formats and automatically sorts your tracks by various filters. The well known step by step tack filtering is also present here.

Two of the coolest features of Walkman handsets - SenseMe and Shake control - are also aboard the Sony Ericsson W980. SenseMe groups your tracks by mood giving a nice and fresh way of exploring your music library. Shake control allows you to change tracks and even shuffle your entire playlist by a simple flick of the hand.

All you need to do to use Shake control is press the Walkman key and shake the phone forward (for going to the next track) or backward (for going a track back). A quick succession of the two moves does the shuffle trick.

Finally here is a short video demonstrating how the music player can be controlled by only using the external controls and display.

First impressions

So far, so good - we are quite pleased with the performance of the Sony Ericsson W980. Its exotic features - the FM transmitter and elaborate light effects - give it a distinct taste, while the good user interface makes sure all the basics are covered.

We are, as usual, very pleased with the Walkman music player but the camera is quite a bit of a letdown. Still all in all, the first impressions Sony Ericsson W980 makes are really positive. Stay tuned and don't miss the full review for all those questions left unanswered. Rest assured, we're just as curious as you are if the new Walkman highflier can deliver on all counts.

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