The keypad of the Sony Ericsson W880 is unique in its own way - the reason for that being that the manufacturer has no other model with a similar keypad. The keys are small and at first they seem really hard to use for a person with large fingers. However it turned out that they pose no problem at all. They provide a positive feedback and the keypad can easily be used at night without even looking at the keys. Thanks to their protruding design but soft response it's a real pleasure to type messages.
The keys backlighting has a white color, and although it is not quite even it does its job satisfactorily.
When it comes to the display, our impression is that although it boasts a QVGA (320x240 pixels) resolution it has a far too small diagonal. We would have liked it better if the manufacturer had put a quarter of an inch more into it. Despite that we are quite pleased with the display and its performance under direct sunlight. Legibility under bright light conditions was not the best in previous Sony Ericsson models. They surely were legible but not anywhere close to the displays Nokia uses in their middle to higher range of mobile phones based on the Nokia S40 user interface. The display of the Sony Ericsson W880 seems a bit enhanced over those previous models and is perfectly on par with the Nokia displays.
We did find the Sony Ericsson W880 an enjoyable mobile phone which did very well in all circumstances. The signal strength was at its best even in areas with not that good coverage while the sound during calls was loud and clear.
When it comes to loudspeaker volume levels… Let's just say that the W880 is not among the loudest headsets we've seen recently. However you wouldn't have problems with hearing the alert of incoming calls. The medium loudness level is a bit strange, since a great example of a loud mobile phone - possibly one of the loudest we've tested, is in fact the closely related Sony Ericsson W850. The vibration strength of the W880 performs well but it's not among the strongest one either.
The user interface in W880 is a standard non-smartphone Sony Ericsson user interface. This is the reason why we would use some excerpts from our previous reviews of Sony Ericsson phones. Of course, we would use the screenshots from W880 for illustration and the text would take into account all the interface specifics of this model.
A nice thing is that the phone has a dedicated Flight mode, but unlike some other models, it can't be switched to or from without turning the phone off. Once you turn it off, the W880 can ask you whether you want to start it directly into Flight mode. A substantial difference, let say to Nokia flight mode, is that the phone cannot work in Flight mode unless there is a SIM card inserted.
In active stand-by mode the screen displays information about the network signal, battery strength, current date and time, plus the next alarm that's due to go off. You can choose to display the clock with large semi-transparent numbers, which take up half the screen but blend with the chosen wallpaper very well. A good thing is that you can set the clock to be seen in the upper right angle of the screen even while browsing through the menu.
Pressing the navigation pad in any of the four directions can start a given feature or application according to the user preference. In fact when you start using the phone for the first time, you are reminded of that option.
The main menu itself is made of a matrix grid with 4 x 3 animated icons. All sub-menus are in listed view with tiny icons on the left side. The phone reacts and performs fast and smooth in every submenu and application.
There are several themes that come preinstalled in the phone. They change the color scheme, the wallpaper and the menu icons.
There is a special Activity menu which has a dedicated shortcut key on the keypad. The Now running tab of the menu offers real multi-tasking. In W800 you could only run simultaneously one regular application and one Java application, for example. Now you can run three Java applications in the same time, which allows for a lot more freedom and flexibility in everyday usage. For example, you can open the browser, open an instant messenger client, listen to music and play a game, all at the same time. That's a great functionality that is not seen in other non-OS phones of other manufacturers. The rest of the functionality of the Activity menu has remained the same - it offers quick access to recent events, the web menu with integrated Google search and the My Shortcuts menu which contains a list of frequently used features and can be modified to the user preference.