Sony Ericsson W960 Preview

Introduction and Design

Sony Ericsson W960 is the most feature-rich Walkman phone up to date and the second one sporting smart operating system (Symbian UIQ) and extra large amount of integrated memory. Upgrading the W950, it keeps the same dimensions but doubles the internal memory (now 8GB) and increases the functionality with Wireless LAN and integrated 3.2 megapixel camera. The lack of the latter was pointed as one of the greatest drawbacks to the previous models and was the reason many customers didn’t like the phone, as nowadays the camera is an important feature.

As the phone is still not commercially available we are using a prototype unit. At this moment, all K850’s around the globe are pre-production units, with early versions of the software. The quality of both the hardware and the software might change when commercially available versions appear, and this is the reason why we, unlike some other sites, will do a Preview instead of full Review and will not give any ratings. Once final units appear, we will update you with in-depth review with all the opinions and the ratings.


Only a look at the W960 will be enough to show you that it is a successor of the W950. Although the style of the two phone is rather different, they use the same design-language being part of the Walkman family. The dimensions are kept as before and are what you could expect for a smartphone with 2.6” display but the thickness of 0.6”/16mm gives positive impression.

Although the external dimensions are similar, there are changes in the internal structure in order to pack the additional hardware of the device. The space below the display must have also been rearranged, as the new keyboard is of standard type, instead of the flush touch one used in the previous model. The positive side is that the new has relief and the separate keys are felt by touch, and the pressing of one results in movement, with tactile feedback which lacks in the touch-buttons of the previous model. Still the keys are rather small and not very comfortable, and we think that a keyboard in the style of the W880’s one will be more convenient to use due to the large space between the separate buttons, which limits the chance to push the wrong button.

As this is a music-dedicated phone, it would be ridiculous if it didn’t have dedicated buttons for this functionality. Once the Walkman is on, the area between the display and the numeric keyboard will illuminate the three touch-sensitive buttons. They are big enough to be pressed with a finger, but also react to the touch of the stylus or other object.

Back in the years, in the era of grayscale displays, Sony used the Jog-dial in most of its phones and this navigation method became very popular. After Sony and Ericsson created their joint-venture, this method was replaced by joysticks and d-pads in most phones, but it kept on appearing in every Sony Ericsson phone with touch-sensitive display, as an alternative navigation method that is comfortable for single-handed usage. Readers familiar with the brand will remember it appeared in the whole “P” family (P800/900/910/990/1) and in other UIQ models, including the W950 and the M600. Newer models evolved and in addition to the 3-way wheel added a “back” key which is necessity for normal navigating without using the display and we’ve saw it in the last four UIQ phones of the manufacturer. We are surprised and disappointed, that the W960 lacks such button and the functionality of the jog-dial is limited to scrolling in certain menus, instead of navigating all over the phone. There is hardware back button, but located on the front side. This results in inconvenient usage, which requires you to always move your hand to the front, to tap on the screen or press the keyboard, something the other phones try to escape from.

As a whole, the pure white sides of the phone don’t pack many side keys, as it is with some other devices like the K850 for example. On the right there are only a couple of volume keys which do exactly and only what their name says and a camera/camcorder shortcut. The volume buttons are well spaced and have good haptic feedback, and one will easily feel them during a call.

The display is of great importance for any phone nowadays, but when it comes to a device with touch screen, its role is even higher as it also used for the navigation. Due to this, both the physical and resolution size cannot be small as otherwise it will be inconvenient to use. The last three Sony Ericsson smartphones have been using one type of touch displays - a 2.6” QVGA. The 240x320 pixel resolution is the standard for mid and high-level phones and the models offering bigger ones are just a few. The size of 2.6” is above the average as a whole, but compared to other smartphones is as big as the one of the N95 but smaller than those of WM Professional phones, which most often have 2.8” touch displays.

Standard for Sony Ericsson, the W960 has a proprietary connector on the bottom side. As this is a music-targeted phone, we would prefer it to have a 3.5mm jack so one could connect standard headphones directly, instead of using the adapter from the box. Slot for memory is lacking, relying on the 8GB of internal memory. It will be enough to most users, but we would still prefer to have an alternative to increase it even further.

PhoneArena's video preview of the Sony Ericsson W960:


If you are familiar with Sony Ericsson smartphones you would know that they all use Symbian Operating System and UIQ interface. The W960 is not an exception and it comes with exactly the same OS as the P1 – Symbian 9.1 and UIQ for phones with touch-sensitive displays. This means that software-wise, the two phones are almost 100% identical and the most obvious difference is the Walkman functionality. As this is a preview, we won’t describe you the boring things and will skip to only the interesting parts of the software.

This W960 is more about the fun, while the P1 is for work. This is the reason why the homescreens of the two are personalized in different ways. The P1 has shortcuts to “organizer” menus while the W960 has single big shortcut to the Walkman player. While the latter is active, it displays the “now playing” information directly over the home screen. On the bottom there are shortcuts, one to the main menu and one to an expanding list with 5x3 grid of shorctus.


As part of the latest generation of Sony Ericsson phones, the W960 comes with the Walkman 3.0, which is the newest up to date. It features flash-based menu for its interface but unlike the non-smart K850 and W910, it is only for the music player and doesn’t cover the functionality of the video one and the picture browser. The main differences with the version 2 player found on most of the Walkmans (non-smart) are in the interface, which definitely looks sleeker. For example browsing by albums will list all available in vertical list (optimized for scrolling with the jog-dial) with album covers (if available) next to them. It is similar to the W950 but is more modern, thanks to the flash.

The Walkman can sort the music by a slew of categories, including Artist, Albums, Compilations, Tracks, Moods, Playlists, Auto playlists and My recordings. The “Moods” filter has been used in the W950 and is based on criteria (mood) you manually assign to separate songs, through the phone itself. Each will be categorized with different color, which will inflict the visualizations in the now-playing interface.

As in the W950, the visualizations are occupying the whole now-playing interface, flowing over the background. In Walkman 2 phones (like the W580) they use only the small area assigned for the Album-cover, while here they take advantage of the whole 2.6 inch big display. If you minimize the player, the homescreen will also “play” the visualizations over its background and of course below the information shown on it.

We are not really keen on the now playing interface, due to not very good optimization. As the screen is 2.6” and not ~2” as it is on the non-smart Walkmans, it could have offered bigger icons which will be more convenient for touching with a finger. It is rearranged when compared to the W950, but still it is not the optimum situation in our opinion.

The album art cover could also have been bigger if the upper half of the screen was rearranged as we mentioned above. Although the information on the track is shown with text in large font, our dislike is that if the text is bigger than the screen width, only the part of which fits will be visible. We would have preferred it to transit to the next row, to decrease in size or to scroll from left to right, visualizing all the information but this is not the case.

If the default sound settings are not by your taste, there are 10 additional Equalizers that can personalize it. There is no change here when compared to the W950. It is strange that SE has put only a single speaker on the back of the phone, instead of Stereo speakers on each side. Still, the integrated one has lots of power and delivers good sound quality for a phone. For music on the go, the headphones are required and in the box you will find the typical Walkman ones, consisting of two parts – one that connects to the phone and has 3.5mm jack to connect to the headphones. As they are isolating, the surrounding noise will be limited but the quality is very compromising for the audio-fans, and many will prefer to switch them with higher class headphones, but still using the adapter from the box.

As the W960 features 8GB of integrated memory, it is trying to directly rival the higher class stand alone portable music players. In order to be competitive, it must be able to obtain fast transfer of data with the computer, so the music won’t take ages to load. We tested this connected to a USB2.0 computer and a lossless CD with music (730MB) transferred for 1 minute and 40 seconds, which is definitely very fast! This is transfer rate of 7.3MB per second, which means that the whole 8GB will be full for 18 minutes. An album converted in MP3 is about 60MB and will take less than 10 seconds to transfer to the phone.

Expect our full review when final, commercial samples are released.

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