Sony Ericsson W960 Preview
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.
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.
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.