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Sony Ericsson W960i first impressions

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Music phones aren’t exactly a rarity, and Sony Ericsson is prolific enough in this field to be expected to set high standards. The W960i is a music phone with a lot of goodness about its playing facilities. But it is much more than just a music phone.

The W960i is, you see, built on the UIQ platform. Now, this might not be the most well known mobile phone platform in the world, but don’t let that put you off. UIQ is related to S60 (the operating system that powers Nokia’s high-end mobiles including the N95 and N82), but supports touch screens and is quite sophisticated in its capabilities.

The platform has pretty much been the sole domain of Sony Ericsson, and has appeared in both business friendly and consumery handsets. Where does the W960i sit? We’d say it is more consumer focussed, but packs the kinds of features a business user might find handy.

OK. Enough of the lecture. What about the phone?

Build quality is pretty good. While the phone is plastic all round it feels solid, and we found the number pad to be comfortable to use. The number keys are relatively large, which is typical of the overall sizeable nature of this mobile.

In fact, if you have slim pockets and are looking for a teeny phone, it might be a no-no. At 109x55x16mm and 119g you’re certainly going to know you are carrying it.

The size helps as far as the touch screen is concerned, though, as there is plenty of space for it. Our trusty ruler told us that the screen measures 2.5 inches corner to corner. It can display 262,000 colours and has 240×320 pixels.

There is certainly no shortage of features. There’s Wi-Fi, mobile email, calendar, to do list, Web browsing, RSS, 3G with two-way video calling, FM radio, 3.2-megapixel camera, and the list goes on and on.

We did, though, have problems with IUQ (we’ve had similar issues before so we weren’t surprised by this). In many cases a fingertip is fine for hitting the on screen ‘button’ you want. But some ‘buttons’ are just too small for that. When playing music, for example, the repeat and shuffle touch buttons are tiny.

We had two choices in such situations: be very careful using a fingernail or resort to using the very lightweight and plasticy stylus that lives in a housing on the top left back edge of the casing. At least the flat screen makes hitting the tiny corner touch buttons easier than it would have been with an indented screen (such as that on this phone’s predecessor the W950i).

On the other hand, the side mounted scroll wheel, which functions in lots of apps, is great for cycling through playlists as well as for other jobs.

There’s a strip of black plastic beneath the screen, and when you are playing music three touch buttons light up allowing you to pause, play and go back and forwards. Or at least they do when you are in the music app. Switch out of it, to take a photo for example, and the controls disappear even though the music is still playing. So they are gone just when, arguably, you need them most. Er, why?

There’s 8GB of internal memory for storing tunes and the like, and Sony Ericsson is proud enough of the fact not to bother with any removable memory at all.

One thing that has annoyed during our short time so far with this phone is the length of time it takes some applications to run for the first time. Applications sit in memory ready to be called on as needed, so getting to them after initial launch is fast, but that first launch can be painfully slow.

The same goes for turning the phone on. It takes an age to get started. If you are the kind of person who likes to switch your mobile off completely at night, this might be a regular irritation.

In the past we’ve thought UIQ is an acquired taste, and the W960i hasn’t done anything to change our minds on first impressions. After a longer time living with the phone? We’ll let you know.

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