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Preview: Sony Ericsson W600i Walkman Phone

The W600i delivers a multimedia and phone functions together in a well integrated package. Despite a few quirks in phone design and its companion PC software, this handset is a simple and very functional device. Unfortunately, the phone lacks the storage capacity necessary to let you get rid of your stand-alone MP3 player.
Sony Ericsson’s W600i is the second phone to carry the Walkman badge here in the states. While the first, the W800 was available only at Sony’s own stores, the W600i is headed down the more traditional carrier route, with Cingular tapped to offer it. And, unlike its sibling, the W600 is designed for a global audience. It’s a quad-band GSM phone, supporting all four frequencies currently in use, both in the U.S. and abroad.

The most immediately noticeable feature of the W600i is its rotating screen. The top portion of the device rotates clockwise to reveal the standard keypad. Unlike similarly designed phones, calls can be received without pivoting. Folded closed, the phone is actually very compact. My only complaint about the design is that when opening the device, you actually have to rotate the bottom portion of the phone. If you rotate the top portion of the phone while holding on to the bottom, the device will literally be upside down in your hands. During testing, I found myself having to flip the phone over, as I kept opening the device in the way that felt most natural.

As for music, the W600i definitely earns the Walkman name. Its MP3 playback application is full featured, even including functions missing on some strictly MP3 players, including an equalizer and dedicated hardware buttons for Play/Pause and volume control. The player can also be minimized to the background, allowing use of the rest of the phone’s functions while continuing to listen.

The only limiting factor is the 256 MB of memory with no option for using memory expansion cards. Without any way to add additional memory, the W600i’s capacity is miniscule compared even the most basic MP3 players on the market today.

Sound quality was impressive with the included two-piece headset. The first section begins with a proprietary connector for the bottom of the phone and ends with a standard 3.5mm headset jack. The microphone is built into this jack, giving you full phone function and the ability to use your favorite earbuds with the device.

Included with the handset is the Sony Ericsson PC Suite. This is the one tool required to do just about anything with the W600i. The suite includes tools to transfer images, sync address books, as well copying music to the device.

The software is pretty straightforward, but dealing the phone itself is somewhat complicated. Whenever the USB cable is plugged into the W600i, the user is prompted with a choice of either Phone or File Transfer mode. Phone mode enables the address book, images, and MMS functions in the PC Suite. In File Transfer mode, the handset appears as a USB flash drive to the host PC. The W600i uses this mode to allow transfer of files. While this dual-mode option works well if you want to swap music files with multiple machines, it does develop into an annoyance when trying to using the phone on a day to day basis. If you are adding contacts to the address book, then decide to transfer some music, you have to disconnect, and then reestablish a connection to the phone in the other mode. Also, while the device is in transfer mode, the majority of the device’s other functions are disabled until the phone is detached from the host computer.

The W600i delivers a multimedia and phone functions together in a well integrated package. Despite a few quirks in phone design and its companion PC software, this handset is a simple and very functional device. Unfortunately, the small built-in memory and lack of expansion prevents the handy device from becoming the device to replace both phone and MP3 player.

W600i Walkman Phone, $250 Sony Ericsson, http://www.sonyericsson.com

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