In 1979 Sony’s Saitama Tech factory north of Tokyo produced the world’s first Walkman cassette player. The Walkman revolutionized the way the world listened to music and now, almost 30 years later, the brand is still going strong. The latest and perhaps greatest in the Walkman lineup is the new Sony Ericsson W705, which was unveiled this week.
Branding its MP3 player phones as Walkmans, while being a stroke of genius, only began very recently. It was in 2005 when the first-ever Walkman mobile phone was released, the W800i. It is particularly ironic that first, the W800i suffered from quality of sound issues, and second that the latest offering bares a model number that suggests it is already out of date.
Fans of Walkman phones need not worry though: the W range of handsets has come a long way in the last three years. In fact, the quality of sound, build and software have been steadily improving, not to mention the aesthetics side, which has really excelled itself this time. This being Sony’s last phone of the year should make it a safe and wise purchase. The last of the run is often the best, with fewer bugs, more memory and a lower price tag. The sound quality has every chance of being impeccable, considering it builds on the audio of the W980, which was particularly praised for high-quality sound.
The W705 is a sleek aluminum slider phone featuring just what you would expect nowadays: high-speed Internet, Wi-Fi ability, Bluetooth, a huge screen, and a tonne of storage space for your music and videos. The geekier among you will be impressed by the HSUPA turbo-3G (marketed as faster than 3G), Stereo Bluetooth for use with new stereo Bluetooth headsets, 240 pixel by 320 pixel-resolution screen and a 4-gigabyte memory stick capable of holding more than 3,000 MP3s.
No modern mobile phone would be complete without a camera. The W705 ships with a decent-enough 3.2-megapixel camera that is, as usual, hampered by an LED flash. Personally, I find that using an LED flash in low light to take pictures of my friends makes them look like zombies. Compare this to the K800i for example — which has a “real” flash, resulting in more human-like skin tones — and the photographic results are often disappointing. We can only hope that Sony will be able to combine the crystal-clear clarity of sound from the Walkman-based W range with the vivid picture quality of the Cybershot-based K range. Hopefully, next year will see this become a reality.
On the software side the W705 contains some very interesting and useful pieces of software pre-installed, so users don’t need to worry about downloading applications themselves. One such program is Google Maps — this would have been really exciting had it not been done so recently by other phones such as the iPhone and Google’s G1. The W705 also boasts the ability to record directly from the camera and upload to YouTube, a relatively time-saving feature that will, however, probably be rarely used, considering that in most cases a video needs some sort of post-production before being uploaded. This application can also be used to view YouTube videos, which I’m sure will be heavily utilized by many.
Recently, Sony started to include sensors in its phones called accelerometers — think Nintendo’s Wii — which has lead to some interesting features as well as some gimmicky ones. If you turn the W705 around the screen will auto-rotate, which is extremely nice. If you shake your W705 in certain directions, you can get it to skip forward or back a track, which is interesting yet potentially pointless. Of course, in the war against Nokia’s N-series and Apple’s iPod, any ammunition will do.