The Sony Ericsson W980 is an astoundingly good consumer phone that is beautifully finished, offers that all-important haptic interface to give it a real edge, a full 8GB of onboard memory and some well designed features.
Although primarily a music phone - hence the Walkman branding - the Sony Ericsson W980 comes laden with a none-too-shabby 3.2Mp camera with flash. This is more discreet than some onboard cameras. It's just below the clamshell handset's hinge and all but hidden by the soft-touch black rubber backing. This finish is not only protective; it also makes the phone feel better built than many other phones.
A fairly common complaint with both clamshell and slider phones is that they are too flimsy. This certainly isn't the case with the Sony Ericsson W980 - it's robust and its haptic (fingertip- and vibration-sensitive) menu controls mean you can access your media library and control the Walkman without having to flip it open.
The front of the Sony Ericsson W980 is covered in seethrough plastic. This pulsates gently with a white light as the phone quietly starts up and orange for a few seconds after you start a song playing (this can be deactivated if you wish). Place a finger on the central concave button on the front of this phone and you can instantly pause or resume a track.
However, the Sony Ericsson W980 also responds to a shake - if you've had enough of a particular song, you can jiggle the phone and something else will start playing.
We were also intrigued by a feature known as SenseMe. The tracks preloaded on the Sony Ericsson W980 - mainly but not exclusively classical - have been tagged according to their tempo and their mood. You use the left, right, up and down buttons to show where on the mood scale you are and the sort of music that will suit: happy, sad, fast or slow. The CD that comes with the Sony Ericsson W980 lets you add more tracks with mood information.
Given the 8GB memory on this phone, there's room for hundreds of albums. These can be transferred to the Sony Ericsson W980 via USB. As with the headphones Sony Ericsson supplies, the connection is a proprietary two-pronged one.
Once you've dragged and dropped music, photos and other media from your laptop or PC on to the Sony Ericsson W980's Sony Stick memory, it takes a few seconds for the handset memory to update itself. However, album art and full track details are preserved, as you'll see if you bring up the Properties for each song.
The Sony Ericsson W980's headphones are of Sony Ericsson's usual high-quality, in-ear variety with a clip for pegging them to your clothes and a button for taking phone calls. (Full voice commands and voice dialling are supported.) The earphones and the connector separate out so you can use the earphones with other music players too, as long as they have a 3.5mm jack.
You can identify unknown tracks should something playing on the FM radio take your fancy - there's a shortcut to a TrackID feature that involves you telling it when to start craning its virtual ears to make out that oh-so-familiar tune. It's also possible to get musical suggestions based on what's currently playing and to stream music from the mobile web using a service called PlayNow. The idea here is that you listen to a song and get so attached to it (or spend a fortune streaming it), that you then shell out £3 to buy it outright.
You can subscribe to podcasts, get RSS feeds of news stories and other items including thumbnail images. These are accessible in the web feeds menu under the Walkman options.
Another curiosity about the Sony Ericsson W980 - but one we liked - was Walk Mate. This is a movement tracker that offers the ability to keep track of how far we'd walked or run in a day - a nice use of the haptics of this phone.
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