Naturally, music is the main attraction on the W580i. Its Walkman player is nearly identical to that on other Walkman phones. Settings include an equalizer, playlists, stereo widening, and shuffle and loop modes. The interface is minimalist, but you can select a color skin and choose from one of two simple visualizations. The player also supports album art, but it won't recognize every song it plays. You also get an airplane mode for listening to your tunes with the phone transmitter off. Yet the W580i holds a new surprise with its "shake control" application. By holding down the Walkman button when music is playing you can advance to the next track by flicking your wrist. It works quite well and it's an attractive feature.
Loading music on the phone is relatively easy. The needed USB cable and the Disc2Phone software are included, so you're saved the pain of shelling out more money for a music kit. The Sony Ericsson software can be a bit clunky, so we're glad that you can also drag and drop music from your PC to the W580i. Internal memory is capped at a low 12MB, so it's advised you use a Memory Stick Micro card. You also get the standard FM radio and a Music ID application for identifying likable tunes you can't name. There's a quirky Music Mate application that shows the correct finger position for various guitar chords and piano chords while playing the notes. You can even use the phone as a metronome.
The 2-megapixel camera shoots photos in three sizes (2-megapixel, 1-megapixel, and standard VGA). Other options include two quality settings, three color effects, a night mode, white-balance and brightness adjustments, a digital zoom (unusable at the highest resolution), and four shutter sounds (there's no silent option). There's also a self-timer, a multishot mode, and an option for taking panoramic shots. The camcorder takes clips with sound and offers a set of editing options similar to the still camera. Clips meant for multimedia messages are capped at 30 seconds; otherwise you can shoot for as long as the memory permits. Picture quality was good, with acceptable colors and little blurriness, but we miss having a flash. The W580i comes with PhotoDJ and VideoDJ applications, and you can connect the phone directly to a photo printer.
You can personalize the W580i with a variety of themes, wallpaper, screensavers and clock styles. As always, you can purchase more options and ringtones from Sony Ericsson via the WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser. Alternatively, the phone comes with a Music DJ application for composing your own ringtones. Gamers can enjoy two Java (J2ME) titles, The Sims 2 and Lumines Block Challenge, with additional titles available for purchase.
We tested the quadband (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; EDGE) in San Francisco using T-Mobile service. Call quality was more than satisfactory. Voices sounded natural, and the audio was clear with little static or interference. The volume was loud enough, but we did notice the sound became a bit harsh at the higher levels. That's not unusual on a cell phone, but it's worth noting for users with hearing impairments or anyone who works in a loud environment.
Callers reported no issues on their end. They could hear us without any problems and at times could not tell we were on a cell phone. We were also understood by voice-automated systems but we had best results when we were in a quiet environment. Speakerphone calls were fine, but we noticed a slight buzz in the background. At the highest volume levels, it distracted from conversations just a bit. On the other hand, Bluetooth calls were clear.
Music quality is up to the usual Sony Ericsson standards. Headphones provide the best experience, but even the speakers deliver decent quality and output. Music warbled somewhat at the higher levels, but that's not unusual.
The Sony Ericsson W580i has rated battery life of 9 hours talk time and 15.4 days standby time. Though we eked out 8 hours and 15 minutes of juice for a continuous call, we noticed the battery drains quickly when we use the phone in a more normal manner. We had to charge the battery every couple days when using the phone for multiple functions like texting, short calls, and listening to music. The bright display is a big battery waster, so make sure you deactivate any wallpaper animations. According to FCC radiation tests the W580i has a digital SAR rating of 1.26 watts per kilogram.
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