As with the other Sony Ericsson Walkman phones, the W850i's music player is the phone's star attraction. The features, controls, and interface are similar to predecessors', but with a few changes. A simple black background replaces the familiar orange skin, and you can choose to display album art or graphic visualizations when your music is playing. Opening the player takes you directly to the main menu, where you can organize music by artist, track name, or playlist. Settings include album/song shuffle and loop, an equalizer, and stereo widening. Switching between the cell phone and the music player is seamless, as music automatically stops when you receive a call. Hang up and press the dedicated music key, and your song picks up from the point you left off. There's an airplane mode that lets you listen to your tunes in flight with the cell phone turned off, and you can minimize the player while using other functions. You can also set the navigation controls to show a bright orange backlighting, but it turns off when the player is off.
Music capacity is limited by the available memory, but internal space is just 16MB--skimpier than we would have liked for a media phone and less than for most previous Walkman phones. And keep in mind, it's shared with other applications, so your actual storage space may be less. We recommend investing in a Memory Stick Duo for extra space. Our test phone came with a 1GB card, but the slot can accommodate higher-capacity cards. Fortunately, you can set tracks as ring tones. You can send tunes via e-mail, multimedia message, Bluetooth, or infrared port. You also get an FM radio with 20 presets, though you must use it with a headset, which acts as an antenna. You can set it to automatically scan and program Radio Data System info from stations that digitally broadcast their names and call letters. The W850i also comes with a Track ID application that you can use to identify music slips from FM radio stations.
Though it has a 2-megapixel camera, the W810i takes pictures in just three sizes: 1,632x1,224, 640x480, and 160x120. As with the company's other 2-megapixel shooters, we were hoping for more choices. That said, other options are plentiful. There are Normal, Panoramic, Frames, and Burst shoot modes; a 4X digital zoom (not usable at the highest resolution); night mode; a flash; a time-and-date stamp; a self-timer; Black and White, Negative, and Sepia picture effects; white-balance settings; Normal and Fine picture-quality modes; and four shutter sounds, though no silent option. The MPEG-4 video recorder takes 176x144 clips with sound to any length that the available RAM will permit. Clips for multimedia messages are capped at 30 seconds. After you're finished shooting photos or videos, you can edit your work with the included Photo DJ and Video DJ applications. There's also a fun face-warping tool for turning your friends' likenesses into silly art. Photo quality is very sharp and ranks as some of the best we've seen on a camera phone. Colors are bright and object outlines distinct. Videos, on the other hand, are satisfactory but somewhat choppy and pixelated.
You can personalize the W850i with a variety of themes, wallpaper, and screensavers. As always, you can purchase more options and ring tones from Sony Ericsson via the WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser. Alternatively, the phone comes with a Music DJ application for composing your own ring tones. Gamers can enjoy two Java (J2ME) titles, QuadraPop and Juices, with additional titles available for purchase.
We tested the triband Sony Ericsson W850i (GSM 900/1800/1900) world phone in San Francisco using Cingular's service. Call quality was quite good, though voices sounded a bit hollow and the volume could be higher. On their end, callers could hear us plainly and said our voice wasn't distorted. They could tell we were using a cell phone, but that's not unusual. Speakerphone calls were satisfactory, with loud volume. Callers could hear us fine but it's best to make speakerphone calls in quiet environments. Overall, we give the call quality a thumbs-up. UMTS support is included as well, but at present, the phone is incompatible with UMTS networks in the United States.
The included PC Suite software and USB cable is the main conduit for loading the music on the phone. The software is easy to use and music quality on the W850i is fantastic. Audio is clear and crisp and has plenty of volume. The W850i won't replace a stand-alone MP3 player just yet, but it does the job admirably for short stints.
The Sony Ericsson W850i has a rated talk time of up to seven hours and an impressive tested talk time of 11 hours and 36 minutes. It has a rated standby time of 14 days and 14 hours. According to FCC radiation tests, the Sony Ericsson W850i has a digital SAR rating of 0.6 watt per kilogram.
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