Reviewed October 28, 2008 by Tong Zhang, Senior Editor
Sony Ericsson and AT&T have enjoyed a fruitful partnership over the years, and low to mid-priced Sony Ericsson phones have sold well here in the US on AT&T. And among these, the Walkman series phones are particularly popular. The new Sony Ericsson W350a Walkman for AT&T offers a unique candy bar design and an extremely slim body. The W350a has Sony Ericsson’s signature Walkman music player, a 1.3 megapixel camera, Bluetooth with A2DP stereo support and an FM radio.
The Sony Ericsson W350a is a quad band GSM phone with EDGE but no 3G for data. AT&T offers the Sony Ericsson W350a in three colors currently: Ice Blue, Electric Black and Graphic White.
Thin and Slim
Measuring 4.1 x 1.7 x 0.4 inches, the Sony Ericsson W350a is impossibly thin and narrow. It weighs only 2.8 ounces and feels delicate in hand. The phone’s plastic body doesn’t show fingerprints and the 1.9-inch display supports 252K colors. The most interesting design element is the music control flip that hides the numeric keypad, menu keys and the d-pad. This dual-mode design allows users to listen to music and control playback with the cover closed, and make calls with the flip open. The design feels natural and pleasant to use. A key guard slider on top of the phone locks and unlocks controls in both modes. The number keys, menu keys and the 5-way d-pad aren’t very large since the phone is very narrow, but they’re very useable for visual dialing though too flat and slippery for blind dialing.
Side buttons are minimal, the W350 has only the dedicated music key on the left and volume buttons on the right. You will also find the Fast Port connector on the left for charging and for using headphones. The camera lives on the back of the phone just above the battery door. The battery door is a very thin piece of plastic that you can just pop open with a fingernail. Both SIM card and the M2 card slots are under the battery door, but you only need to take out the battery to access the SIM card. The rear-firing speakerphone lives just below the battery door.
Phone and Messaging
AT&T has very strong EDGE coverage throughout our area and the Sony Ericsson W350a never dropped down from full signal strength. The ultra-thin phone is about as thin as you can go before feeling uncomfortable while holding the phone for phone calls. The front flip is very thin and thus seems delicate-- make sure you don’t bang it against a hard surface or sit on it when it’s open. The call quality is very good through the earpiece and headset. AT&T and Sony Ericsson include a stereo headset with a built-in mic for making phone calls. The Sony Ericsson has built-in Bluetooth that works with both mono and stereo Bluetooth headsets. We tested the W350 with the Jawbone 2 and the Jabra 350 Bluetooth headsets for voice calls, and it worked with both well. Like most of today’s feature phones, the Sony Ericsson W350a comes with a phone book, 8 one-touch speed dial numbers and supports call forwarding, call waiting, three-way calling and conference call features. It also comes with voice dialing and voice command software.
The slippery number pad doesn’t offer the best typing experience for messaging, but at least they’re a decent size. The W350a supports web based email like Yahoo!, Windows Live, AOL and BellSouth and Instant Messaging. You can send SMS, picture mail and video clips with the Walkman phone as well.
Next to being a phone, music is W350’s second biggest purpose in life. It’s got the Walkman phone treatment that includes the Walkman player, MusicDJ, TrackID and FM Radio. In addition the W350 can access AT&T’s music store, XM Radio services, music ringtone (mspot) and other music related services and communities. The Walkman player offers EQ, visualization, skins, playlists and more. The speakerphone sounds decent for music playback. Oddly, this Walkman music phone doesn’t come with a wired stereo headset (that’s a $20 accessory). It does support Bluetooth stereo headsets, and we tested the phone with the Samsung SBH-500 and found the audio quality to be excellent. The dedicated Walkman player launcher and the front music controls come in handy for music playback. Given its music phone status, we wish the W350 had a standard 3.5mm stereo headphone jack, but the phone is too small to house that port and it’s a lower end offering.
In addition to music playback, the Sony Ericsson has a video player onboard, and it supports Java games. The phone also comes with a number of PIM applications including calendar, notes, tasks, stopwatch, timer, calculator and alarm clock.
The Sony Ericsson W350a comes with a 1.3 megapixel camera that has 4x zoom and takes better photos than many other 1.3 MP camera phone we’ve reviewed. Still images have good amount of detail and balanced colors, and exposures are usually on target. The only detractor is white-out on light or white objects, but that’s no surprise for a low end camera. The phone can take still images in 1MP, VGA and QVGA resolutions and offers a large number of settings for white balance, shooting mode, effects, picture quality and more. It can also take photos in night mode and it has a self-timer. The camera phone cannot shoot video.
The Sony Ericsson W350a comes with a standard Li-Polymer 3.6V battery that’s 900mAh in capacity (model number BST-37). One of the nice things about EDGE is longer battery life compared to 3G phones. The claimed talk time for the W350 is 7 hours on GSM, and that seems to be on target. The claimed standby time is 12.5 days which is an overestimation according to our tests. Our phone’s standby time was about 8-9 days.
Fans of thin and slim phones will marvel at the extreme thinness and ultra-light weight of the Sony Ericsson W350. There are few phones that can compete with the W350a. The Walkman features should please mobile music buffs with the hardware playback controls, full-featured mobile player, Sony Ericsson’s Windows PC music syncing software and an expansion slot to store the tones. If you can live with EDGE, i.e. web surfing isn’t a focus, then this EDGE phone offers good phone features and decent messaging, not to mention good battery life.
Pro: Ultra thin and light. Very strong music offerings and good audio. Java games play well on the phone. Camera takes decent pictures. Good battery life.
Con: The phone feels very plasticky. Camera doesn’t shoot video. No wired headset included, no 3.5mm stereo headphone jack for higher quality wired stereo music.
Price: Free with 2-year contract after online discount. $229.99 without contract.
Display: 1.9” 65K color TFT screen. Resolution: 220 x 176 pixels.
Battery: Lithium Ion rechargeable battery, 900 mAh, user replaceable. Claimed talk time: up to 7 hours. Claimed standby time: up to 12.5 days.
Performance: 9MB internal memory.
Size: 4.1 x 1.7 x 0.4 inches. Weight: 2.8 oz.
Phone: Quad band GSM world phone. 850/900/1800/1900MHz. EDGE for data.
Camera: 1.3 megapixel with up to 4x digital zoom. Supports burst mode, night mode and has self-timer. Still image resolutions: 1280 x 960, 640 x 480 and 320 x 240 pixels. Can’t record video.
Audio: Supports Polyphonic ringtones, MIDI and music ringtones. MP3 player onboard to play music in MP3, AAC, WMA and Real Audio formats. FM Radio. Fast Port stereo audio jack. Can record voice memo. Supports vibration alert.
Networking: Bluetooth v2.0 and supports Headset, Hands-free, A2DP and AVRCP. USB 2.0 and mass storage support.
Software: Netfront web browser and web-based email and IM. Entertainment tools include Walkman music player, video player, FM Radio and MusicDJ. PIM tools include contacts, calendar, notes, tasks, stopwatch, timer, calculator and alarm clock.
Expansion: 1 Memory Stick Micro (M2) card slot. Supports up to 2GB cards.
In the Box: The Sony Ericsson W350 phone with standard battery, USB cable, AC charger and printed user manuals.