Sony Ericsson’s new Walkman handsets – hands on impressions

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This morning, Sony Ericsson officially unveiled its latest additions to the Walkman line up – the W880i and W610i. After the press conference we manage to get a quick hands on with both new handsets and we’re pretty impressed. Check out our video coverage too here.

In both handsets, Sony has clearly been determined to cut down on the some of the bulk that earlier Walkman phones suffered from. The W610i is only 14mm thick – a good half a centimetre thinner than the popular W810i. The W880i is even more impressive at only 9.4mm, the slimmest Sony Ericsson handset yet, which we’re reliably informed is thinner than a CD case. And it’s 3G too – proof that 3G phones are rapidly catching up with their 2G and 2.5G counterparts in terms of compact design.

With the W880i in hand, I noticed that it was a little bit wider than it seems in the pics, but still a heck of a long way from being a brick. Unlike other handsets, the camera on the rear is now better integrated so that it forms a flat surface rather than having the lens in a raised section.

All the new handsets on show have adopted smaller, stubbier button designs. The W880i uses rectangular buttons with rounded ends very much like what we’ve seen before, only smaller and raised a little further off the phone’s surface. I couldn’t really form a definite opinion in the short time I had with each phone, but it seems likely that this new design will mean that people with shorter, wider fingertips will have a better time operating it.

Once again, there’s no 3.5mm jack on the phone itself, so you need to rely on the headphone attachment, which does mean there’s a mic around for handsfree calls, but it does also add a bit more cable into the equation. A2DP is now standard on both handsets but Sony Ericsson is going to package a stereo Bluetooth headset (the HBH-DS970) along with the W880i. W610i users will still have to buy their own. And speaking of generous extras, the W880i also comes with a 1GB M2 memory card, which should be good for around 900 songs as well as being removable and expandable.

Another new feature on each handset is the TrackID system. You can use this to record snippets of any song you hear, as well as anything on the radio. It then transmits the recorded information out to a service developed in conjunction with Gracenote and will then feedback the track information, including song name artist and album information. In its current status, there is going to be little else you can do from there, but Sony Ericsson plans to build up relationships with music download services to offer you the chance to buy tracks that you have identified, or get suggestions on similar music to buy.

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