The Sony Ericsson W660i is a full-featured, yet no-surprises 3G mobile phone, sporting slick looks, intuitive functionality and a smattering of useful applications. Weighing 93 grams and measuring 102 by 46 by 14.5mm, the Sony Ericsson W660i is pitched as the must-have mobile device for folks who want their music on the move.
The adage "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" seems to be Sony Ericsson's golden rule, and the Sony Ericsson W660i is certainly a testament to this. Throughout, the handset shares more in common with its predecessors in the K3x, 5x and 6xi series than otherwise, not only sharing a classic candy-bar form-factor, but a near-identical user-interface, button layout and list of features. As much as this may limit any convincing argument as to why existing 3G Sony Ericsson users should upgrade to this new, bells-and-whistles model, it should be known that it does possess a number of defining features that are not only quite useful, but also a lot of fun.
The Sony Ericsson W660i's rounded corners, tactile keypad and matte finish have been sculpted with maximum comfort in mind. One could imagine it to be the brainchild of some illicit mobile phone-using motorist's club (you know who you are), bearing the single goal of crafting a phone that can be wholly utilised using one hand. The keypad is very responsive and easy to the touch. Being a Walkman-branded product, the Sony Ericsson W660i transforms from phone to music player with the press of a button, and likewise into a digital camera. In turn, the four-way keypad can be programmed with shortcuts, taking the repetition out of performing common tasks.
One of the Sony Ericsson W660i's more standout features is the inclusion of an easily-replaceable 512MB Sony Memory Stick Micro, providing ample room for either oodles of photos, or a few music albums. Contrary to old times, a phone-to-USB cable is provided, meaning that you can now transfer files to the handset post-haste, or at least without fooling around with a Bluetooth connection. Considering this is a digital music-oriented phone, this is not only a great improvement over previous models, but a timely feature set. However this said, the largest-capacity Memory Stick Micro currently available in Australia is 2GB, which is certainly not enough to have serious audiophiles considering the purchase of a Sony Ericsson W660i as a viable replacement for their higher-capacity MP3 players.
Aiding its role as equally phone and music player, the Sony Ericsson W660i contains a variety of music-oriented applications such as the Walkman Music Player (complete with fancy visualisations and skins), the PlayNow music purchasing service (not yet available in Australia, at the time of writing) and the gimmicky, DIY pop-tune creator, MusicDJ. Most interesting of all is the TrackID program, which allows you to record a short sample of a tune, before polling the Gracenote database for its respective artist and album. As expected, this feature links in with the Sony Ericsson W660i's built-in FM radio software, providing a godsend for folks who regularly fall smitten of songs they hear on the radio, only to live the nightmare of never uncovering the song again.
Music aside, the Sony Ericsson W660i possesses a crisp and bright 262K-colour TFT screen, which is great for previewing photos. The 2-megapixel digital camera and software is unchanged from that found in this handset's predecessors, and continues to produce images with good colour reproduction in bright light, suitable for 4 by 6-inch printing.
For all this adulation, the Sony Ericsson W660i does have three small quirks. First of all, the W660i is not natively supported by OS X's iSync application, meaning that Mac users will only be able to sync their contacts and calendar items after they install the iSync plugin (available free at ThinkSmartShop, in French). Secondly, we found an indexing bug when searching through contacts saved on the SIM card; while you can search by the first letter of a contact's name, any subsequent letters added to the search are ignored. This bug probably won't crash any planes, but if you're of a paranoid disposition and only save your contacts to your SIM card, it may become quite obvious. Finally, the Video Call feature is oddly filed under Organiser in the menu system, suggesting that either nobody used it in previous incarnations (and thus it needed to be hidden), or Sony Ericsson's engineers are prone to whimsy, too.
The Sony Ericsson W660i possesses excellent battery life, busting out a competitive six hours talk time and 360 hours on standby. Its battery life and the reliability of its battery meter seem to improve quite noticeably in the weeks after its initial charge, after which it is capable of close to a week's moderate use between cycles.
Sound from the Sony Ericsson W660i is of good quality and can be turned up fairly loud, not only for calls but music playback. The Walkman Music Player software includes an equaliser to help compensate for the tinniness of its small speakers, however this effect is only remarkable when using headphones (supplied).
The Sony Ericsson W660i is certainly not among the most inexpensive 3G phones available, but given its feature-richness and sheer ease of use, it should still be regarded as an attractive choice. In so much as many existing Sony Ericsson users may not identify enough new features to warrant an upgrade, music lovers will certainly be impressed by its Walkman smarts -- and everyone else may feel sorely tempted to try text messaging on the road again.