From a distance Sony Ericsson's latest Walkman phone may fail to stop traffic. In truth, this silver slider is quite conventional looking until you get up close and personal. On closer inspection, the W760i's design highlights bring the phone to life. From the dimpled texturing on the front and back, to its "more glam than rock" disco ball-style menu selection key. Under the start and end call keys you find speaker grills which are illuminated when the screen lights up.
Above the menu selection's soft keys, the W760i sports a 2.2-inch TFT colour display which seems larger and brighter than most mobile displays, though the specs don't support this assessment. The slider mechanism is slick and has a satisfying click when opened or closed. Under the slide is a mostly flat numeric keypad. Though these keys lack significant definition, they are large enough to be used easily.
Firstly, let's skip the bleeding obvious: the W760i features the Sony Ericsson Walkman hardware and software. There seems to be no discernible difference between the quality of playback from the W760i and from that which we saw in the W890i, which was outstanding. On top of this, the W760i features the "shake controls" we discovered on the W910i. These are fun to play with, but are ultimately a gimmick you probably won't use too often.
The big difference between the W760i and previous Walkman's is that it's the first to be available on Telstra's Next G network. The handset features HSDPA data, and links to the full range of Bigpond's service, including Foxtel TV and Bigpond music for downloads. The W760i is also one of the first Next G phones to have Telstra's QR mobile code reader software pre-installed.
When the W760i was first announced at the start of the year it was touted as the "world roaming" mobile phone. This referred to the great number of mobile network frequencies compatible with the W760i. But it's also fitting considering the built-in GPS receiver. Coupled with Telstra's Whereis mapping software you have quite a capable navigation solution.
Most phones, particularly Sony Ericsson phones, come with a selection of quirky software nick-nacks that often doesn't rate a mention in our reviews. The W760i is no exception, however, these funky apps are so cool we feel compelled to talk about them. The W760i features an orientation sensor and a bunch of games/toys which make use of it. There's a "bobble-head Elvis" who, like the bobble-head dogs you have in your car, rocks and swings when you move the phone. There's also a music app called "Music Mate" which features a drum kit you play by tilting the phone in one of four directions.
During our testing it was hard to fault the performance of the W760i. Calling and messaging is excellent, data speeds on Telstra's Next G network are predictably pacy, and the Walkman music player is superb.
We enjoyed watching Foxtel on the W760i, though the streaming media application on the phone is not the best in the market. Programs streamed without interruption after initially buffering, but the pictures weren't as sharp as we expected, with poor anti-aliasing leading to jagged shapes on screen.
Our review unit came with the same pre-installed software Telstra customers will be using when they purchase the W760i on the Next G network. Part of this suite is Whereis maps which work in unison with the GPS receiver. The maps are good and the GPS receiver works well, if only a bit slow to make its initial connection. Be aware that activating turn-by-turn voice-guided navigation with Telstra's maps will cost an additional AU$12 a month.
There's so much to like about this latest Walkman. It has everything our favourite W890i Walkman phone has, plus adds GPS to its list of included goodies. We gave the W890i an editor's choice award and it makes sense that the W760i should also be bestowed with this honour considering it has equivalent performance, but there's something missing — the intangible X-Factor — that's holding us back.
Maybe it's the iPhone. This is a difficult time to be choosing a new music-playing mobile phone, and with Apple pushing its 3G "Jesus" phone into the market, and with the sharply designed Motorola ROKR E8 hot on its heels, the W760i falls short of bowling us over, even with its impressive list of features and solid performance.