One of the nicest surprises coming from Sony Ericsson last summer was its top-of-the-line Walkman-series handset – W902. Even though the Walkman series focuses on multimedia features, the W902 includes some Cyber-shot traits such as 5 Megapixel camera with geo-tagging, autofocus, LED flash and image stabilization. Moreover, the quality of the module camera seems to be on par with high-end Cyber-shot-series handsets, which makes it the first mobile phone that can be tagged both as music device and a camera phone. Add to that the exceptional headset included in the package and the 8GB M2 memory card and you have one of the most promising handsets coming from the Swedish-Japanese company.
Announced in July 2008, Sony Ericsson W902 was made available on the market in October the same year, and even if it seems to have been discontinued it can still be bought for around 450USD unlocked and free of plan, but that depends on the location. Users can choose one of the three available colors, namely Volcanic Black, Wine Red and Earth Green.
This is one of the main problems that the Swedish-Japanese joint venture had in the past with its handsets – boring and obsolete designs. Well, that hasn't stopped its fans from buying its product, which finally propelled the company on a meritorious third place before the economic crisis crash. Nevertheless, since then SE sales have gone down and something new and innovative had to be quickly found and exploited. Today, design is one of the most important features for a new phone. Unfortunately, Sony Ericsson seems to have started to care about that only lately and the W902 is one of the first to take advantage of this change in the company's views. Even though the phone still resembles its Walkman-series predecessors, it approaches a new form that is supposed to make it stand out from the crowd.
Medium sized (110 x 49 x 11.7 mm) and weighing a little bit under 100g (99.8g including battery), Sony Ericsson W902 distinguishes itself through its external music controls that can be found all over the right side of the device. To be sure that these can be used even with the phone kept in a pocket, Sony Ericsson preferred to add 1mm to the size and make the controls bulging from the main body of the handset. Starting from the top, you'll be able to easily find the dual volume keys, Forward, Play/Pause and Previous music keys and a dedicated camera key. The left side only features the universal proprietary Sony Ericsson port for charge and PC synchronization. On top of the handset you can notice another dedicated music button that opens the music player. It looks just like a power off/on that is usually found on Nokia devices, but this one features an inscribed Walkman icon.
On the bottom of the handset there's a small-sized gap where the mic has been placed. Above the 2.2-inch display there's a secondary videocall camera and a small light ambient sensor. The keypad layout doesn't come up with anything new, except for the fact that you can now click every key with ease. The only thing I found a little bit annoying were the controls around the small joystick. There are three available keys crowded on each side of the joystick: 2 soft keys, Accept and Reject calls keys, Shortcut key and C (Delete) key. Otherwise, the keys are a little bit hard to press, but you will get used to it pretty fast. On the back side of the phone Sony Ericsson included a 5 Megapixel camera, and the only protection against scratches seems to be the fact that it has been embedded a little bit lower into the body of the case. Above the camera there is a LED flash, while on the bottom left of the back hood there is a nice loudspeaker. Unfortunately, I think Sony Ericsson could do much better in terms of material used for manufacture, which is a thin plastic. A little bit of metallic material would've made it more desirable.
Still, Sony Ericsson W902 is a step forward in terms of design and ergonomics. While, the candybar hasn't been too solidly built, it feels pretty compact in hand, with the exception of the back cover, which seems rather flimsy.
Display and Camera
The only disappointment regarding the W902's display is its rather small size, at only 2.2 inches. Coated in mineral glass, which makes it more resistant to scratches, the screen supports 262K colors and a 240x320 pixel resolution. Contrast and brightness are exceptionally good, but the main attraction is the fact that it is perfectly visible in the sunlight. For more in-depth info regarding performance, check out the benchmarks below.
The 5 Megapixels camera of the candybar is definitely one of the best features of the phone. It seems the camera module is the same that its Cyber-shot predecessor, C902, has included. It features auto-focus, PowerLED (also available as video light when recording clips in darker areas), image stabilization, geo-tagging, BestPic, macro mode and video recording capabilities.
The geotagging function (“the process of adding geographical identification metadata to various media such as photographs and videos” – Wikipedia) only works based on Cell-ID triangulation as the phone doesn't feature a built-in GPS receiver. Still, the results are pretty much precise, so you can choose to view the pictures displayed on a map in accordance with the place you took them in.
The interface of the camera is pretty complex, but user-friendly. Even though it misses the Face recognition feature, it still has the rest of the Cyber-shot functions including the camera interface layout, which looks the same. The maximum resolution of the pictures is of 2592 x 1944 pixels, while the size varies between 1-1.3 MB. Thanks to the accelerometer, you can easily take pictures in portrait or landscape mode.
The quality of the photos is much better than in any other Walkman series handset and comes near those excellent Cyber-shot camera phones. The noise effect is kept within limits, the contrast is pretty good, the level of detail is above average. There are still two downsides that I found while studying the results of the shootings: the “purple effect” is still present and most of the pictures are oversharpened. In terms of video recording, the device captures movies in the QVGA resolution at 30fps in MPEG4 file format. It records movies with stereo sound, but the quality is lower than expected.
Overall, Sony Ericsson W902 is the best solution for those looking for a music phone, but who don't want to make any compromises regarding the camera phone abilities.
Menu and Software
Sony Ericsson W902 features the company's proprietary GUI, which has become known over the course of time. There are some updates in terms of device personalization and looks, but basically there's nothing really new. The same Media center introduced together with the K850i model has also been added to W902, including the auto-rotate feature. There's also support for Flash Lite 2.0, so users can now take advantage of various animated themes, but also of some other Flash-based entertainment utilities. They get to choose from five different themes, each with its own specific abilities.
The main menu layout can be changed in accordance to the theme, or by choosing one of these options: grid, rotating and single icon. Wallpaper, startup screen and screen saver can also be personalized according to the user’s need. Also, there are seven profiles to choose from, more specifically Normal, Meeting, In car, Outdoors, Handsfree, Home and Office. Besides these, W902 also includes a Flight mode, in case users don't want to use the GSM function of the handset.
There are a few productivity tools that can be employed, such as Alarms (limited to 5), Tasks, Notes, Calendar, Timer, Stopwatch, Calculator, Light, AccuWeather, Music Quiz, Standby World, WalkMate, Code memo and a basic File manager. Besides these the candybar features a dedicated Java YouTube client, which enables users to watch and upload clips. The Internet icon, as the name suggests, gives access to basic Web browsing. Sony Ericsson W902 features the latest Access NetFront HTML browser 3.4, which seems to open any webpage, no matter how elaborated it is. I have noticed that it takes forever to open a webpage when using the EDGE connection, so I suggest using the 3G network when browsing the Internet, as speeds are much better.
The Radio only works when the wired earphones are inserted. Location Services is the place where you can find the Google Maps application. Because the device lacks a built-in GPS receiver you do not get the Wayfinder software. The Entertainment sub-folder contains a few functions more or less specific to the Walkman-series devices, namely TrackID, MusicDJ, PhotoDJ, VideoDJ, Record sound, Remote control and Games (FMX III, Need for Speed ProStreet and Jewel Quest2).
The Gallery can be found through the File manager in the folder called Camera Album, or in the Media center, and can also be accessed through the camera interface menu. The Java emulator works with just about any compatible application, like games or productivity software. Let's not forget the new service available from Sony Ericsson, Play Now, which offers maximum entertainment. Overall, SE's W902 user-interface puts to your disposal quite a number of features and high functionality, but still remains old.
Sony Ericsson W902 Walkman features the basic connectivity tools, but has also been gifted with the HSDPA 3.6Mbps technology, which greatly improves data transfers. When benchmarked, the phone attained outstanding speeds: 1,316 Kbit/s download and 195 Kbit/s upload in 3G network. EDGE data transfers have been a little bit lower than expected, but still reached speeds of 189 Kbit/s for download and 67 Kbit/s for upload services.
The handset is also compatible with Bluetooth 2.0 with A2DP technology and features USB 2.0 connectivity. I experienced data transfer speeds of up to 105 KB/s when sending files, and of 138 KB/s when receiving them through Bluetooth connectivity, which is a little bit above the average.
Applications like Google Maps have no real use until you get an external GPS receiver, but you will also need something like Wayfinder Navigator 7, so your device will really come in handy with localizations.
Messaging capabilities have been improved and now offer a wider range of options. All messages share the same Inbox, except for emails, which have a separate one. You can now manage and categorize them the way you want, or you can simply use the pre-installed categories: Business, Favorites, Follow Up, Fun, Holiday and Important. The email service is fully compatible with the POP3 and SMTP clients.
The quad-band (GSM 850 / 900 / GSM 1800 / GSM 1900) network-compatible handset has a good GSM signal reception. Unfortunately, while the level of clarity is outstanding when talking on the phone, the sound is a little bit lower than I previously expected. Furthermore, the vibration is good in intensity.
Processor and Memory
The W902 Walkman bar phone features a medium-power ARM9 family processor that runs at speeds of up to 208 Mhz. The phone doesn't seem to be too snappy; in fact, compared to S40 Nokias, it lags big time. I think that the animated themes take their tolls on the phone's CPU.
The handset comes with a 25MB internal memory, but features a micro M2 memory slot card to expand the storage space up to 8 GB. It has been placed under the back cover of the phone, but it can be inserted without the need of powering off the phone (hot-swappable). Moreover, the phone comes with an 8GB M2 memory card and an M2 USB adapter in the sales package.
Sony Ericsson W902 belongs to the Walkman series, which makes it excel in multimedia features. After all, the best music phones are Sony Ericsson's Walkman-series devices, and W902 is not too far from the top. Boasting the famous Walkman 3.0 music player, the sound quality is impressive. Users can take advantage of a wide range of equalizers, which have been gifted with full visualization art this time. It supports almost all possible music file formats available on the market: MP3, AAC, AAC+, E-AAC+, WAV, WMA, M4A and MIDI. Furthermore, the music player is compatible with Album art function and, thanks to the integrated accelerometer, it takes advantage of the Shake control feature.
The latter enables users to go one track forward or backward by pressing the Walkman button (on top of the phone) and shake the phone forward or backward. It is also possible to shuffle the playlist by simply shaking the phone both ways twice, while pressing the same Walkman button. Another new feature introduced by Sony Ericsson is called SensMe, which enables users to make their playlists according to their mood by simply selecting "Happy" or "Sad." The only drawback of the service is the fact that only the songs that are tagged by Sony Ericsson's Media Manager will be taken into consideration. If you want to use this feature a lot, you will need to transfer all your files through the Sony Ericsson Media Manager application, which could take a while. The stereo earphones (HPM-77) that are coming in the sales package are more than decent and include a 3.5mm adapter, which means that you can even attach your own headphones in case you're not satisfied by these.
The candybar also includes an FM radio function with RDS, which can memorize up to 20 base stations. The reception and sound are also exceptional. Both, music player and radio can be run in the background.
The integrated video player can run movies in full screen, in landscape or portrait mode, thanks to the accelerometer. You can also save certain frames from a movie if you like, in the form of screenshots. Overall, Sony Ericsson W902 has one of the highest sound quality levels in all the Walkman-series devices that have been launched on the market.
Sony Ericsson W902 features a 930 mAh Li-Polymer battery that has an official lifetime of approximately 380 hours (360 hours for 3G) in standby mode and 9 hours (4 hours for 3G) in talk-time mode. After using the phone for at least 1 month I have decided that the battery's life is only half of what the official numbers show. Still, that is a very good autonomy for a medium-energy battery. If you are a heavy user you'll most likely need to charge it every 2-3 days, but a soft user will have no trouble keeping it for a week at least. The music playback time is of nearly 18 hours with the display in standby mode.
Sony Ericsson W902 catches your at first glance, which is definitely good for SE's business. My first impression when I held it in hand is that I have something different from the old Walkman series devices. Apparently the phone finally has the 'wow factor' so much needed these days.
Surprisingly for a Walkman phone, W902 also distinguishes itself through its camera quality. Gathering capabilities of both well-known series manufactured by Sony Ericsson, Cyber-shot and Walkman, W902 becomes the first hybrid phone available for SE fans. Even if the price is still high, all the features included are up to the highest standards: camera, music sound, battery, data transfer speeds.
I believe that a much better CPU would've been required for an animated GUI. Also, I think that the phone still lacks originality in terms of design. While it may seem to be compact and ergonomic, after using it for more than a month I think the construction of the handset is not up to the standards of the rest of the features.
Sony Ericsson W902 Handset
8GB M2 memory card
930 mAh Li-Polymer Battery
Stereo HPM-77 headset
M2 USB adapter.