One for Chas (or Dave)…

but everyone else will want a Sony Ericsson W850i too
The Don takes one step further in mobile music evolution, or rather he would have if he’s been reading the promotional blurb for the W850i.

He’s more interested in whether Sony Ericsson has translated its candybar build quality into the slider format, where those images of chilly naturists came from, and why Sony Ericsson is so keen to ensure that he splits up with his girlfriend …
 
This month I should have had the world’s best phone sitting in my hand. It’s got a very sharp 2 megapixel camera, it’s a Walkman player phone with a massive one-gigabyte memory stick, it’s stuffed full of more goodies than you could shake a stick at, it’s a Sony Ericsson and … it slides!
So why is it not so great? Well, like a group of naturist men in the middle of winter, there are lots of little things that spoil the party.
Don’t get me wrong here – this phone is a hit, and you’ll sell millions of them to anyone aged between 16 and 30. But for me, there are some niggles; and it’s not something you’d expect to see from the well evolved Sony Ericsson Walkman brand.

The Package
All the boxes Sony Ericsson use at the moment are those sleek, slim shoebox-type affairs. And once opened, they present the phone by itself, in all it’s glory, hiding all the peripheral bits away. This is a nice touch, and a great way to be introduced to your new best, pocket-dwelling friend. Under the platform you’ll find the rest of the bits – including Sony’s headphones, which are head and shoulders above any other included-in-the-box earpieces in terms of look, comfort and performance.
It gets better: it’s 3G and supports video calling, has a full web browser on board, does push email, records video, comes with software for uploading tunes, album artwork and all your contact and outlook details, runs loads of games and even comes with three preinstalled, supports A2DP Bluetooth for wireless stereo, can be used in flight mode, and even boasts Mega-Bass for when you want to rock out to your favourite death metal tracks … phew!
In other words, it does everything. Push-email and music? Bizarre but true. The young businessperson’s new toy is here and it’s up to you to flog it to them.
So, the phone. Well the screen is a big glossy 2inch job (back to those cold naturists?) and the temptation to upload images is fostered by the fact that they look better on this handset than most others on the market. Also, it allows Sony E to get everything you need on to a single screen, when operating playlists, for example.
Under the screen it all goes a little wayward. There are two shiny plastic buttons, which are unresponsive at best. The music player button is great and lights up orange, but the selection buttons underneath take a long time to get used to and don’t look as good as they might have sounded. It’s basically a piece of flexible plastic with navigational lights that you press down, possibly designed to compete with those touch-sensitive Samsungs and LGs. It doesn’t do it for me.
It doesn’t help the image that the slide mechanism is a bit loose, with the phone not looking fully straight when erect (now is possibly the time to forget the naturists) and never feeling very secure. A dicky slide is not what you want from a sliding phone.
In fact, from the front – and open or closed – the phone feels plasticky. Even, dare I say it, cheap. Is this what we expect from the mighty Sony Ericsson, master of quality branding, combiner of Scandinavian solidity with Japanese electronic style? No.
And when you turn the unit around, you’re back where you think Sony Ericsson ought to belong: the back is gorgeous with glossy detailing and a dimpled surface.
But stroking the backside is never enough, as me old dad used to tell me just before his case came up. There are Major Irritants when you come to use the phone.

Slide show
For example, the slider will answer a call but not terminate it. Open it up and you’re talking: “OK babe, no problem, I’ll see you some time next week instead”. Slide it back down and tell your mates how the silly moo is messing you about again, and you’ll hear a faint high-pitched bellow along the lines of “You can’t talk about me like that – you’re dumped”. Great. Surely shutting the slider should end the call, right? No, it locks the phone. Now I have a locked phone with an active call on it! How can my friends at Sony E have done this to me?
On the good side, let’s observe that no-one bar you, the sales professional and mobile phone expert, and me, the think-he-knows-it-all mobile review dude, will spot this, comment on it or even care. Why? Because the battery lasts forever and it plays 1,000 songs. Upgrade your memory card to the 4Gb version and you’ve got a phone that matches an iPod Nano.
With Sony’s new improvements to the music player, like organising the files and including artwork, and the fact that you can go straight to the Sony E music shop and download, it’s definitely a very welcome upgrade in the Walkman series.
Transferring the music again is easy. I didn’t even need the software. I accessed the memory stick as a storage device and put the folders in there. They came up all listed on the phone with the genre and details in place. It’s so great at times.
It might be worth sticking some new tunes and video clips on a demo phone. It takes a minute to do, and some Eminem and a Henry goal will be sure to impress the target audience.
The actual handset comes in a black or white version. Just like the naturists from earlier, both are designed to make every detail clearly visible and this does make the phone an easy one to use. The slider is a bit clunky, but easy to grip thanks to the long music player light-up button; and although I’ve been hard on the plasticky texture, it leaves you feeling that you could throw it in a sports bag and not worry about scratching it.

Last word
So, the conclusion. In the field it did everything. It’s very, very, very good, and extremely saleable, and if you don’t stock it you’ll be in big trouble – the whole world and it’s mother wants one. Demonstrating the phone is easier than selling a 6230i was last year, and when a punter has played with it and heard some music they’ll be sure to purchase.
Commissions-wise you’ll have to speak to a network rep, but many are giving them away free now, so it’s likely to be a reasonably profitable connection for you.
Anyway, I’ve just downloaded some Lily Allen to mine and am going on a long train journey, so if you really want one just follow the 10.15 from Waterloo as I’m sure to be chucking it out the window shortly. Partly it’s Lily Allen, partly it’s those little niggles, partly it’s disappointing that I just can’t say it’s amazing.
Because it is a great perfect concept – a phone that is as useful to the business buyer as it is fun to everyone else. The perfect amalgamation of features, yet let down by schoolboy errors.
This phone has me torn in two. Sony Ericssons always look so good, especially least the last few: the M600, W300, W950. I wanted to like this one, I really did, but it’s Ying and Yang, Cop and Robber, Chas and Dave (don’t ask, I just never liked Dave – he was the one with the beard, wasn’t he?).
Check out the tracks somewhere around Surbiton. It might be a bit dented, but it will still be playing Lily Allen. A million hours’ battery life and Repeat function in the Walkman bit, y’see.

 
SPECIFICATION
Size

Length 98mm
Width 47mm
Depth 21mm
Weight
116g
Main display
TFT, 256K colours,
240×320 pixels, 30x40mm
Memory
16MB shared memory plus 1GB Memory Stick Duo pro
Connectivity
3G, tri-band GSM, IR, Bluetooth 2.0, USB
Camera
2MP, flash, video (QCIF); secondary video call camera
Other functions
Walkman music player, TrackID music recognition, 3G video calling, FM radio with RDS, push email, web browser
Battery
Standby 350h
Talk time 7.5h