Sony Ericsson Live with Walkman Review
It’s good to see Sony Ericsson still trying to keep the Walkman name alive, even though now we only see it on mobile phones. Still, there have been some decent Walkman handsets in the past, so let’s see whether the latest one – Sony Ericsson Live with Walkman – deserves to wear the iconic name.
Live with Walkman has been announced in August and released last month. This is essentially a compact Android smartphone with a focus on music, at least that’s how it’s marketed. It’s pretty small, small enough to easily fit in your pocket, although it’s not what you’d call thin at 14 mm, while the weight is 115 grams. The design isn’t anything special, with a lot of styling details borrowed from other Sony Ericsson models, but the build quality is high. It’s especially reminiscent of the Xperia Mini and Xperia Active, having a similar silhouette. The only distinctive part of the phone is the upper side, which has the audio jack right in the middle with two buttons around it – the power/lock button and a special Walkman button that instantly launches the music player, plus there’s a dedicated camera button and volume controls on the left side of the phone. The phone feels solid, even the screen is made from a scratch-resistant material.
The display is a 3.2 inch capacitive touchscreen; it has a resolution if 480×320 pixels, which is a bit underwhelming, and can display 16 million colours. The phone features two speakers, which have a pretty decent quality sound for a phone. Inside there’s a 1 Ghz ARMv7 processor on a Snapdragon chipset, and 512 MB of RAM. The processor may seem to be outdated when you consider there are already quad-core ones in the works, but the low-resolution of the screen means there’s no need for a lot of processing power, so the Walkman is pretty brisk, exhibiting lag free operation in most situations, comparable to most other phones in its price segment. The size of the memory is just laughable though – internal memory is 320 MB, and while there’s a microSD slot, the phone ships with a 2 GB card, which is unacceptable in today’s world, especially for a handset that is music-oriented. Sony Ericsson probably did this for economy purposes, trying to keep the price low, but plain logic says most users are going to buy a larger capacity memory card anyway. Live with Walkman features Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP and EDR, GPS and FM radio with RDS support. Looking at the phone’s thickness, you’d think the battery would have a pretty large capacity. Well, that’s not the case – it’s a 1200 mAh unit, which would be okay for a regular phone, but you probably know how batteries get drained when listening to music for extended periods of time. Official figures suggest around 400 hours of stand-by and just over 5 hours of talk time, but these will hardly be reachable with real world usage.
The phone has two cameras – a VGA unit on the front (which will be used for Android’s new Face Unlock feature, more of which later) and a main 5 megapixel one on the back, which has autofocus, a single LED flash and can shoot video in 720p at 30 frames per second.
Live with Walkman, as already mentioned, operates using the Android operating system, more specifically, Android 2.3 Gingerbread, but with a custom skin, and comes with a nice selection of pre-installed applications. You get five homescreens that you’re free to fill with any widgets and shortcuts you like. The homescreen is implemented rather originally here – there are four “drawers”, one at each corner of the screen, which will expand when pressed and can hold up to four shortcuts each. They’re always visible on all five homescreens, so you can keep the things that you use a lot here. The homescreen also has an Overview mode, which will allow you to zoom out and take a look at all the widgets allocated to the five homescreens, a handy feature when you want to find something specific fast.
The Timescape UI has also been improved. Version 4.0 is installed in Live with Walkman, and it manages to bring all your communications together rather nicely, including SMS, E-mail, Facebook and Twitter. It has effective filtering options, and Android market hosts a number of free plug-ins for you to download, including Gmail and Foursquare. Timescape has other great features as well, like the ability to take a screen-shot, media streaming though DLNA and xLOUD, which enhances the sound, making full use of the phone’s stereo speakers. There’s even an alternative to the Swype keyboard, allowing the user to type without taking the fingers off the screen.
That’s not all though – along with the rest of Sony Ericsson’s Android models, Live with Walkman will be getting the Ice Cream Sandwich update, which will greatly enhance the phone’s functionality and user experience. ICS includes features like Face Unlock, which will eliminate the need to swipe your finger over the screen any time you want to unlock it – the phone will recognize its owner’s face and unlock itself. Next in the list are a better camera interface, new data usage management tools and many others.
Perhaps the most disappointing thing about the phone is the lack of Walkman goodies. Apart from the dedicated Walkman button, there’s nothing else that we haven’t seen on other Sony Ericsson models. Even the earphones aren’t truly great, strangely missing volume controls on them.
Live with Walkman is already offered through Walkman is a pretty interesting entry-level device, which will likely appeal to the younger audience. It looks pretty good, has decent build quality and a truly thought out interface. Plus the fact that Ice Cream Sandwich is coming to the model greatly increases its appeal. It does have its drawbacks of course – the Walkman badge is not worth much, you will definitely need to upgrade the memory and there’s the risk that it’ll get old too soon, considering the advances in hardware that take place in the market. But still, if you want an uncomplicated Android that does the job, Live with Walkman is a perfect candidate.