Announced way back in February 2006, Sony Ericsson's W950i was hailed as the ultimate music phone. With an iPod-rivalling 4GB of memory, a large colour touchscreen and 3G connectivity, it seemed like the ideal mobile to replace many of the gadgets you carry around.
Now it's finally here, some, if not all, of the shine has worn off this mobile. Available for free on a monthly contract or for about £360 SIM-free, it's ideal for listening to music, but the unusual keypad and touchscreen combination doesn't work well, and there's no camera.
The W950i might not be the most flamboyant handset ever designed, but we prefer to think of it as possessing a retro, '80s quality.
At 15mm it's not slim, but it is wider than most mobiles, making it easier to grip in your hand. The extra width means Sony Ericsson can accommodate the large, colour touchscreen that measures 40mm by 52mm. The screen is generally bright and clear, displaying over 262,000 colours.
The unusual controls are a bit of a mixed bag. Oddest of all is the keypad, which isn't made up of traditional buttons but is simply a sheet of plastic. When you press each button it feels like there's a normal keypad underneath the sheet, but as the main way to decipher which key is which is by feeling for a small nipple between each key, it can be difficult to dial and text.
Compounding the problem is the lack of space between the keys, which makes it easy to press more than one at a time. This is annoying, since in between the screen and the keypad there's 15mm of seemingly unused space, which could have been used to expand the keypad and make it less squashed. Instead, Sony Ericsson has placed three keys for skipping and pausing the music, which only light up when you're in the Walkman application.
The Walkman key gives you direct access to the music player, which can be handy, but it's all too easy to press the cancel or Walkman keys by mistake -- very annoying.
Further down the left side of the phone there's a scroll wheel, which lets you navigate through the menu and tracks in the Walkman player. You can also push it to select options, making it a really quick and useful way of finding the menu option or song that you want.
Some veteran Sony Ericsson P-series users may be disappointed to find that the scroll wheel no longer has the side-to-side or five-way functionality featured on phones like the P900, but Sony Ericsson claims that this is to make things less complicated. While we agree that this has reduced the potential of making a mistake, we miss the ability to do more things with the scroll wheel.
If you get fed up of the keypad and scroll wheel, you can use the touchscreen and stylus that's stored in the back of the phone to navigate -- you can also use it to compose text messages and emails using the handwriting recognition or a pop-up virtual keypad. They take a bit of getting used to, but are very effective once you've put the effort in.
The only problem, however, is that the interface isn't designed for fingers -- the icons are a little too small. This means you have to use the stylus and therefore use two hands, which isn't always convenient. We found using the touchscreen awkward at times and would rather have seen a better keypad.
At the top of the phone there's an infrared port for transferring files to other infrared-enabled devices. One thing we weren't overly keen on is the camera, or rather the lack of it. We're now used to seeing cameras on even the most basic of mobiles, so its omission is strange.
The W950i is one of Sony Ericsson's most proficient Walkman phones so far. If all you care about is listening to music on a phone, you should definitely take a look. With the bundled Sony Ericsson Disc2Phone software you can transfer music on to your phone with relative ease. If you have any problems, take a look at our guide to getting music on to your Walkman phone.
We managed to transfer Beyonce's Dangerously in Love album, which includes 15 songs, in just over six and a half minutes. The Disc2Phone software automatically converts CDs into MP3 files and then transfers them on to your W950i if you choose to. Alternatively, you can simply transfer files already in MP3 format straight to the phone.
Unlike previous Walkman phones, the W950i doesn't have an expandable memory slot so you can't add any more memory to it, but with 4GB of on-board flash memory you probably won't need to. You can store about 1,000 songs and it supports a variety of popular formats including MP3 and WMA files.