There’s no doubt that the Sony Ericsson W380i is a stunning-looking phone. The slightly unusual clamshell design creates a compact parallelogram shape and at 92x49x16mm it fits comfortably in the palm of your hand.
The handset we reviewed was a gorgeous shade of deep purple complete with contrasting bright pink and stylish silver accents. In fact, it’s one of the best-looking phones we’ve reviewed.
As part of Sony Ericsson’s Walkman range, the handset has a number of functions more akin to a digital audio player. The 14MB internal memory and support for a 512MB M2 memory stick meant we were able to upload 270 tracks to the device and listen to them using the bundled headphones. Plus, the device includes a built-in FM transmitter.
When the Walkman function was in use, three Braille-style buttons on the front of the device are used to start, stop and skip forwards and backwards through tracks without the need to open the handset. These buttons don’t work once the device’s key lock has been activated, but a small button on the back of the phone allows you to remove the key lock without opening the handset. The buttons also vibrate when pressed, ensuring you’re aware that your command has been registered. We loved the portable hands-free technology in the headphones too - if you’re listening to a track when a call comes through, the track immediately pauses while you decide whether to accept or reject it. When you’ve finished your conversation, the music automatically resumes.
We also found the W380i’s TrackIt feature useful. It allows you to identify the name and artist of a track you’ve either heard on the radio or from an external source by recording a clip of the music and searching for it on the web. While the service itself is free, network data charges still apply. The phone also has the capability to access Sony Ericsson’s PlayNow service to download paid-for music tracks, mobile games and wallpapers onto the handset.
Another function the W380i benefits from is Gesture Control. With this functionality turned on, when you receive a call or the alarm is activated, a tiny light illuminates next to the lens of the camera. You can silence a call or alarm by waving your hand back and forth over the light (but not reject it) – a handy function especially if you find your phone has a habit of going off at an inconvenient time.
Sadly, the 1.3MP camera with 4x digital zoom really let the device down. Most handsets these days benefit from better cameras and while we couldn’t fault pictures taken in normal lighting conditions we found that the lack of flash and ridiculous night mode meant snaps we took in darker conditions were totally unusable. The handset also lacks video recording functionality, although it is capable of playing back video content.
While we liked the design of the phone and the Walkman functionality, the fact the device only supports a 512MB memory stick and the poor quality camera means we’re not willing to ditch our iPod for an all-in-one phone and digital audio player just yet.