Sony Ericsson W960

Of all the cell phones in Sony Ericsson’s barrage of new product announcements last Friday, the top-of-the-line W960 seems to be drawing the most attention from bleeding-edge mobile fans. With 8GB of flash memory, a touch-screen interface and Wi-Fi capability, it’s immediately apparent why: The W960 is poised to compete with the iPhone in the quickly growing market for next-gen Smartphones.

Taiwanese manufacturer HTC announced their own iPhone competitor in early June, but with only 1GB of storage and no built-in Wi-Fi capability, it could hardly be considered a real challenger. Sony Ericsson brings experience with both media players and phones to the table with the W960, which could – at least on paper – make it a serious alternative to Apple’s glitzy trendsetter.

Sony Ericsson W960
Image Courtesy of Sony

For starters, the W960 is packing light: 119 grams to be exact. That makes it no featherweight by regular mobile phone standards (even the brickish Razr weighs only 95 grams), but for a Smartphone, like Blackberry’s 134-gram 8800 model, it certainly won’t be tipping the scales. It will actually be slightly lighter than the iPhone, which weighs 135 grams. The two phones will also carve out similar real estate in your pocket since the iPhone is slightly slimmer than the W960, but also taller and wider.

One major departure from both the HTC Touch and iPhone will be the W960’s traditional keypad. The other phones ditched the hard keys for a purely touch-screen interface. Without having put all three phones through the paces in real life, it’s hard to see how this choice will play out. Some users may actually prefer real buttons for their familiarity and tactile feedback, but they do cost the W960’s LCD screen some valuable room, shrinking it to just 2.6 inches across, where the iPhone’s will be nearly an inch bigger diagonally, at 3.5 inches.

Sony Ericsson W960
Image Courtesy of Sony

The W960 will run the Symbian-based UIQ operating system, which comes with all the usual Smartphone accoutrements including messaging, telephony, contact list, agenda, to-do list, jotter, web access, and document viewers. UIQ also syncs up using Microsoft’s ActiveSync software, making it a logical partner for Windows desktop users. It’s unlikely UIQ will match the gee-whiz factor of Mac OS X on a handheld, but with an existing software development kit and third-party applications available, the W960 may prove more expandable than the iPhone, which Jobs recently announced would only support Web 2.0-based applications.

Unfortunately for readers salivating over the W960, no prices have been announced yet, and the new model won’t be available until the fourth quarter of 2007. In that time, there’s notelling what will happen, given the speed with which competitors like HTC are apparently able to bring their own phones to market (the Touch is available in the US now). Looking at developments since the iPhone’s announcement a little over sixmonths ago, it seems that the W960 may be just a forerunner in the ballooning market for all-in-one phones.

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