The Walkman name has seen a lot of changes from the book-sized cassette decks that launched it to popularity in the 1980’s, to present day. Although music on the go has always been the Walkman’s primary selling point, 2005 saw the launch of the first Walkman phones, and since then, Sony has pushed the brand further and further from its old position as a one-trick pony by adding more features.
The latest Walkman phone, Sony Ericsson’s W902, keeps its musical traditional alive and well, but tacks on one feature that has kept even the most robust Walkman phones lagging behind the competition: a high-resolution camera. The 5-megapixel cam included in the W902 makes it the first Walkman that could feasibly serve as a respectable music player, phone and camera, without sacrificing much on any of the three.
From a design perspective, the W902 preserves much of the styling of its Walkman predecessors, right down to the classic candy bar shape. It does, however, pick up some diamond-pattern texture running discretely around its edges, and even more notably, controls that Sony calls “retro” style: They’ve been relocated to the side like an old Walkman cassette deck. Besides the fashion statement, it should also help users operate the W902 blindly in a pocket when using it as a music player, without accidentally mashing the phone functions.
Image Courtesy of Sony Ericsson
The phone’s centerpiece – its 5-megapixel eye – peers out from its back, with a much bigger footprint than the gem-like sensors that usually end up on smart phones. The phone’s pocket-cam DNA also shines through in its LED flash, discrete rear microphone, and edge-mounted shutter button, allowing users to snap photos while holding the device horizontally as they would a camera.
Image Courtesy of Sony Ericsson
Despite the extras, weight remains a reasonable 100 grams, and the whole package is only half an inch deep. Sony also managed to plant a 2.2-inch LCD with QVGA resolution on its face, a feature crucial for snapping photos without a conventional optical viewfinder.
Sound reproduction should receive a significant step up with the inclusion of Sony’s own HPM-77 headset. It features soft silicon ear pads for a snug fit to seal out background noise, a built-in mic, and one-button call control for taking calls in the middle of your tunes. Sony says it’s exceptionally good for delivering punchy bass – a quality we’ve come to expect from the company’s off-the-shelf ear buds. While the WPM-77 headset isn’t Sony’s top of the line, and the W902 won’t be the first Walkman to get it, it’s still a notch above the chintzy buds that many other manufacturers haphazardly toss in with their music phones.
Perhaps less impressive for its musical aspirations, the W902 will offer only 8GB of storage with an included Memory Stick Micro (M2) card. That’s only half of the storage found on the largest iPhone, and far less than the enormous capacities offered in hard-drive based PMPs. Bigger cards may boost that number in the future, but for the time being, it’s a potential hang up for music fans with serious collections.
We don’t yet know how much the W902 will run when it drops, but it will be appearing in the fourth quarter of 2008 in volcanic black, wine red and earth green, if that helps you plan. For Sony fans who have been waiting to ditch the Cybershots they carry alongside their phones, the W902 should be the perfect path to freeing up some pocket space. More information can be found at Sony’s Web site.