A replacement for the W580 with 3G and GPS that faces a tougher field. (November 17th, 2008)
Product Manufacturer: Sony Ericsson
Price: $130 (two years, AT&T); Rogers N/A
- Better build quality and controls.
- 3G, GPS improve speed and navigation.
- Still a good music phone in software.
- Good call quality.
- UIQ simple, effective, and improved.
- Pricing is steep for the actual feature set.
- 3G reduces practical battery life.
- Proprietary headset/data jack.
- Earbuds a step down from the W580.
- Access NetFront still a sub-par web browser at this price.
media playback and sync
The software on the W760, at least, is up to Sony Ericsson's good standards. It's not especially complicated, but it's also easy to use and effective. There are few troubles quickly starting into a song or video as well as making playlists, and support for media, photos and videos is sufficiently broad that someone used to encoding for an iPod or most recent hardware can easily put it in a phone-friendly format.
Only a few tangible changes have been made to the front end since the W580's release, though they're welcome. Like the K850 and other more recent Sony Ericsson phones, it supports podcasts and the SensMe "mood" playlists from newer dedicated Walkman devices; it curiously gives access to RSS news feeds from the media interface, which is somewhat incongruous but not necessarily unwelcome. There's also a shake-to-skip feature, but like that on Apple's fourth-generation iPod nano, it's more an incidental benefit than a must-have unless you regularly travel in frigid weather where shaking the phone will avoid frostbite.
As for loading the phone with content, the W760 largely behaves as you'd expect from the recent, excellent Walkman S730 media player: just choose to connect the phone in USB storage mode and drag music files and folders into the appropriately labeled folder on a formatted Memory Stick Micro card. Sony Ericsson does bundle a collection of software to help sync data, but we find it useful mostly for contacts. Mac users or those who simply don't depend heavily on computer-borne data are better off just dragging and dropping on a regular basis.
call quality and 3G's impact on battery life
Probably Sony Ericsson's greatest strength has been the sound of a phone call, and little has changed. While 3G is supposed to improve call quality, it actually has little effect when regular GSM calls already sounded good. Calls are clear and (with a possible tick upwards in volume) sufficiently loud in a typical environment with some background noise.
At the same time, 3G is also something of a setback to runtime. The typically high power draw cuts the phone's useful calling time to about four hours, which bore itself out in our tests. And while Sony Ericsson claims 350 hours of standby, this model would typically run low within about four days if nothing was used. Frequent users will need to plug the W760 every day in as though it were a power-hungry 3G smartphone unless they turn off the faster network in favor of GSM and EDGE alone.