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Sony Ericsson just keeps on coming with the mobile phones. In April I looked at both the non-Walkman lime green and white K660i on 3 and the Walkman branded W890i. Both are candybar style handsets, and both had plenty of good stuff about them.
Now the tri-band W380i comes along. This is a clamshell format mobile and is designed to bring the Walkman branding and features to those that want to watch the pennies.
In design terms I've seen better from Sony Ericsson. I'm not thrilled by the angular look of this phone or by the weird bumpy pimples that sit on the front fascia. It just doesn't look very appealing to me. But in fact the pimples are mostly about music playback control. Above them is a letterbox style OLED screen which stays invisible till you play music, or until it gets something to display such as information about an incoming call or SMS.
In the latter two cases the screen shows you who is trying to make contact. In the former you can control music playback by touching the pimples which get backlit as you use them. They are arranged in three blocks which, if you look carefully, equate to forward, back and pause/play symbols.
A slider on the back of the casing that looks for all the world like a lock for the battery cover is in fact a lock for these touch buttons. The lock is a bit of a fiddle to use, but at least you can disable and enable the ‘pimples' as required.
If you think that is weird then wait till you start using the gesture control. There is a bright light under the front mounted lens for the camera. This light comes on when a call is coming in and when an alarm you've set for the phone turns on. You can dismiss either call or alarm by waving your hand over the light. As long as your hand is not more than 7cm away from the light the alarm will go off or the call will be dismissed.
I tried it, and it worked. But I felt like a numpty waving my hand over the phone when out and about to get rid of an unwanted incoming call. And when using the phone as a wake-up alarm I usually had to find the phone before waving at it, so that opening the clam and dismissing in the old fashioned way was never much extra work.
I've already mentioned that I am not a fan of the angular look of this phone. Its size also reduces its appeal for me. The 100g of weight is no problem at all. But this phone is big. With the clam closed it measures 92mm tall, 49mm wide and 16mm thick. Open the clam and it grows to somewhere in the region of 165mm tall. That is just vast when you compare this mobile to the small Sony Ericsson candybars mentioned earlier.