If you must have a phone with music playing abilities then Sony Ericsson’s range of Walkman handsets is likely to be at the top of your short list. It offers a wide range of such phones so it come as no surprise to see a slider enter the fray in the shape of the 3G, Tri-band W850i.
I’m quite a fan of the slider format. Good examples are small in the hand and are well featured The W850i meets the feature target well but it’s not all that petite.
It is 98mm tall, 47mm wide and 21mm thick and grows to around 130mm tall when slid open. These dimensions and its 116g weight make the other music slider phone I’ve looked at recently, the Nokia 5300 XpressMusic seem comparatively small.
Still, Sony Ericsson certainly knows how to do a music focussed handset, and the W850i shows this off in several ways. It is rather nicely designed and in particular the front panel offers all the music controls you need. There are two enormous soft-menu buttons which, when the music player is active, enable you to easily stop and restart music and to get to the player menus.
Below these, where you might normally expect to see a navigation pad is an area with a single pause/play button in a thumb-convenient recess. This is surrounded by four dots which light up orange when the player is active, white in other circumstances. By pressing on or near these dots you can navigate the entire play queue or music library as well as go forward and backwards within the playing track. The four dots are not buttons, nor is the area around them touch sensitive. You effectively press the casing inwards to activate a button beneath it. The orange dots offer something to aim for with the thumb pad or nail and the system works very well.
When you are not in the music player these four ‘buttons’ can be assigned to shortcuts, while the central button calls up the phone’s main menu.
There is a separate button dedicated to launching the music player. This is a long lozenge immediately beneath the screen. I found the way it pulsates with orange light as music plays very irritating and turning that feature off was one of my first tweaks of this handset.
Four more physical and quite small buttons sit on the outer edge of the front panel and these are Back, Internet, Cancel and Activity menu keys.