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The W960i is, on the face of it, the mobile every smartphone fan should want. Stylish to look at, full of data rich capability with a Walkman button, camera and strong on-paper specifications, it packs in the features.
There is 8GB of internal memory (no expansion slots) and the phone is tri-band GSM with 3G. It is a bit large at 109mm tall, 55mm wide and 16mm thick, though it is OK on the weight front at 119g.
Now, I'm a smartphone user, but I've never been that big a fan of UIQ, at least as it is implemented by Sony Ericsson. I know the operating system is powerful and I know it is capable of a lot. I know there is oodles of supplied software, and I know that it has plenty of fans. But quite simply, I just don't find the user interface intuitive, nor the insistence on using sometimes teeny touch buttons very user friendly.
This goes right back to first principles. I'm a great believer in mobile phones that are easy to use, and that goes for phones aimed at every level of the market from those that just want to make a voice call and send the odd SMS to those that want mobile email, music, the Internet, video calling, handwriting recognition and the whole shebang.
Long-time readers will recall that this time last year I looked at Sony Ericsson's W950i, this phone's predecessor. It got a six out of ten overall score and the reason for that was the user interface. What has the W960i done to move things along?
A little bit, but not enough.
Sad to report there are still teeny tiny touch icons which require some precise fingertip control to hit accurately. Sure, you could pull out the stylus from its housing on the phone, but that's an extra process and one many users will get fed up with quickly.
Sometimes finding what you want is also a challenge. You want to get to the video player? Work out that the touch button with four dots on it takes you to the main menu and cruise around the icons. Find the one marked ‘Multimedia' and select it. Camera, RSS feeds, PlayNow, Picture Gallery, More applications. More applications takes you to the Web for downloading. No video playback, though. OK, let's try the Entertainment group instead. Aha! FM radio, Online media, MusicDJ, Sound recorder, two games, and Video.
I don't understand why these two groups aren't conflated into one, and no, you can't alter the structure. Once you are experienced with the phone it's probably not a significant point, but there is a definite learning curve.