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Sony Ericsson Zylo W20i - Interface, Music Player and Battery Life

Niall Magennis

By Niall Magennis



Our Score:


If you’ve used an entry-level or mid-range Sony Ericsson handset in the last five years the Zylo’s menu system will feel familiar. Hit the menu button and you’re greeted with a traditional grid of friendly icons that give you access to stuff like the phone’s settings, Internet browser, contacts book and camera.

There are a few changes here and there, however. For example, on the home screen there’s a Media soft button that takes you to the Xrossmediabar interface, which you can use to browse through your photos, videos and music tracks. There’s also another softkey marked Search for quickly performing a Google search. Just enter some text and it’ll fire up the phone’s web browser to display the results. There are also applets for Facebook, Twitter and MySpace, and although these are somewhat limited in their functionality, they do have associated widgets that you can plonk on the homescreen.

The handset’s browser obviously isn’t in the same league as those on the iPhone or Android operating systems, but it gets the job done and is reasonably fast at loading and rendering pages. As the Zylo has an accelerometer, when you tilt the phone on its side the browser automatically switches to a landscape view. The phone doesn’t have Wi-Fi onboard, but it does support HSDPA, so as long as you can get 3G reception, web browsing is fairly speedy.

Of course, as a Walkman handset its music player is perhaps the most interesting feature. The Sony Ericsson Walkman applet was one of the best music players around for a long time, but in this age of smartphones it now looks a bit dated. Still, it’s pretty easy to navigate as your tracks are sorted into the usual artist, album and track categories. Interestingly, along with the usual line-up of music formats such as MP3 and WMA, the phone is one of the few to support the FLAC lossless format.

Unfortunately, the phone comes with a set of bud earphones rather than the isolating in-ear headphones that ship with Sony Ericsson’s pricier Walkman handset. The headphones actually sound good, but they’re not as comfortable to wear and don’t block out as much background noise as the in-ear ones do. The sound quality from the phone is rather good, too, as it can deliver deep bass and crisp high end while maintaining a solid mid range presence. And though the onboard storage of 260MB is limiting, a low cost microSD memory card can be slid into a slot hidden beneath the battery cover.

The handset’s camera isn’t quite as good as the music player, however. It has a 3.2-megapixel resolution, but it doesn’t have autofocus or a flash. The lack of a flash means indoor shots tend to look very dark and grainy, but the camera isn’t too bad when working outdoors. Colours tend to look accurate, although the sensor doesn’t capture as much fine detail as we would have liked.

As you would expect from a Sony Ericsson handset, the call quality was excellent. However, we found that its reception wasn’t quite as good as some other models we’ve tested recently, especially when it came to holding on to a 3G signal in marginal areas. On the battery front, Sony Ericsson reckons the Zylo is good for 4 hours of talk-time or around 16 days on standby. But for a mixture of calls and music listening we needed to charge it every two to two and a half days, which is average for this type of handset.


The Zylo is not a handset that is breaking any new ground as its design and user interface aren't really any different to what we’ve seen previously on Sony Ericsson Walkman phones. However, if you’re looking for a traditional handset that’s easy to use, relatively inexpensive and has most of the basics covered, it’s not a bad option. That said, the lack of a standard headphone jack or even an adaptors cable to allow you to use your own headphone still jars with us, especially as the phone comes with Walkman branding.

Carrier pricing updates & information supplied by WhistleOut


November 3, 2010, 12:34 pm

"The Zylo’s design would have been cutting edge if it had been launched a couple of years ago". That's the pertinent comment here.

Sony's caught up in the same bureaucratic processes that have weakened Nokia, and it's reflected in the dated product line. Really - why would anyone release a music phone now - with Android, it's zero cost to make it a smartphone.

This is what happens when the accountants, lawyers and middle managers win over the designers.


November 3, 2010, 8:55 pm

Nice wallpaper :)


November 3, 2010, 9:19 pm

@SRS: Actually, not everyone wants a smartphone. I know that's hard to believe when you read a site like this, but those people do exist. Two of them are my parents.

Reduced battery life and increased bulk notwithstanding, smartphones require you to learn a whole new way of interacting with your phone - through a touchscreen. This isn't something my 8-year-old nephew has a problem with, but my parents are completely flummoxed by it. Concepts like customisable desktops and app stores just don't strike a chord with them, they'd rather have something that follows the intuitive conventions they've become used to over the past decades. Things like number pads and call start/end buttons.

The iPhone is the only smartphone I would consider giving to my parents, but it just costs too darn much for what they'll get out of it. Bring on the iPhone nano I say...


November 3, 2010, 9:47 pm

@Chris - that's a very fair point.

But do your parents want a musicphone - which will have some added complexity - or do they want something easy to use that just makes and receives calls? If the latter, then I'd argue the Sony isn't any good for them (and millions of others too) either.

A lot of people's phone requirements might be covered by something like this: http://www.silverphone.co.u...

I still can't see who will buy the Sony...


November 3, 2010, 10:53 pm

What Chris said. Why do reviewers (and others) assume that a smartphone is inherently better regardless of the user's needs, and that to make anything other than a smartphone is a mistake? For the record, I have a smartphone. It's an excellent smartphone, and allows me to check e-mails, browse the Internet, use various social messaging and network apps, the list goes on... it's also a pain in the backside. It needs charging every other day (which is apparently good for a smartphone!), is large enough to be unwieldy, and above all it complicates the simple yet rather important task of actually calling people... incidentally, before you say "You should have bought Smartphone X", in my opinion this last point applies to ALL smartphones. In my opinion every one of them, without exception, is inferior to a dumbphone in terms of being used as a TELEPHONE.

Smartphone evangelists tend to be rather blind to their shortcomings - for example, I have seen many smartphones criticised for providing a whole one or two physical buttons, on the basis that everything should be handled on-screen. This ignores one rather important factor - the weather. Hands tend to be sweaty in summer, and cold (and therefore covered by gloves) in winter. Both can cause problems when it comes to simply choosing to accept a call. Plus, considering all the emphasis on "Intuitive" interfaces nowadays, jabbing one physical button to make a call and another to end it is about as intuitive as you can get - and a physical keypad is inherently easier to use when, for various reasons, you can't look at the screen!

I wouldn't give up my smartphone but still feel the need to own a dumbphone for a number of situations. More importantly I accept that there is a need for choice, in the same way that I wouldn't suggest doing away with all compact cameras on the basis that SLRs are "better". Many, many people (still the majority in fact) do not need or want what a smartphone has to offer. This does not make them insane...


November 3, 2010, 11:48 pm

@SRS: Actually, both of my parents are proud owners of Sony Ericsson W910s at the moment. They've always liked the Ericsson interface (they've had SE phones since before Ericsson became SE) and the Walkman features just add an extra button that they never press. That button didn't cost them anything, both phones were bought cheap on PAYG at the end of the model's life. Admittedly, buying a *new* Walkman phone for either of them wouldn't represent a sensible purchasing decision...

However, I see your point. If people like my parents don't use the Walkman features and everyone else buys a smartphone, what's the purpose of the Walkman phone? Maybe that's why the market at large has stopped taking any notice.

PS I've recently recommended a similar phone to the one you linked for my mother's octogenarian foster parents. One has arthritis and neither has owned a mobile phone before, so it seemed like the right choice. My parents aren't quite there yet :)

Neil B

November 4, 2010, 2:01 pm

MrGodfrey, I couldn't agree more. I have a smartphone that enables me to do all the normal smartphone things, email, web, social networking etc.. But it has a smaller screen that enables it to have lots of physical buttons and makes it more pocket friendly. Also the battery life is pretty decent as I can go 2-3 days between charges depending on how much I've hammered the GPS/wi-fi etc.

In fact the only thing I miss out on are fart apps and angry birds, but that's a sacrifice I'm prepared to make ;-)

Oh and my phone is well over 2 years old now and still going strong.


January 24, 2012, 7:39 pm

Does anyone know how I can install skype on this phone? Is it even possible? If so can someone please send me a link or something? Thanks

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