The Sony Ericsson Mix Walkman is having an identity crisis. It's part MP3 player, part smartphone-wannabe and part budget feature phone, cutting out features to shed pounds. The result is an ill-conceived, often-overpriced and deceptively underequipped phone that would need to lower its price significantly to be in with a chance of winning a half-hearted recommendation.
Once upon a time, when the world was sepia-coloured and men walked around in bowler hats, doffing it at every passer-by, the term "Walkman" held significant power. Although used by many as a generic term for portable audio players, it was actually a Sony brand. Now, in the time of the iPod - when the ubiquity of Apple's iDevices all-but makes the iPod brand a generic term in itself, a Walkman seems like a quaint throwback to days of yore.
The brand is still used in Sony's rather great dedicated MP3 players like the NWZ-A845 and NWZ-A866, but it is rarely seen as prominently in phones as it is in the Sony Ericsson Mix Walkman mobile. Could it be because this phone is grasping for a reason, an excuse, to exist?
From a casual glance, it looks a lot like a budget smartphone. It has a 3in touchscreen, a single Home button on the front, but it's chubbier and a bit gaudier than most budget Android or Symbian phones. Between the glossy black front and the matt soft-touch plastic battery cover is a band of bright rubbery plastic. Our review model had a lime green one attached and a silver one stashed in the box, but bright pink and more subdued bronze editions also exist.
You can pull this strip away from the body, altering the look just by quickly popping off the battery cover and switching these bands around. With the silver band on, it's a much classier-looking handset, but the Sony Ericsson Mix still looks and feels more like a £50 phone than one that sells for just under £100. The back is lumbered with too many cluttering bits including speaker ports and logos while the 14mm thickness is chunky and the style lacks coherence. The colourful strip may make the phone look a "bit different", but that doesn't equate to the phone looking good. It's uninspiring stuff at best.
We reckon the silver looks a lot nicer. What do you think?
The body does offer some unusual buttons, though. There's a shutter button on the right edge, pretty unusual at this budget level, and there are two Walkman buttons up top. They take you to the media player and the Zappin function, which we'll cover later. It's enough to just-about justify the phone's Walkman status, but note that there aren't actually any direct playback buttons - no play/pause, no fast forward and rewind.
The internal memory also limits the Mix Walkman's potential as a music player. Fresh out of the box there's just over 100MB of free internal memory, barely enough for an album encoded at a decent bit-rate. Yes, the memory is expandable and microSD cards are very cheap, but it's no way for a "music player" phone to make a good impression.