Like the touchscreen-led design, the Sony Ericsson Mix Walkman’s interface has a go at convincing the ill-informed that it’s a smartphone. Using the corner shortcut layout seen in the Xperia range’s neat little smartphones, it’s reminiscent of dinky Androids like the Xperia X10 Mini.
Any phone function can be put into these four corner shortcut spots, and the shortcuts appear on both of the two home screens. Before you get excited at the mention of home screens, hold back. They don’t do much. One houses a clock while the other displays the favourite contacts list. It looks like a cover flow system, but is static. Like so much of the Mix Walkman, early promise falls apart like a talcum power statue as soon as you look beyond the surface detail.
Delve into the favourite contacts “widget” and there’s a bit more to it than just phone numbers, as it collates their Facebook and Twitter updates as well as text messages and call logs – but using it is hopelessly clumsy and, at times, broken. Contacts have to be manually linked to each of their social network accounts, and the Mix Walkman continually refused to link with Twitter, even while signed-into the built-in Twitter app.
The dedicated Twitter and Facebook apps are less problematic – at least they work – but are in reality little more than web links to the services’ mobile sites. The giveaways are the browser navigation bar at the bottom and the URL bar at the top. This, along with limited connectivity features ensure this isn’t a particularly good social networking phone. There’s no 3G connectivity, so tweeting a picture taken with the phone’s camera when when out of the house is a slow process. So is looking at other people’s pics, although the built-in EDGE connectivity is just about quick enough to make downloading text tweets and updates bearable.
At home, this situation improves. The Sony Ericsson Walkman Mix has Wi-Fi, letting the phone suck data off your home broadband, or the Wi-Fi hotspots of cafes and restaurants. At the best of times, though, this phone is no match for a budget Android phone like the Huawei Blaze or Orange San Francisco. Every time you run one of the phone’s connected apps, you’re asked whether or not to allow mobile internet access – a question that seems rather redundant when you’re accessing Facebook, and one that quickly becomes annoying.
All of the Mix’s apps and games are java-based, making them largely incapable of the kind of behind-the-scenes activity that smartphone alternatives are all about. It’s not a good way to keep up with emails, requiring manual updates and using a rather basic look. Games tend to look very basic and dated too.
Java gaming – fun, but all a bit 2004
Additional apps and games for the phone are sparse too. There’s no proper app store here, just a link to Sony Ericsson’s PlayNow WAP portal. This offers no real apps as such, but does have a bunch of additional games, plus wallpapers, music and ringtones. The price of each is much higher than the smartphone norm though, games usually costing £3 a pop.
The one positive thing to say about the Sony Ericsson Mix Walkman’s low-rent interface is that it’s all operated using a fairly responsive capacitive touchscreen. This is the same kind of technology used in the iPhone 4, and means you don’t have to press down on the screen to get it to respond – contact alone is enough. However, if it had used a resistive screen, at its price it would deserve to be paraded through the streets while being pelted with tomatoes.
With a 3in widescreen, Sony Ericsson has sensibly left you with T9 numerical keypad input rather than a full Qwerty. This keyboard is used when typing out text messages and in the default web browser. The predictive dictionary is pretty limited, though, and typing-out words manually to get them added to its library feels clumsy and slow. We also wished an option to use a full Qwerty in landscape mode had been included – as there’s enough space when held like this. Instead, you’re stuck with the T9 pad.