Sony Ericsson has made a neat job of the front controls. A round navigation button sits under the screen and offers music playback controls as well as the usual directional movement. To its left and right are two buttons which provide Call and End and access to the softmenus. They are small, but nicely shaped and raised from their surroundings making them easy to hit accurately.
Beneath these are the – again small – Clear key and Toolbar key. The latter when pressed takes you to Sony Ericsson’s familiar tabbed screen. Three of the tabs offer alerts, access to running apps and user identified shortcuts. There is a fourth tab, which in this case drops you into a range of Vodafone Live! services. I’ve said it before, but this system is an exceptionally user-friendly way of getting around a complex mobile easily. Set up your shortcuts how you like them and you can breeze around.
Almost unnoticed above the screen are two more keys. Unmarked, they flank the speaker and video call camera and are designated for use in gaming. The idea is that you can hold the phone sideways on and use both hands for gaming control.
When you aren’t gaming one of the keys takes you to photos stored on the phone, the other to a picture slideshow application complete with fade-in and musical accompaniment. You select themes according to your mood: sad, romantic, happy, energy – or silent.
Now I am not going to say much against the screen. Its 240 x 320 pixels and 262 thousand colours don’t break any new ground, nor does its 2.4 diagonal inches. It is clear and bright, sure, but no more than I expect from a top-notch Sony Ericsson handset these days.
”Gimmick alert!” – Shake control.
You normally move through music on your mobile by using a button of some kind, and you do have that option here via the navigation pad. But you can also shake this mobile to wiffle through tracks.
There is a small Walkman key on the top edge of the phone. Hold this down and then shake the phone a little. The phone magically moves through tracks. Shake right to go forward, left to go back, and shake it all about to shuffle a playlist. Why the phone has to vibrate to tell you this action has been recognised is beyond me. You hear the track change almost immediately.
This works when the handset keys are locked which could be useful, but the small Walkman button is a fiddle to press and impossible to get to at all when the slider is opened. Also, trust me when I say that I’ve watched people shake their phone in public and they look, well, stupid…