Let’s address these questions one by one. First, it’s good to see that Toshiba has given serious thought to how to implement the tricky balance between MP3 player and phone. It has decided to make all of the TS803’s music-playing features available on the outside of the the clamshell, a nice touch which certainly adds to usability. The main control interface for the music player is a large, rectangular four-way directional pad on the front, and is actually rather good. It makes browsing your music an absolute doddle.
Track information is displayed on a 1.5in monochrome display with a rather snazzy white backlight. Volume controls are located on the left side of the device, and there’s even a hold key to prevent you accidentally kicking off Frank Sinatra’s greatest hits on infinite loop while the phone is in your pocket. If you flip open the phone you can create playlists on the go as well.
The phone comes supplied with a 512MB MiniSD card. That’s a little on the small side for a serious music player, but the fact that it’s removeable means you can at least upgrade if you want to. The memory card slot is easily accessible too. It’s not underneath the battery as it is on so many phones but on the right hand edge of the phone under a small plastic flap.
Unfortunately, that’s where the good news ends for the TS803’s music-playing capabilities. Its main problem is that it will only play DRM-free AAC and fixed bit-rate MP3 files and for a phone with serious music-playing pretentions that’s a big limitation. I tried loading some variable bit rate (VBR) encoded tunes, which give better sound quality for the file size and the phone simply refused to play them. More than a small irritation if, like me, all of the music files on your PC happen to be encoded in this way. On top of this, the phone only has a USB 1.1 connection so transferring tunes is slow.