Sony Ericsson W890i review
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AP Price: RM 548 - 563
By Michell Bak
Sony Ericsson W890i is the multi-talented successor of the revolutionary W880 that was announced in a little over a year ago. W890i follows up by increasing the depth of the phone with a meaningless 0.5 millimetres while adding a whole lot of features and a Design that is to die for.
- Slick and beautiful metallic design
- Size and weight (only 9.6 millimetres thin!)
- Beautiful display
- HSDPA, Quad-band GSM, EDGE and Bluetooth 2.0 EDR
- Walkman 3.0 for superb music playing, TrackID
- 2 GB MemoryStick Micro
- FM radio with RDS
- Superior user interface and positioning services
- Access NetFront web browser 3.4
- Display is only 2 inches large
- No W-LAN for buying music online
- Camera lacks auto focus and a flash
- No accelerometer for motion based applications and features
- Limited Internal memory (~ 26 megabytes free)
If you compare the W890 to its predecessor, the W880, you’ll quickly notice that W890 looks more complete in its design than the now 1-year old W880. There’s no obvious difference in the thickness of the phones, so I’m not too worried about the 0.2 millimetres the W890 has put on.
Both phones are obviously not heavy to hold and especially the W890 feels really good in your palm. where the W880 had square-like edges, the W890 has rounded edges, which feels much better.
The W890 comes in a swift-looking box that holds 3 different smaller boxes; one with the phone, one with the bundled accessories and one with the manuals, guarantee papers and the application disc. Being that this is a music phone, it comes with some nice starter in-earphones that give a nice bass. The mandatory charger and USB cable is of course also present in the sales box.
“It’s less than a centimetre thick!”
W890 sports a regular candy bar form factor with rounded edges. It is obvious that the design of W890 has been inspired by circles and round lines - probably to prevent getting the edgy look of the W880 again. A crisp 2.0-inch QVGA resolution display is to be found on the front of the phone. It can display up to 262.144 colours and does an excellent job in terms of colour saturation and brightness. The display can be viewed in direct sunlight without any problems.
The keypad on the W890 has a good feel to it. Buttons give a good feedback and it is generally a pleasure to use. The alpha-numeric keys are well-spaced with only the navigation D-pad and soft keys being a bit close to each other. The keys are a bit small but that’s what you’d expect from a small phone like this.
W890’s dimensions are 104 x 46.5 x 9.9 millimetres and it weighs a mere 78 grams. The small size and light weight makes it fit in any pocket and gives it a good feel in your palm. W890 is available in three colour trimmings; Espresso Black, Mocha Brown and Sparkling Silver.
The back of W890 is very simple to look at. High quality brushed metal is used to cover most of the back with a shiny Walkman logo breaking the purity of the material. A camera is placed on the top as well as the Sony Ericsson logo. Just between the camera and the logo is a mono loud speaker. On the bottom you’ll find the lanyard eyelet.
The left side sports the standard Fast Port connector for connecting to your computer, listening to music and alike. A golden Walkman button is also present which acts as a short cut key for easy access to the Walkman music player. On the top of the sides are two battery cover locks to keep the back cover in place. The right side is primarily for camera use with the camera shutter button near the bottom of the side and zoom / volume keys near the top of the side. The MemoryStick Micro slot is actually also on the right side of the phone but is hidden behind the back cover, which must be removed first to manage the memory card.
Nothing besides a Walkman logo is placed in the bottom of the phone. The top holds the on/off button. This is quite peculiar since the on/off button was placed at the ‘c’-key on the W880.
The battery in the W890 is a standard 950 mAh BST-33 Lithium-Polymer battery. Sony Ericsson claims the standby battery life is 360 hours while talk time is 9½ hours. These numbers are quite spectacular for a phone this thin. Best of all is that they seem to be correct. The W890 manages to keep going for about 4 days of normal use which is more than acceptable.
It’s flashy and vibrating
Sony Ericsson’s feature phone user interface is intuitive, fast and very easy to use. It takes only minutes getting used to and it’s a graphical pleasure to look at. There are quite a few flashy effects in the interface that makes the handset a bit funnier to use.
Not only are there flashy effects as a standard part of the user interface, the W890 also comes with 5 different themes (Bronzy, Clarity, Musaic, Purple sky & Walkman) where 3 of them include Flash Lite menu layouts - that’s Bronzy, Musaic and Purple Sky. I personally prefer the Purple Sky theme as it includes a really nice menu look with cool transitions. All menu layouts sport a 3 x 4 icon grid and sadly not something like on the W910 where there are three layouts to choose from. Expect the menu layouts to be an option to choose from in future firmware updates, though.
The wallpapers are also Flash-based so if you have your music playing, the song details will automatically be displayed on the wallpaper.
The operating system in W890 is the OSE-based A200 developed by Swedish Enea. A200 is the most fully featured Software platform in any Sony Ericsson feature phone and it can be updated with many more features than it currently holds. This is also planned to be done in the future (TV-out, WLAN and advanced media handling) but for now the prime focus is to get rid of bugs and optimize its Performance. While W890 feels like a stable product there are a few minor bugs reported. I have however not experienced any problems with W890 during the test period whatsoever.
People upgrading from older Sony Ericsson phones may notice that the back-key has disappeared. This is due to the new software platform based on a 3 soft keys. The left key acts as an option-key, the middle key acts as the action-key for confirming actions, while the right key acts as the back-key.
Another thing people will notice is that there are now two dedicated call keys to handle incoming and outgoing calls. The activity menu short cut key is still present and takes you to Sony Ericsson’s unique activity menu with short cuts to various features, new events, running applications and your web short cuts and bookmarks.
Very smart phone-ish
As former mentioned, W890 offers an extensive menu of activities. This is actually more advanced that what most smart phones has to offer, and Sony Ericsson has to be given credits for this brilliant multi-menu. With support for multiple applications running at once, we’re getting more and more close to entering the smart phone-sphere.
W890 is one of the first Sony Ericsson phones to include positioning services. This means that Google Maps Mobile is included and so is positioning software for use with extra GPS accessories. Google Maps Mobile works brilliantly on the W890 because of the 3G / HSDPA connections available with W890. This removes any lags when loading maps in the application. One must be careful when using this application and the positioning services in general as they do include large data transmissions.
Only one Java application comes with the W890. It is called Music Mate 4 and is a music composer application. You can choose from a large number of musical instruments, beats and tunes - once you’re done you can start making music! Here is where I miss the accelerometer in the W890. W910 - a music phone with a built-in accelerometer - has also got Music Mate 4 pre-installed and the application works with the accelerometer in W910 so you can swing your phone around and it’ll make sounds and tunes according to what direction you move the phone in.
I think a weather application and possibly also the Gmail Java client would be very nice to see pre-installed on the W890.
The 11th menu icon holds the organizer menu. This is where you’ll find the file manager, alarms, applications, video calls, calendar, tasks, notes, remote synchronization, timer, stopwatch, a simple calculator and a code memo application that acts like a password-protected storage of personal information.
The file manager holds all files on the phone. It is separated into 8 folders according to the content, plus an extra one called ‘Other’ for any files that don’t fit into the other folders. You have several ways of viewing your content in the file manager, and it is possible to perform various actions as well. You can manage your files, send them (picture message, email, blog or via Bluetooth), you can print your photos, you can rename, delete and mark files. The file manager is Sony Ericsson’s feature phones is without doubt one of the best on the market and is on par - and in some cases even better - with the standard file managers on most smart phones.
You can set up to 5 different alarms and it is possible to make them recurrent, meaning that you can set them to alarm on a number of repeating days. Alarms can be saved with notes, different alarm signals and even an alarm picture to scare you out of bed!
The calender application works a treat and pretty much does what it’s suppose to do. You can view your calendar entries by date, week or month view. Appointments are created with information about the subject, start time, date, duration, location & description. It is also possible to set a reminder. If it’s a recurrent appointment, you can set that as well.
You can set up a remote synchronization account on the phone. The phone supports two account types - SyncML and Exchange ActiveSync. I personally do not have any accounts, but it is said to work fine.
Tasks & notes can be created on the phone. Notes can also be shown in standby which works really nice. Tasks work as you’d expect. likewise, there is nothing spectacular about the timer and stopwatch feature.
The calculator is very simple to use and can display up to 9 digits. It can multiply, divide, substrate and add numbers. It can also perform percent calculations.
Media is of big focus on the W890 and all other phones based on this operating system. An application called Media is to be found in the main menu. This application holds all photos, songs and videos on the device, with future plans of adding extra content such as games, RSS feeds & online TV shows (YouTube!). The user interface is very much like the one on the PSP and is a breeze to work with. There are nice transitions and cool effects in the different media browsers.
In Media Settings you can change the display mode - either portrait mode or landscape mode. Unfortunately there is no accelerometer in W890 so it doesn’t feature automatic display mode changes. In future firmware revisions we should also see TV-out support in selected phones from the Media menu.
The camera disappoints
The back of W890 sports a 3.2 mega pixels fixed focus CMOS sensor camera - unfortunately. Unfortunately because the camera does not feature auto focus, so you’re doomed if you want to do close-ups or want to do nice portrait with high levels of details - or any kind of photos with high level details. Furthermore, W890 lacks a photo flash for taking pictures in low-light environments.
The camera interface looks nice and is extremely easy to use. It takes no time to figure out how things are put together and where the various settings are to be found. As you might have guessed the camera interface is also highly animated and includes small effects here and there. It all works brilliantly!
If you haven’t got time to go through the menus to reach the appropriate settings, you can use the default keypad short cuts. You can check out the different short cuts in the picture above. If you do want to check out the camera settings, this is what you can mess around with;
- Shoot mode - Normal, Panorama, Frames & Burst
- Picture size - 3 MP (2048 x 1536 pixels), 2 MP (1600 x 1200 pixels), 1 MP (1280 x 960 pixels) & VGA (640 x 480 pixels)
- Night mode - Off & On
- Self-timer - Off & On
- White balance - Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent & Incandescent
- Effects - Off, Black & white, Negative & Sepia
- Settings - Picture quality (Fine & Normal), Review (On & Off), Save to (Mem. card & Phone mem.), Auto rotate (On & Off), Shutter sound (Sound 1, Sound 2, Sound 3, Sound 4 & Off) & Reset counter.
Sick of settings? Let’s get on with some samples photo by the W890. Click to enlarge. Photo samples will be up ASAP!
Photos are often very well saturated and colours are very much like reality, which is obviously a very good thing. However, the photos lack sharpness and details. Most of the time large amounts of details are blurred all together, i.e. if you take a picture of a grass lawn or a tree, you won’t be able to separate many leafs from great mass of blur. If you want to take photos of something without lots of small details (like a building), the camera does OK. The noise reduction in the phone performs above average and helps a bit in low light situations. W890 supports Photo Fix to fix small light and contrast issues in your photos, and it works pretty well in about 50% of the cases.
You can also record videos on the W890. Videos are encoded in MP4 format with AAC audio coding. W890 delivers up to 30 frames per second videos in QVGA resolution (320 x 240 pixels). The quality is generally acceptable but far from brilliant. You won’t be able to use it for much other than showing your friends on the phone or sending in an MMS message. You can download a video sample below (right click and save). Video sample will be up ASAP!
You can browse your captures easily from the camera menu by changing from camera mode to preview mode. The photo viewer is excellent and has lots of cool features such as the brilliant X-Pict Story slide show feature with different mood songs, effects and transitions. You can tag your photos and have them sorted nicely that way. Photos are also sorted by month which is actually a nice way of having the photos organized.
Music phone 3.0
The new features in Walkman 3.0 compared to earlier versions is the improved user interface and the addition of features like SensMe
and the ability to sort music by genre and year. Another nice addition
is the fact that audio books can now be used with the Walkman player
easier and same goes for podcasts which can be handled on your computer
with the bundled media software.
W890 supports lots of common audio codecs, such as M4A, MP3,
AAC, AAC+, E-AAC+, WAV & WMA. Equalizers can be set to enhance your
music and with 4 presets and the option to manually set an equalizer
you should have more than enough to fiddle around with here. If you
decide to minimize the Walkman player while listening to music, the
song information will be printed on the wallpaper of the phone.
Furthermore, when you play your music on W890, the keypad illuminates
according to the mood of the song. That looks very neat!
The audio quality on W890 has to be among the best I’ve
heard. The bass level is nice and deep, and the sound is generally loud
and clear. For me, the W890 audio quality is definitely better than the
W910’s audio quality.
It is possible to change the visualization to either
display to album cover or one of five different visualizations (waves,
Walkman lines, inner twirl, circles, album lines) or no visualization
at all. Other features include the ability to repeat and randomize the
song tracks on your play list.
One of the features the W880 lacked was an FM-radio
tuner. Sony Ericsson has fixed that with the W890 and also added the
addition of RDS so you won’t have to bother about losing the radio
signal. Up to 20 radio frequencies can be saved automatically and are
then displayed in a list view for easy browsing. W890 displays standard
radio station info texts. If you like the song on the radio, yet you
don’t know what the name of it is, you can use the TrackID service to
record a short sample and have it sent to Gracenote’s huge database to
receive an answer only seconds later. If your operator supports it,
there will also be a link to buy the song.
The Sims on your phone
Three games are bundled with the W890: Lumines Block
Challenge, Sims 2 and Tennis Multiplay. The last one is a 3D game and
is probably also the best of the bunch, but let’s have a look at them
Lumines Block Challenge is a puzzle game,
where the object of the game is to match up falling blocks and create
patterns. It might take a while to fully understand the purpose of the
game, but it’s actually a pretty decent game when you figure out how to
Sims 2 is a mobile version of the extremely
popular ‘The Sims’-series games. It actually works out all right on the
phone but it is very limited compared to the computer / console
versions. In the mobile game you can only do a limited amount of
purchases and upgrades before there’s nothing more to buy or more
people to meet. This is a bit of a let-down as it’s a very nice
simulator game. The graphics is pretty simple but far from bad and the
gameplay is quite good.
Tennis Multiplay is the only 3D game on the
W890. It’s probably the best tennis game out there for mobile phones
and it’s really a fun game! You can play tournaments and singles in
order to upgrade your player’s skills. If you want to improve your
gaming skills you can also do a few training sessions. The graphics
looks quite good and it’s easy to play the game.
Enhanced web browser
W890 is a Quad-band GSM phone with EDGE, UMTS & 3.6
Mbps HSDPA-support. Furthermore it has Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR (transfer
speeds at about 140 KB/s) and it supports A2DP for streaming stereo
audio via Bluetooth. I’ve tested this with a MBS-100 and it worked just
fine. It supports USB 2.0, which works quite fast in USB mass storage
mode. There is no infrared connection on this phone.
Access NetFront 3.4 is the mobile web browser in W890.
However, it has been significantly enhanced compared to the same
version in phones like K850 and W910. It now includes a mouse for easy
navigation and generally it seems a whole lot more fast! It does mobile
websites as well as fully featured HTML websites without any problems.
It supports light Java scripts, but no Flash support is present. It has
a built-in Google search feature as well as a link to Sony Ericsson’s
music store called m-buzz.
If the website you’re visiting supports RSS-feeds, you can add the feed to the phone’s built-in RSS reader. Once you update the RSS library, the feeds can be shown on the standby screen.
I had some problems setting up my Gmail email account
on W890 (for some reason it simply wouldn’t work), so I quickly
downloaded the free Gmail Mobile application. W890 supports IMAP4 and
Phone book works great
With room for up to 1000 contacts and a total of 7000
numbers I have my doubts if anyone will ever make use of all that room
for phone numbers. Contacts can be stored with full informations
including numerous different types of telephone numbers, email
addresses, website, name, picture, special ring tone, work and private
related informations about postal address, title and so on. Finally
there’s also the option to add a date for the contact’s birthday - this
date can then be put in the calendar and the phone will remind you that
the contact’s birthday is coming up. This is actually quite brilliant
and has saved my life quite a few times.
One of the best things in W890 is the Smart Search
feature. Imagine you’d have to go through a list of hundreds of
contacts just to find one number. Those days are over with Smart
Search. If you want to find my contact entry in the phone book, you’d
simply have to type “6, 4″ for “M, i” and my entry would pop up as well
as other entries where this number combination fits (this could be
Michael, Nick, etc.). It also works with telephone numbers, so if you
were to find the number “123456789″, you could simply type in “1, 2″
and it would pop up.
The phone book in W890 is simply brilliant and outperforms most of the competitors.
You can create MMS and SMS messages on the W890 as well
as voice messages. Both the MMS and SMS editor is superb and this is an
area where competitors can only dream of getting close to Sony
Ericsson’s ease of use and features. You can add smilies, tunes,
pictures and animations to your SMS messages with EMS support. The T9
dictionary in Sony Ericsson phones is known as probably being the best
and most extensive in the world. If a word is not in the dictionary,
you can add it yourself, and the phone will remember it from that day
A few MMS & SMS templates are on the phone and you
can of course add your own. Messages can be saved on either the phone
memory or the memory card.
If you go in to messaging settings on W890, you’ll
probably be overwhelmed by the many settings. Not only does W890
support all the normal features like message receipts, it also triumphs
with some really cool features like requesting an answer and what
message type you want to use.
Calls & calls management
To call somebody simply type in their number or find the contact in the phone book and then press the green call key. Once you’re done with the call, press the red end key to end the call. This is how the new system works on A2-based phones. Older Sony Ericsson phones used the soft keys to handle calls, and I quite liked that way, but this new one seems better.
The sound quality during calls is good. The volume is quite high and you can put it on speaker if you want other people to listen as well. It seems like there is no noticeable background noise during calls.
You can manage your calls on the phone and set the
various call settings like speed dialling. The call list holds the last
30 calls. However, if you’ve called a contact more than once, only the
most recent call will be displayed.
Sony Ericsson W890 is a case of love at first sight.
It’s a brilliant music phone and it has some nice features like the web
browser, Media system, excellent phone book and messaging abilities. I
have not experienced any serious bugs in the firmware and have only
experienced one reboot - probably because it was running 4 applications
Even though W890 seems like a well connected device, I would still love to see the addition of WLAN on it. Luckily, Sony Ericsson has plans of releasing a WLAN accessory, so if this accesory is priced right, I can’t blame the Swedish-Japanese company.
The pricing of W890 isn’t bad. At the moment you can
get a W890 for about £250 unbranded and unlocked to all networks. This
is definitely not a bad price for a phone with HSDPA.
Batteries in thin phones are often not that
long-lasting, so I of course had my doubts about the battery life on
W890. However, I had no reason to doubt it! It lasts about four days on
a full charge. A performance I am more than thrilled about.
W890 is a brilliant buy and I can highly recommend it
to anyone out there. Can I please keep my review model, Sony Ericsson?
[Review based on firmware revision R1EA030]
Original article published at The Unofficial Sony Ericsson Blog