Sony Ericsson's slump in market share may have been well-documented worldwide, but the manufacturer hasn't stopped pushing the envelope when it comes to high end phones, and the w995 is no exception.
While it falls firmly into the category of evolution rather than revolution, being reminiscent of most other Walkman slider phones, the w995 adds a very robust feel to an already decent music package.
Solid slide-The phone has a solid slide action, exposing raised keys neatly spaced for easy text input. The pseudo-music control keys on the front, which double as the navigation and enter buttons, are supplemented by three separate controls on the side of the phone, so it can be operated independent of the mode it's currently in.
While it may not seem important, these keys were very easy to find blind, meaning the handset worked very well as a stand-alone music player.While the advent of touch screens is a lot of fun for gadget lovers, the issue of pocket playback is a difficult one to solve, and this phone shows why there will always be a place for physical buttons.
As you might as expect with a handset bearing the Walkman name, music playback is very good, with the Clear Audio technology matching the likes of the Dolby branding on the LG series. The external speakers, two at each end, were very loud and provided decent sound, although it's not the kind of output you'd want to use during a party.
The w995 is also the first handset that Sony Ericsson has produced to incorporate a 3.5mm headphone jack, which is very surprising given the prominence of the Walkman brand, but helps move the phone towards a more complete music player.
The 2.6-inch screen, while not in the same league as the OLED-laden OmniaHD or Nokia N86, is bright clear, and the included kickstand, which has worked well on the N96, lets you watch movies on the go too. While it's unlikely to replace a PMP, the reported 5 hours of battery life is impressive.
Sony Ericsson have also included an 8GB M2 memory card in the box for such media, which is fairly healthy and also obviously allows for expansion in the future if you so wish.Photo firstThe 8MP camera is a first for a Walkman-branded phone, drawing on the ability of the Cyber-shot range. It only uses and LED flash, but given this is a Walkman phone with a camera and not the other way around, it's good enough and throws out a lot of light.
The pictures taken on the handset are bright and clear, and there's the usual mix of photo editing and playback functionality in the camera application to make sure you feel like you have one of the top end phone photography devices on the market.
The insides are much as you'd expect from Sony Ericsson, with a YouTube application added to the video playback menu and the PlayNow portal, which is apparently soon to accommodate movies as well as music, is baked right in as well.The phone is also the first to incorporate the MediaGo software, which allows much easier co-operation between the handset and other Sony products, including the PSP, certain Wi-Fi enabled TVs and the PSP, which apparently will also use the MediaGo software.
Overall, the w995 is an evolution, and a very good one at that. It manages to maintain the good aspects of the Sony Ericsson brand, like music playback, and improve others, although we can't wait until the UI gets an upgrade, as it's been pretty similar for over five years or so.Still, when this handset hits the shops later this year, it's likely to be a winner for the Swedish-Japanese alliance, and will further prove that convergence doesn't always have to be about chunky devices in mobile phones.