The "Live With Walkman" Android 2.3 smart phone from Sony Ericsson

The phone comes with a unique GUI interface.  (Source: Sony Ericsson)
Mixed package offers some appeal, but is unfortunately limited

Sony Ericsson -- a 50-50 mobile devices venture between Sweden's Ericsson AB (privately held) and Japan's Sony Corp. (TYO:6758) -- appears to be finally getting serious about the U.S. smartphone market.

In May it released the long-rumored "PlayStation Phone" (official the Xperia Play) in the U.S. on the Verizon Communications, Inc. (VZ) network.  While the phone received enthusiasm for its slide out gaming controls and overall relatively slick Android experience, it has been sluggish in sales with Sony Ericsson resorting to selling the phone for 1 penny with contract through retailer, Inc. (AMZN).

Today Sony Ericsson revived [press release] another familiar brand -- the Walkman.  It has created the "Live With Walkman" phone, which promises a music-themed smartphone experience.

The phone features several key technologies including a proprietary Walkman-branded music player app, which promises to make slicker playlists than the average Android, and xLoud integration, which promises to allow users to go deaf quicker by making "it possible to listen loud without distortion."

The phone itself looks distinctive, with a slick stylized case featuring extremely curved top and bottom lips.  It's hard to tell if this is conscious effort on Sony Ericsson's part to avoid becoming Apple, Inc.'s (AAPL) latest lawsuit victim 
[1][2][3][4][5] (Apple claims to own the rights to any thin black rectangular smartphone).  But regardless, it's nice to see smartphone makers thinking outside the box when it comes to design (à la Nokia Oyj.'s (HEL:NOK1Vunusually-shaped X7 smart phone).

When it comes to the operating system, Sony Ericsson again deserves kudos.  Unlike some sluggish third party partners, Sony Ericsson is delivering the latest and greatest version of Android -- Android 2.3 "Gingerbread".  

And it even has one of the first skins that seems like it might be more of a help than a hindrance -- a design in which the home screen has four interface elements that serve as customizable launchers for apps and features.  Overall the launcher looks pretty sweet.

But for all the good, comes the bad.  They say that beauty is often only skin deep.  That's certainly true with the Live With Walkman phone.  

Inside it packs an anemic 512 MB RAM (with 320 MB for apps, same as the Xperia Play) and a single core 1 GHz MSM8255 Snapdragon processor (with second generation ARMv7 "Scorpion" core design and Adreno 205 GPU) from Qualcomm, Inc. (QCOM) -- a chip also found in Xperia Play and "Desire" from HTC Corp. (
SEO:066570).  It's not exactly weak, but to call it "powerful" seems a bit of hyperbole, when many Androids are debuting with faster dual-core processors.

While in most apps you may not notice that big a difference with the processor -- and may come out a bit ahead even with battery life -- the phone's single most egregious flaw is its low resolution 480x320 3.2-inch color screen.  Such screens are going the way of the dinosaur, and it's sad to see one in what otherwise would have been a polished flagship product.

The rest of the hardware is mediocre -- Bluetooth 2.1 (typical), Wi-Fi, aGPS, 5 MP camera w/ HD (720p) video recording, mini USB, etc.  Since the phone is a bit more bulbous, it would have been nice if they could have squeezed in a full 1/4" headphone jack (which would have added to the audiophile appeal), but they only manage the standard 3.5 mm model.

In short, if you asked us if we wanted to "Live With Walkman", we're pretty conflicted.  After all Sony Ericsson is offering some sweet exclusive smart phones between this and the Xperia, and is showing off some surprisingly good-looking GUIs.  However, its poor screen resolution and lack of memory make this an Android phone which we feel is best suited for entry level Android buyers only.


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