What's hot: Stylish phone that’s well built, good reception.
What's not: Short Wi-Fi range.
For Sony Ericsson phone fans, the last couple of months have been fruitful: first Sony Ericsson released the unlocked Sony Ericsson W995a Walkman phone with U.S. 3G, then AT&T released the Sony Ericsson C905a killer camera phone and the Sony Ericsson W518a Walkman flip phone. The Sony Ericsson W995a tops the Walkman phone specs among the U.S. models with an 8.1 megapixel camera, U.S. 3G (on AT&T ‘s bands), GPS with Google Maps, a 3.5mm stereo audio jack and more, but it also carries a list price tag of $599. If you don’t care to have a higher megapixel camera on your phone or built-in GPS, you can save yourself $200 and get the Sony Ericsson W705a. The mid-tier W705a Walkman phone has plenty to offer: the same Walkman Player 3.0 with the shake control feature and Sony’s popular XMB user interface, built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth with stereo A2DP, FM radio as well as U.S. 3G on AT&T’s bands. Most of the software found on the W995a comes on the W705a as well, and they include the NetFront 3.4 web browser with RSS, YouTube player, PhotoDJ, MusicDJ, VideoDJ, Track ID, Walk Mate and several games. While there is no built-in GPS, the W705a has Google Maps preinstalled.
The Sony Ericsson W705a is a quad band GSM world phone with 3G UMTS/HSPA on the 850/1900/2100 MHz bands. The phone will work on AT&T’s 3G network in the U.S., but it’s EDGE for T-Mobile rather than 3G. The phone has a 2.4” QVGA display, a Memory Stick Micro (M2) card slot and a 3.2-megapixel camera that shoots decent photos and video with audio.
Like the W995a, the Sony Ericsson W705a is also a very compact phone. Measuring 3.74 x 1.88 x 0.56 inches, the W705a is a bit thinner than the W995a. The phone has a modern Euro candy bar style: the silver faceplate and the coffee-colored soft touch back give the phone a classy, modern-minimalist clean look. The W705a weighs 3.45 ounces, and it feels good in hand and looks well built. The display is reasonably bright and color saturated. The d-pad and front menu keys feel sturdy and easy to press. The phone has a slide-out number pad; though flat, the keys are very easy to use and have good tactile feedback when pressed. There is a large strip of speaker grille on the back of the W705a, and the camera with an LED flash also lives on the back. The battery door is very easy to open thanks to a mechanical latch that locks and unlocks the cover. The SIM card lives under the battery door and requires the removal of the battery to gain access. The M2 storage card slot is also under the battery door, but it’s a spring-loaded slot on the side that doesn’t require battery removal. Sony Ericsson includes a 4GB M2 card with the W705a Walkman phone.
The Sony Ericsson W705a has minimal side buttons: only the volume rocker and the camera/camcorder/shutter 3-in-1 button are on the right side of the phone. The Sony Ericsson proprietary Fast Port syncing/charging/headset port lives on the left side, and the phone comes with an in-line adapter and 3.5mm wired headset. The tiny button on top of the W705a is the Walkman Player launcher, and when the music player is launched, the d-pad doubles as music playback controls. There is a phone charm holder on the bottom of the W705a.
Phone and Web
The Sony Ericsson W705a has a better reception than the W995a, getting full signal strength in most places around the Dallas area on AT&T. Voice quality is quite good and the W705a supports most common call features such as call forwarding, call waiting, conference call and more. The phone offers 9 speed dialing numbers as well as voice dialing. Like many Sony Ericsson phones, the W705a’s voice dialing software requires that you record voice tags. The voice recognition works well as long as the same person records and uses voice command. The contacts database can hold 1,000 entries and each entry can have up to 7 numbers. Other PIM software included are Calendar, Calculator, Alarm, Notes, Stopwatch, Tasks and Timer. The Sony Ericsson also has an email client that works with POP3/IMAP4 email accounts, and the phone comes with Sony Ericsson PC Suite and supports MS Exchange ActiveSync. Web-based IM is also on board.
The Sony Ericsson W705a has the Access NetFront 3.4 web browser that’s capable of displaying full HTML pages with all the layout and images intact. Web pages loaded reasonably fast over AT&T’s 3G, but much faster over our Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n network (the phone supports 802.11b/g). While the Wi-Fi speed is very good, the range is poor. We could get no more than 10 feet between the phone and our Wi-Fi router before the Wi-Fi speed slowed down considerably.
Music and Video
Standard on the current Sony Ericsson Walkman phones, the Walkman Player 3.0 can play music in MP3, AAC, WMA and other formats as well as podcasts and audio books. The W705a has the intuitive Sony Xross Media Bar (XMB) UI for music, video, gaming and other media content navigation. The Walkman music player supports the accelerometer, album art, Clear Bass, Clear Stereo, SenseME and Shake control. The built-in speakerphone is loud and the audio quality sits between the W995a’s speaker and the W518a’s speaker: it’s less tinny than the W518a but it has less powerful bass than the W995a. The music playback is excellent via the included wired stereo headset: it has clear channel separation and powerful bass. The phone also works with Bluetooth stereo headsets via A2DP. Both podcasts and audio books sound good via the wired headset. If you are a fan of listening to FM radio on your phone, the W705a won’t disappoint. Using the included headset as its antenna, the Sony Ericsson works well as an FM radio with RDS info.
The Sony Ericsson W705a can play video in MPEG-4, 3GPP and WMV formats, and comes with a YouTube player. We tested YouTube video playback via Wi-Fi and found video played smoothly with decent audio by mobile YouTube standards.
The Sony Ericsson W705a has a 3.2-megapixel camera with fixed focus lens and an LED flash. The camera takes good photos as long as you keep the lens cover clean. The phone has a cheap plastic window over the camera lens that attracts fingerprints and grease, which can result in some flare and white haze in outdoor shots and indoor shots that have localized bright halos. But when the lens window is clean, the photos look sharp and colors are balanced. Some outdoor shots have slight over exposure. The camera software offers 4 shooting modes including Panorama and night shot modes, white balance, effects, self-timer and more. The camera phone can also record video with audio in QVGA resolution at 15 fps. Video clips look reasonably sharp and audio is usually in sync with video.
A very strong music phone at a more reasonable price, the W705a is a good all around phone for those who want a Walkman phone but don’t want to sign a 2-year contract or spend $599 list for the W995a. The phone has most of the bells and whistles of a high-end Walkman phone including Walkman Player 3.0, FM Radio, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth with A2DP, 120MB internal memory and a Memory Stick Micro card slot. It also has U.S. 3G and a 3.2 megapixel camera that takes very decent photos for a camera phone in that class as long as you keep the lens clean. You don’t get the GPS and real time navigation on the W705a but Google Maps is pre-installed for maps and directions via cell tower triangulation. Reception is actually better on the W705a than the W995a, and both phones run the same NetFront web browser. With retail discounts we are already seeing, the W705a is a strong competitor in the unlocked Walkman phone segment.
Pro: A stylish phone that looks and feels well built. Strong reception. Good music experience.
Con: Wi-Fi range is poor.