Sony Ericsson W518a

PC World - The inexpensive Sony Ericsson W518a ($50 with a two-year contract from AT&T; price as of 8/18/09) combines style, sound, and socializing, making it an attractive cell phone for a teenager (or a teenage budget). But just like the coolest kids in school, under its snazzy surface the W518a has plenty of adolescent awkwardness.

The W518a offers one must-have feature for the teenage set: instant Facebook access. Unfortunately, the app doesn't quite make the grade. Pressing the Shortcut key updates the screen with your News Feed info (status updates, Wall postings, and so on). From there you can update your own status, configure the Facebook app to show your friends' status updates on the phone's home screen, and...well, that's about it. Anything else requires you to use the mediocre built-in WAP browser to go to Facebook Mobile, just as on any other phone.

The app is useful if you just want to see the last 30 minutes or so of your News Feed, but considering that Facebook access is one of the W518a's huge selling points, Sony really should have included a full-featured program instead of an anemic accessory. If you're a Facebook addict, you'll appreciate the ability to upload pictures directly from the phone to your profile, but you might not want to share the subpar snapshots from the phone's 3.2-megapixel camera.

Music is the W518a's second specialty. The phone's built-in Walkman app handles all of the music functions. The interface looks kind of like a brushed-metal version of the PlayStation 3's menus, matching the W518a's brushed-chrome-and-silver hardware. Through the interface you can access your music collection as well as the built-in XM Radio ($9 to buy the app, though you'll need a data plan as well), FM Radio, Shop Music, and other miscellaneous music apps.

This is where some of the W518a's flaws show: It doesn't have a standard 3.5mm headphone jack, and worse, it doesn't come with a headset, so you'll have to shell out some extra cash for a compatible headset or an adapter. Until you get one, you won't be able to use the FM radio application (because it uses the headphone cord as an antenna), and to listen to music at all you'll have to use the phone's built-in speakers, which, while an improvement over earlier Walkman phones like the W580i, aren't an ideal solution.

The phone's physical design complements its musical functions nicely. When closed, the face of the W518a shows the artist and the title of the current track. Three playback buttons (rewind, skip ahead, and pause/play) sit below the track display, while the volume controls reside on the right edge, giving you easy access to them while the phone is in your pocket. Oddly enough, while the face buttons look like regular buttons, they're actually touch-sensitive spots that don't depress, which was hard for me to get used to. If you don't want to fiddle with the face buttons, you can hold down the pause/play button and shake the phone to change tracks instead. However, this is not only awkward (shake left for the previous track, shake right to skip ahead, shake wildly to shuffle) and potentially dangerous (I almost flung the thing across the office), but it's also pointless considering the minimal effort required to press the next-track button.

Along the same lines, the W518a introduces a few new control gimmicks that probably shouldn't have left the drawing board. Supposedly you can set your alarm on snooze, or silence incoming calls, by waving your hand in front of the camera. It didn't work too well, though: I tried a casual wave, a deliberate wave, even the Obi-Wan Kenobi "These aren't the droids you're looking for" wave, and had no luck with any of them. I did get the W518a to shut up one time by holding my thumb over the camera as soon as the call came in, but frankly it's less efficient than pushing a button. The volume controls on the side of the phone let you do the same thing without opening the phone up, and they're easier to find than the camera if you're holding the phone in your pocket.

Though the phone's physical design is undeniably attractive, most of the buttons are downright annoying. Besides the face-button problems mentioned earlier, the phone's menu buttons and numeric pad have sizable gaps between them, and my hands got tired quickly.

Other than the Facebook app, the music functions, and the gimmicky controls, the W518a is a fairly run-of-the-mill flip phone. The call quality was clear (nothing stunning), and it was reliable (I didn't have any dropped calls while I was testing it). The battery life was fairly standard for a flip phone, too. AT&T advertises the phone's battery life at 10 hours talk time and 400 hours standby, and I found that with my everyday-use patterns (Internet browsing, music playback, and about 30 minutes of phone calls a day) I had to recharge the W518a only every four or five days, which was nice.

Ultimately, the Sony Ericsson W518a is an incremental update to the Walkman phone line. At the low price point, the W518a isn't a bad choice if you're looking for a basic flip phone with a few extra features. However, for a device that claims to be a socially connected music phone, it lacks an awful lot--namely a full-featured Facebook app, headphones, and a standard headphone jack, all of which you can find in a refurbished iPhone 3G if you don't mind that handset's larger size.



The Best Camera Phone In the U.S.A.


The Samsung Memoir SGH-T929 (T-Mobile) may be the phone that gets you to leave your digital camera at home. This 8-megapixel shooter is full of surprises, including support for two decent Web browsers, a fun widget-based interface, and 640-by-480 video recording. The Memoir is expensive compared with other T-Mobile feature and camera phones, but if price is no object, this Samsung can't be beat. The Memoir, which measures 4.7 by 2.1 by 0.6 inches (HWD) and weighs 4.4 ounces, resembles a Samsung Behold mated with a point-and-shoot digicam. The face has a 3-inch, 240-by-400-pixel touch screen with Send, End, and Back buttons sitting in a row below it. The back looks a lot like a digital camera, with a protruding autofocus lens, flash, and slightly textured grip.

As a phone, the Memoir is adequate. Reception on '1-Mobile's 2G and 3G networks is very good; the phone also works on 2G and 3G networks in other countries, though it can't access AT&T's 3G network anywhere. Earpiece and speakerphone volume are both decent, though the earpiece tends to distort at top volume. Transmissions through the microphone sound a bit muddy on the other end, and a lot of background noise tends to come through, although there's remarkably little in-ear feedback of your own voice. The Memoir's battery life, at 5 hours of talk time, is passable.

The big deal with this phone, of course, is the camera, which is better than that of any other carrier-subsidized phone in the U.S.—both for photos and for video. It's not on a par with top dedicated still cameras like the Editors' Choice Canon PowerShot A1000 IS, but it competes with lesser cameras like the Casio Exilim z250. Even though the Memoir doesn't have full smartphone capabilities, its superior ability as a camera phone lead us to award it an Editors' Choice. —Sascha Segan and PJ Jacobowitz

PC Magazine April 2009


Redfly Smartphone Terminal C8N

Netbooks trounce this phone accessory

THE REDFLY SMARTPHONE TERMINAL C8N from Celio is a laptop-like companion for Windows Mobile-based smart- phones. It features a bright, 8-inch LCD and a keyboard to make your smartphone more useful for data-intensive tasks. Priced at $299, the C8N aims to undercut every netbook on the market, but we're not convinced it's worth the price of admission.

Weighing 2 pounds, the C8N resembles many of today's ultraportables. Though compact, the C8N packs a full QWERTY keyboard that's responsive and comfortable to use. But the C8N lacks any internal guts or software. Instead, it relies on your smartphone's processor strength and storage space to create, store, and edit documents. To connect the C8N to your handheld via USB or Bluetooth, you must install a driver onto your Windows Mobile smartphone. When the C8N and the phone are paired, your smartphone's screen goes dim and its image shows up on the C8N's LCD.

In our tests, we experienced some lag when editing lengthy Word documents or when typing rapidly. Also, we found that the touch pad wouldn't always respond to our movements, and the mouse buttons were overly rigid and at times difficult to press. As you'd expect, though, browsing the Web on the C8N is more enjoyable than on a smartphone's screen. And we managed to get an impressive 7 hours and 40 minutes of battery life out of it.

But despite the C8N's positive attributes, ultimately its nemeses are netbooks that cost little more. Until Redfly slashes its price or adds new features, most road warriors will benefit more from one of them. —L.R.


HTC Fuze

Stylish smartphone hindered by keypad

WITH ITS GLOSSY lacquered finish, the HTC Fuze is one of AT&T's more stylish smartphones. It packs a 3G radio, a touch screen, built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and a full QWERTY keyboard.

Despite its design and formidable feature list, however, this $299 smartphone suffers from some notable hardware and software flaws. Measuring 2.8 inches, the Fuze's sharp VGA screen dominates the device and makes everything from Web browsing to watching videos an enjoyable experience. The phone's slide-out QWERTY keyboard, however, is cramped and makes everyday typing a little more involved.

To further complicate matters, the Fuze's keyboard lacks dedicated buttons for numbers. This unique layout takes some getting used to if you're accustomed to working with dedicated number keys. Although the Fuze is powered by Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional, most of the time you're interacting with HTC's visually stunning TouchFLO 3D interface, a shell that runs on top of Microsoft's OS in an effort to make Windows Mobile more intuitive.

Functionally, it's miles ahead of Windows Mobile, but we noticed some lag when opening apps from within the TouchFLO shell. In addition, booting up I ITC's interface adds a few extra seconds to the phone's overall startup time, which is already long. Call quality was excellent, although the built-in speaker is weak. Browsing the Web was smooth and fast. The 3.2-megapixel camera features built-in autofocus and an LED flash, but test images appeared grainy and lacked detail. Battery life was dismal. With moderate 3G and Wi-Fi use, we barely made it through a 6-hour workday before we needed to recharge. For heavier use, a spare battery or additional charger is highly recommended. -Louis Ramirez

Computer Shopper May 2009



Product summary
The good: The LG Wine is an attractive phone with a nice display, four dedicated shortcut keys, and a very roomy keypad.

The bad: The LG Wine's photo quality is mediocre and the call quality could be improved. We also would prefer more direct access to the Web browser and e-mail.

The bottom line: Despite a few problems, The LG Wine's spacious keypad and easy-to-use interface makes this a great low-end phone for U.S. Cellular customers.

For a regional carrier, U.S. Cellular has quite a number of phones that we sometimes wish were available on nationwide carriers, like the LG Rhythm and the Samsung Delve. Well, now we have another one to add to the list; the LG Wine. Though it has fairly ho-hum features, it has a great big keypad plus four physical shortcut keys underneath the display, both of which really help make this phone easy to use. We see this as an excellent everyday low-end phone that anyone can pick up and use without having to fiddle too much with the manual. The Wine is also quite affordable at only $29.95 with a two-year service agreement.

The LG Wine has a pretty standard flip phone design, with a simple rectangular shape and rather sharp corners. Still, we quite like the design, especially with the shiny spun metal look on the front surface. Measuring 3.89 inches long by 1.93 inches wide by 0.66 inch thick, the Wine comes in both red and white, which is indicative of its beverage-inspired name. The Wine feels good in the hand, and is quite lightweight at only 3.32 ounces.

On the front of the Wine is a 1.3-inch external screen, which shows the date, time, battery and signal strength, as well as incoming caller ID. It will also work as a self-portrait viewfinder for the camera. The camera lens is above the screen. On the left spine is the volume rocker and charger jack, while the headset jack and dedicated camera key are on the right.

Flip open the phone and you'll find a very nice 2.2-inch 262,000 color display with 240 x 320 pixels. The screen looks great and shows off bold graphic icons quite well. You can adjust the screen's backlight time, the menu style, the font settings for style, color, and size, and the color scheme.

Directly underneath the display are four dedicated shortcut keys. They are shortcuts to the messaging menu, the alarm clock, the images folder, and U.S. Cellular's EasyEdge online store. It's certainly nice to have dedicated shortcut keys like these, but since you can easily get to these functions from the existing navigation array, they seem a bit unnecessary. Still, if you don't want to remember what keys correspond to what function, these four keys are very helpful for quick access.

The navigation array consists of two soft keys, a four-way circular toggle with a middle Menu/OK key, a dedicated speakerphone key, a Back key, a Talk key, and the End/Power key. The four-way toggle doubles as shortcuts to the Bluetooth menu, the EasyEdge online store, a shortcuts menu with room for up to 12 shortcuts, and the calendar.

Both the navigation array and the number keypad are a joy to use. They're both very roomy, and all the keys are large and quite tactile. The number keys on the keypad are in very large text, which is great for those who don't have the best eyesight. It's very easy to dial and text by feel as well.

The LG Wine has a roomy 1,000-entry phone book with room in each entry for five phone numbers, two e-mail addresses, and a memo. You can then add your contacts to a caller group, pair them with a photo for caller ID, or pair them with one of 34 polyphonic tones to be either the ringtone or message alert tone. Other features include a vibrate mode, a speakerphone, text and multimedia messaging, a calendar, a memo pad, easy tip calculator, a calculator, an alarm clock, a world clock, a stopwatch, a unit converter, voice command support, Bluetooth, and support for location-based navigation.

There's also a mobile Web browser and mobile e-mail access. However, in order to access them, you have to go to the MyStuff tab in the EasyEdge interface. We would prefer a more direct way to access the browser and mobile e-mail.

The LG Wine takes mediocre photos.

The 1.3-megapixel camera can take pictures in five resolutions (1,280x960, 640x480, 320x240, 176x144, and 160x120), three quality settings, four color effects, and five white balance presets. Other settings include a self-timer, a night mode, multishot modes, brightness, zoom, and four shutter sounds plus a silent option. Photo quality was decent, but not great. Pictures had an orange tinge, and it was not as sharp as we would like. The Wine doesn't have a music player or a camcorder, which is good since it only has 48MB of internal memory.

You can personalize the Wine with wallpaper, themes, tones, and a banner. The Wine also comes with games like Pac-Man, but you can always get more from the EasyEdge Shop.

We tested the LG Wine in San Francisco, roaming outside U.S. Cellular's home network on Verizon Wireless. Call quality was good, but it was still clear that we were talking on a cell phone. Callers said our voice sounded tinny and rather robotic. On our side, we thought the same of their voices too. Still, we enjoyed very little static. Speakerphone calls went well, though there was a bit more static and audio sounded a little weak and muffled at times.

The LG Wine has a rated battery life of 4 hours talk time and 7 days standby time. According to the FCC, the Wine has a SAR rating of 1.3 watts per kilogram.




The Hi-Res Camera Phone Gets Affordable

Developed by Motorola and Kodak, MotoZINE ZN5 for T-Mobile succeeds admn ably at its two primary goals: to excel as both a camera phone and a voice phone This is the first 5-megapixel camera phone offered by a U.S. carrier, and with the contract price and mail-in rebate, it's a terrific deal. But to hit this price point, Motorola had to make some sacrifices, such as 3G capability and decent video recording. Still, if you just want to make calls, send text messages, and snap good pies, the ZN5 is the way to go.

From the front, the 4-ounce ZN5-4.65 by 2.0 by 0.6 inches (WD)—looks like your average high- class slab-style handset. It's got a large, bright, 2.4-inch, 320-by-240-pixel screen over a flat keypad with small tactile bumps on the number keys. Various parts of the keypad light up to activate special functions, such as photo reviewing or editing, when needed. With a combination of hard-and soft-touch plastic, the ZN5 feels comfortable. Call quality is excellent: Voices are clear even in extremely noisy locations. The speakerphone also sounds good. The phone's RF reception, on the other hand, didn't stand out from the crowd of 2G T-Mobile phones on my tests.

The ZN5's connected without a problem. As stated, the phone's camera is responsive and produces good shots, even in low light. You can store your photos in the 350MB of memory or on a microSD and download them via the included micro USB cable or over Bluetooth.

Overall, the Motorola MotoZINE ZN5 is a solid device, and its super-low price makes it an amazing value—the most affordable camera phone you'll find in the U.S , in fact. It fell just short of winning our Editors' Choice award; that prize still belongs to the Sony Ericsson TM506, which uses Jr-Mobile's new 3G network.—Sascha Segan

PC Magazine February 2009

This article is published on More Techs, Handphone Reviews, Fun Gadgets and Cellphones Info.



A Troubled Storm

Verizon's BlackBerry Storm 9530 is a radical new direction for BlackBerry, but it's imperiled by a difficult-to-use QWERTY keyboard and widespread reports of serious bugs.

The decidedly sexy 5.5-ounce Storm is a 4.4-by-2.4-by-0.5-inch (HWD) slab dominated by a 3.3-inch, 360-by-480-pixel touch screen. The screen is capacitive, meaning it detects the electricity from your fingers, thus requiring less effort to press. It is also transflective, so it's easy to view outdoors in bright light.

Below the display are Pick Up and End call buttons, a Back button, and the familiar BlackBerry menu key. On the sides of the handset, you'll find Camera, Volume, and a programmable multifunction button. RIM has again transformed keyboard design with the Storm's click screen, which you click by pressing down. Although this method gives you actual feedback, the learning process for the new interface is challenging. Furthermore, the keyboard had some serious accuracy problems.

The Storm showed zippy performance when it wasn't overcome by software bugs. It is a world phone, running on Verizon's EV-DO Rev A network here in the U.S. and on dual-band CDMA, quad-band EDGE, and 2,100-MHz HSDPA networks abroad. On our tests, the Storm registered fine reception, and earpiece and speakerphone volume are both very loud. In a straight-up talk time test, I got an excellent 7 hours 25 minutes.

Overall, the Storm is an exciting device Nonetheless, I can't recommend it strongly until the software bugs are fixed.—Sascha Segan

PC Magazine February 2009

This article is published on CellPhones Info, Handphone Reviews, Fun Gadgets, and More Techs.

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