Walkman phone hits the shelves

The music mobile war is go; Sony Ericsson's W800i, aka the Walkman phone, had its UK launch today. Jay Kay was signing handsets in an early move to win hearts and minds, but Stuffers need more than hat-wearing funksters to help them decide which side to b

This here is the first person to buy a Walkman phone in the UK. It could be an important moment in the forthcoming music mobiles battle, featuring heavyweights like the Orange SPV C550 and the Nokia N-Series later this year.

Should she be envied for her early adopter credentials, or mocked for jumping the gun? More importantly, is this really what early adopters look like these days?

Allow us to be your guide. The W800i is priced at £300 (handset only) or for free with contracts, and will be available soon from www.sonyericsson.com. Here's Stuff's Editor-in-chief Tom Dunmore with his first impressions using the handset:

"My initial impression of the first ever Walkman phone is that Sony Ericsson have taken a fantastic phone – the K750i – and dipped it in the Ugly Bowl. What comes out is a beige-and-orange monstrosity that is, nonetheless, beautifully featured with a 2MP digicam, FM radio and, of course, a digital audio player.

Although the W800 is essentially a K750,  there are some crucial differences – in particular, the inclusion of a hands-free adapter with a 3.5mm headphone jack, a decent pair of phones, a generous 512MB Memory Stick Duo, and the ability to turn the phone off but keep the Walkman on - useful for conserving batteries and fending off air stewards.

The on-phone music player software is great, and two shortcut keys make listening to it easy. The synchronisation software isn't quite as good - Disc2Phone is PC-only, and only seems to allow you to rip CDs straight to the phone rather than to your PC's hard drive. We'd rather see iTunes integration, especially as Sony seems to have ditched its proprietary ATRAC format and plumped for good ol' MP3. 

Still, drag and drop works well on both PC and Mac... once you've worked out where to put the music files (MSSEMC/Media Files/Audio...  rather than the folder called MP3).

Sound quality is good, although even without MegaBass turned on, the

bottom end is rather heavy with the excellent in-ear phones that ship with the phone. Dance music tends to get subsumed under a tidal wave of bass, but more acoustic tracks sound great, even in noisy environments.

Time will tell whether the W800 will encourage me to leave my iPod Shuffle at home. But one thing's for sure – I'm keeping the ugly handset hidden in my pocket."

Look out for a long-term test of the W800i soon in Stuff.