4GB touchscreen Walkman mob is ready to rock

It may only be February, but we reckon this new Sony Eric is an odds-on favourite for phone of the year. The W950i scores a whole hat-load of firsts –

It may only be February, but we reckon this new Sony Eric is an odds-on favourite for phone of the year.

The W950i scores a whole hat-load of firsts – it’s the company’s first hard drive phone, can navigate album art via touchscreen and also looks likely to be the first 4GB music mob to hit the shops.

As if that wasn’t enough to get our gadget radar screaming with delight, Sony Eric’s also squeezed in 3G, Bluetooth and – the knockout tech punch – the new version of the smartphone operating system, UIQ. As anyone who’s owned one of SE’s P-Series phones will attest, that means an intuitive interface, powerful organiser and email apps and a big bag of third party software.

The design is mighty similar to that of the recent sexy emailer, the M600, which means a good-looking bit of kit that’s extremely slim. The flipside is that it shares the M600’s two glaring omissions – no camera and no Wi-Fi.

Still, this is a music machine first and foremost, and it looks well-equipped to the task. As well as playing virtually every format aside from WMA and iTunes Music Store AACs, it has an FM radio and comes with a pair of stereo headphones in the box. There’s a 3.5mm adapter for a high grade pair of headphones – see our Top 10 here – or you can listen wirelessly using the new stereo Bluetooth headset below. Known as the HBH-DS970, it uses Bluetooth 2.0 and has a pair of in-ear buds.

Pricing’s unknown for both, but the headset should be due early summer with the W950i following in the sultry month of August. If Nokia's N91 keeps getting delayed - it was due January - we reckon Sony Eric could be first to market: Nokia would be likey to scrap its dated design and create a new phone instead.

16/02/06 update: Sorry, we got it wrong - the W950i's actually uses flash memory for storage, not a hard disk.

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