The MP3 player as we know and love today will be dead in under two years. It's a bold statement but with speedy development of mobile phones more and more models over the next year will start to offer hard drives or large flash based storage capabilities within their casings.
At CeBIT in Germany, Samsung was the first to announce a hard drive based phone. But Samsung wasn't the only manufacturer looking to become king of the MP3 player world. Sony Ericssion keen to capitalise on the Sony WALKMAN brand has also launched its WALKMAN phone; the W800i. Pocket-lint flew to Germany to have a hands on look at the new mobile phone come music player.
The key to the phone is a 512Mb MemoryStick Duo stick that will come with the phone and slots neatly and secretly in to the phone, Memoy stick Duo is currently road maped although not available up to 2Gb showing the capability of where Sony Ericsson see this phone and the concept heading. 2Gb would be twice the size of most entry level MP3 players. This is Sony Ericsson's killer angle and one that it hopes will help make people see the WALKMAN phone as a MP3 player. 512Mb allows for around 30 tracks enough to keep you entertained on your commute. The other key element to this phone is the inclusion of a USB socket meaning that you can easily connect it to a PC.
To sell the music element the phone has a shortcut to the music folder allowing you quick access to your tracks. Currently this works very well, however we were told by Sony Ericsson's head of Global marketing that the software still has a long way to go before its launch later in the year. We are happy now. If it's got a long way to go then it should be even better.
Tracks are transferred to the phone via a dedicated software package for the PC. There is currently no plans for Mac support, perhaps steering clear of Motorola and its iTunes Phone. The software is basic but simple to use and currently Sony Ericssion is debating whether or not to use the Sony Connect software so users can be disadvantaged.
If you can't decide what to listen to from your own collection the phone also comes with a FM radio.
When it comes to listening to the music on your phone, most models lack the ability to connect it to anything other than the provided headphones that come in the box. Sony hope that the addition of the Music Cable MMC-60 will allow users to connect to other devices such as a hi-fi stereo via the left and right phono cables.
The W800i isn't just concentrating on being a music device, in built within its small shell is a 2 megapixel digital camera capable of taking a good shot. It also features Bluetooth, and tri-band connectivity as well making this a phone that will suit the business man rather than just the music loving teenager.
The W800i should be with us by autumn. This means that the age of the music mobile will be well and truly upon us come Christmas. Sony is obviously hoping that the WALKMAN brand will draw in the crowds over Motorola's iTunes phone and Samsung's 3Gb hard drive-based handset.
It will have a tough job. Unlike the other two models the W800i doesn't seem to really offer anything new. Yes it's a tidy package and the addition of a 2 megapixel camera phone shows us where Sony Ericsson are going with the imaging side of things. However cameras and gimmicks aside, the W800i is simply a repackaging of technologies already found in most phones, just not previously executed to the fullest.