Sony first with dedicated Middle East music phone

Sony Ericsson today launched its W800i ‘Walkman’ phone in the region, pre-empting future MP3 phone releases from rivals Nokia and Motorola.

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By  Matthew Wade Published  August 12, 2005

Sony Ericsson today launched its W800i ‘Walkman’ phone in the region, pre-empting future MP3 phone releases from rivals Nokia and Motorola. Music phones are expected by phone vendors to be the ‘next big thing’ in the consumer handheld space and indeed look set to go head-to-head with MP3 players such as Apple’s iPod and Sony’s own, more recently launched Network Walkman. The $452 (AED1,659) W800i is the first in what will be an entire family of Sony Walkman branded music and multimedia devices. “Today marks the beginning of an eagerly awaited journey as digital music and mobile telephony combine to enable consumers to enjoy their music without ever missing a call,” said Husni Al-Assi, general manager of Sony Ericsson, Middle East and Africa. “The Walkman is back, the familiar logo is as laden with emotion as ever, but the technology pushes the envelope.” The W800i combines a standard GSM cell phone, built-in digital music player, 32MB of RAM and a two-megapixel, auto-focus digital camera. The W800i is also being bundled with a 500MB Sony Memory Stick Pro (a type of slot-in memory stick), which is capable of holding roughly 125 tracks of digital music. Should users need more capacity, these sticks are available in capacities of up to 2GB (500 songs’ worth of data space). The phone’s music player supports MP3 and Sony’s own AAC format audio files, plus each W800i will arrive in stores with 50 Rotana Arabic hits pre-loaded. Sony reckons the phone can last 30 hours on one battery charge, or 15 hours if used in phone mode. Mobile users can even enjoy access to their favourite tracks in-flight, thanks to the W800i’s audio player being able to run independently of its phone system. Two of Sony’s main competitors, Motorola and Nokia, are now expected to announce similarly music-focused cell phones. Motorola and Apple’s long-awaited iTunes phone, an iPod-styled variation of Motorola’s E398 model, should hit the Middle East before the end of September (Q3, 05). Nokia’s n91 meanwhile will be able to store 3,000 tracks and – although having been announced earlier this year – will arrive in this region’s stores in November, according to Nokia MEA’s senior communications manager, Eddy Rizk. To tie-in with its Walkman phone’s launch, Sony Ericsson is running a Top 100-style survey and competition. Its ‘Walkman Phones 100’, the company claims, will be “the first soundtrack of the world’s favourite songs of all time”. Music lovers are being invited to log onto www.walkmanphones100.com to register their top three tracks of all time and the reasons why these songs form the soundtrack to their life. The site is now live and will be for the next six weeks. Having registered their songs, voters will have the chance to win a W800i phone, complete with these top 100 songs on-board.

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