Sony Ericsson has two new mid-range phones to show at CES this year. Both will come in variants for overseas and for the US. The US versions will support HSDPA 850/1900, making them prime candidates for AT&T. As one might expect from Sony Ericsson, there's both a Walkman and a Cyber-Shot model.
The C510 is a thin bar-style phone with a 3.2 megapixel auto-focus camera. Sony Ericsson is quick to point out that this is the most affordable phone to date with a camera worthy of the Cyber-Shot brand.
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The C510 feels very nice in hand. It's very thin and solid-feeling. The weight feels about average; not super-light, but perfectly fine. The lens cover on the back is well-built. Sort of like on the C905, Sony Ericsson has found a clever way to design the sliding mechanism that's easy to slide, and feels solid both open and closed, while creating a smooth, clean back when closed. Naturally, opening the lens cover activates camera mode.
The camera works well. It can take up to three seconds to focus, but that's not uncommon for auto-focus camera phones. The two-stage camera key lets you pre-focus, though, so you can capture a particular moment with less wait. The C510 is also Sony Ericsson's first with smile detection.
The keys on the C510 are a mixed bag. The d-pad cluster is great, but the side volume keys are tiny and hard to press. The number keys are okay, although I had trouble with the left and right edges of the number pad. For example, pressing the left half of the 4 key was unreliable. Pressing the right half worked better. Once I adjusted my fingers toward the center of the keypad, texting became easy enough. This is something that could be improved in final hardware, though.
The W508 is Sony Ericsson's new clamshell. Like the C510, its weight is average, but it's impressively thin. The internal display is wonderfully large, and the external display, while monochrome, is extremely clear and easy to read.
The camera on the W508 is 3 megapixel, although its not auto-focus. This impacts quality, although response time is very quick for both photos and video.
Other features include haptic feedback, external touch music keys, and a gesture feature that lets you silence the phone by waving your hand over it.
The downsides of the W508 are in the compromises they made to make it so thin. Specifically, the keypad and battery cover. The d-pad is fine, but the rest of the keys are quite awkward to feel out and press. It's a keypad I could probably get used to, but it would take me a while, and I can't imagine it would ever feel quite right. The side keys are worse. The battery cover is an ultra-thin piece of plastic that latches to the phone in six different places. It's quite an ordeal to remove the cover. It took me about 30 seconds, and I was nervous I was breaking it. Putting the cover back on is equally aggravating.
UPDATE (added Jan 10):
The W508 also features changeable covers. They're just as tricky to snap on and off as the battery cover.