Sony Ericsson's 'PlayNow arena with movies' service bundles new phones with a selection of downloadable movies. The service is simple to use, the image and sound quality is adequate, but the selection of movies leaves a lot to be desired.
Sony Ericsson will begin selling W995 phones with the movie bundle next week in Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, Germany and the U.K, according to a spokesman at Sony Ericsson.
The company plans to launch the service in more countries, but it has no detailed plans to announce at the moment.
Sony Ericsson will offer around 15 movies at a time, changing around four of the selection each month for a total of 60 films available during the year. Each downloaded title can be watched on one phone as often as the users want for up to 90 days.
Movies are first downloaded to a PC and then moved to the mobile phone. File sizes are about 130MB per hour, and since most mobile broadband users only have a limited amount of data allotted per month it makes sense to stay away from over-the-air distribution.
Watching movies on the W995's 2.6-inch screen actually works fine, and the experience is helped by the fact that the phone comes with good headphones. The image quality isn't perfect, but it's nothing that, after a while, distracts from the action of a good movie.
If someone has the audacity to call you in the middle of watching a movie, it is paused and can be resumed when the caller has been dealt with.
Watching for an hour, and not doing much else, uses up about 20 percent of the capacity from a fully loaded battery.
Sony-Ericsson has cropped the movie to fit the 320 x 240 pixel screen, just like in the old days before widescreen TVs became the norm: that's a good decision when you only have a 2.6-inch screen to play with. Later this year, though, Sony Ericsson will launch PlayNow arena with movies on the Satio, a new phone with a 3.5-inch widescreen display. On that phone Sony Ericsson should go with the original aspect ratio, and not crop the image.
The selection of movies differs from country to country. The first time you open a movie file the phone is authenticated, which means that you can only download and watch movies from your local site.
Sony Ericsson hasn't exactly been given the rights to the best movies in the world. Currently, the Dutch site has the best selection, including classics Chinatown and Shawshank Redemption, and little-seen gem Tropa de Elite.
One of my personal, all-time favorites, Old Boy by Chan-Wook Park, is available on both the Swedish and Norwegian sites.
The award for the worst selection currently goes to the U.K. store. I wasn't able to find one title that I really wanted to watch, but hopefully Sony Ericsson has some better titles lined up for the coming months.
Sony Ericsson has a good platform in place, and with better titles and some good marketing I think PlayNow arena with movies could become one reason to pick a Sony Ericsson phone over the competition.