Sony Ericsson recently announced it would be shifting all of its attentions to smartphones next year. When this happens we’d expect more handsets like the Live to be the result.

A couple of years ago this would have been a staple of the company’s feature phone line-up: it’s an unabashedly mainstream product; compact, inexpensive and tied-in to a very famous consumer brand. It is probably best seen as a feature phone now, only it happens to run Android, and comes with all the goodness associated with that as an added bonus.

The Live with Walkman is an appealing handset. We would never describe a phone as cute, but this device would be worthy of such a description. It is compact, is very curvy, and has a smooth rubberised back. It fits in the hand rather like a pebble, and with the screen being on the smallish size at 3.2” your thumb will easily reach across to all the on-screen controls.

Although it is not a part of Sony Ericsson’s Xperia range it shares plenty of design cues with it, on both the hardware and software fronts. This includes the button layout below the screen, consisting of touch panels for the back and menu functions, and a single physical home button.

There is also a dedicated camera button, although this lacks a noticeable click which makes it hard to judge how hard you need to press it – we produced a lot of shots ruined by camera shake.

At the top of the phone there is the 3.5mm headphone jack in the centre (surrounded by an LED that flashes in time to the music), the power button to the right and, to the left, a dedicated Walkman button. This acts as a shortcut to and from the Walkman app on the phone.

There are no other functions assigned to it, though, and we were surprised that it didn’t do anything with a double tap or long press. We were also disappointed that it didn’t wake the phone when pressed, so you still to unlock the phone in the usual way before you can access your music, after which you may as well just use the Walkman widget on your home screen instead.

The Walkman app itself is a considerable step ahead of the stock Android music player.

It includes support for Sony Ericsson’s xLOUD system that boosts the volume without causing distortion, and a selection of EQ settings, as well as the usuals such as album art and the ability to create and manage playlists.

There are additional music enhancements outside of the Walkman app. There is the Qriocity music store, the TrackID music recognition app, and the Facebook inside Xperia app that you can use to share your favourite songs with your Facebook friends. All in all it’s a pretty good package for a music-centric phone, which only serves to make the 2GB microSD card included in the box seem rather stingy.

Sony Ericsson Live with Walkman review

The rest of the software is very similar to that installed on Sony Ericsson’s Xperia handsets. This includes a UI that is tweaked to make the best use of the smaller screen. The limited screen real estate, 3.2 inches and 390 x 420 pixels, means you can fit at best about two widgets on a single home screen panel.

Sony Ericsson has added some ‘hot corners’ to its UI, corner-based icons that are visible on each home screen and can house up to four shortcuts. It’s a very effective way of keeping your favourite apps within reach.

The hardware specs are middling – 1GHz processor, 512MB RAM, 320MB internal storage; a 5MP camera with a few good software touches but only average photo quality. The battery is good for a day of solid use, or much longer if you use it primarily for music.

But nobody will buy this phone for the specs, it is a mass market music phone. And apart from in the shortage of storage capacity out of the box it does its job admirably.