New AU phones are out. Which one’s it gonna be?

The Spring 07 collection of AU phones is out and AU has not let me down this time. It will have finally taken 12 months (3 collections) to lure me away from my uber-awesome bestselling W41CA. It is now time to upgrade!
Out of the 10 phones on the shelf, only 2 caught my eyes. They are the only 2 phones to have the new WVGA screens with resolutions of 800x480px. And unfortunately, the forever-beautiful-W41CA-inspired form factor of the W51CA will probably not be enough to distract me from those screens.

All 3 phones I have selected below have the usual AU features + a few new funky features. All have in common:
– Naviwalk + 3D navi
– 2 or 3MP camera with anti-shake software tech and AF

W51H (Maker’s site)
– 50x106x22
– bilingual
– finger digit reader (sensor) for added security. Sensor can be used to scroll or zoom on screens or pics or even click on links.
– 2.9in WVGA screen of 800×480. view full webpages in landscape mode. makes Opera mobile really attractive now.
– interface seems to be shared with Casio phones (shortcuts on desktop)
– Open Appli player that seems to be able to play Java apps within Brew
– Electronic compass for the GPS (automatically rotates and scrolls map)

W51CA (Maker’s site)
– 50x105x22
– bilingual
– TV
– Open Appli player that seems to be able to play Java apps within Brew

W52T (Maker’s site)
– 51x111x22
– NOT (!!) bilingual
– bluetooth
– 3in. WVGA view full webpages in landscape mode. makes Opera mobile really attractive now.
– TV

To be honest, because of screen resolution, the Casio phone seems out of the race this time.
While the design of the 51H is letting the whole phone down and the 60,000+ screen colours instead of 260,000+ for all other phones leave me a bit disappointed, the sensor security/scrolling features are very attractive, as well as the excellent but rare electronic GPS feature and the potentially awesome library of apps I could use beyond BREW with the Open Java player give the 51H the edge over the 52H and its however delicious blue LED lighting and sliding screen.
What do you think?!

Update 1:
Saturday, went by the Bic camera in Yurakucho to check out the 51H and 52T which came out on Thursday. There were no working models on the shelves but fortunately they had some if you asked at the counter.
Here are my first impressions:

The design is not as bad as I expected. A pretty well finished piece, even if it will not win any beauty contests.
The menus are the same as the Casio one, so no surprises there. No beauty contest winner either actually, once you go deeper than the root level… 😉
The keypad has large, comfortable keys. The screen is incredibly fine.
The camera, as tested in the brightly lit store seemed good, and you could operate the sensor to zoom or raise luminosity levels pretty easily. A good surprise.
Because this model actually had a SIM card in it, I had the chance to be able to try the Opera browser in landscape mode. A very impressive sight, but unfortunately, used as a mouse pad the sensor felt near to useless, too slow or imprecise although the staff assured me that I would get used to it and “master the sensor” in no time with a bit of practice. The click, double click feature though worked nicely. Gmail, full screen, in landscape mode, on a keitai… hahaha!

As it turns out, this is not a bilingual model. So no English menus.
Even though I am a fan of sliders, the finish quality is poor, the buttons are too soft and small. Worst of all, the menu graphics were not upgraded for the high-res screen and are displayed in all their pixelated horror.
I didn’t try the TV, but discovered that the browser cannot be used in landscape mode.
Anyway, no amount of luscious blue LEDs will change my opinion… I was really not impressed.

And I also tried the W51CA.
Ohhh, what a beauty! Very tight body, very strong finish, great buttons, I mean, if I had the vocabulary and my geeky gauges were not already in the red, I could talk about this thing like photographers do of their old SLRs.
The camera actually seems to smooth pics more than the over sharpening W41CA and comparing pics taken in the store by the 2 cameras seemed to show very very similar results. Nothing as bad as what Doug claims to have gotten out of it in the comments…

All in all, the W52T is out, and I think I’ll need to take another look at the W51H… I am interested in trying something new so I may give a chance to the Hitachi model but I need to get confirmation that the camera is of the level I expect in low light conditions.
More later…

Update 2:
Gen & Matt bought the W51H last week and so I went for a walk with Matt to show him how to use his GPS etc… The 3D Navi was really impressive. You can really compare buildings. We were surprised at how accurate the 3D models were!

On the way, I did 3 night photo tests, to compare the Hitachi’s camera with my W41CA’s.
The results were very good. I thought the pictures were more crisp than the slightly over-sharpening Casio. Note: the anti-blur function of the Hitachi was OFF.

Wooden Gate: W51H: M, XL – W41CA M, XL
City Neons: W51H: M, XL – W41CA M, XL
Coffee cups: W51H: M, XL – W41CA M, XL

For argument’s sake, I wish I could do the same tests myself with the new Casio W51CA. The results that were sent in by Doug in the comments were frighteningly bad… But apparently can be attributed to the new anti-blur function (which should just be switched off) and a smudge on the lens.
I would just wish to do my own test…
Doug, you wanna meet up?
Anybody else bought the W51CA?

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    Based in Paris & Tokyo, Paul Baron is a senior product manager for hire. Ex-@AQworks. Co-founder of cultural platform Tokyo Art Beat.
    Service design, interaction design, startups, user research.
    Posts a few times a decade since 2003.

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