The year 2020 seems more nostalgic than anything else, especially for children in the 1990s.
Old phones are making a comeback in new avatars (we’re talking about Moto Razr (not Nokia, because it’s been gone for a long time and people have evolved), Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag opening up their sleeves in a cricket match together, even if not for the national team (in the Road Safety World Series), and yes it happens: the FRIENDS distribution meets for an exclusive special on HBO Max.
In the midst of all this, Sony brought their new Walkman, the Sony NW-A105, which has a nostalgic appeal that takes us back to the good old days when things were simple and easy.
One might ask … what’s wrong with Sony? Why launch a Walkman in the streaming era? We had the same question, so we spent a month with Sony’s first Android Walkman and tried to find the answers.
I don’t have one of the most memorable memories when it comes to dates, but if that serves me well, it was in 2003-2004 that I noticed a Walkman for the first time and demanded one of my family.
The modern Walkman (left) and the old Walkman (right)
A few months later, I was the proud owner, thanks to the good marks I obtained on school exams (as is the norm in Indian middle-class families).
It was a Sony WM-FX481 and I never missed an opportunity to spread it out wherever I could. But I did not know that having a Walkman is one thing, but to take full advantage of it, you also need tapes.
Even if I had the option to connect to FM radio, I was too impatient for that. I couldn’t wait for my favorite music, which meant I had to buy tapes, which meant a lot of money, and therefore saved daily / weekly benefits, and cut Tekken 3 and other routine pleasures.
So I found a shortcut: I made an agreement with my brother under which he would finance these tapes instead of sometimes using the Walkman. And there it was, Backstreet Boys Greatest Hits. We spent 125 rupees, which is almost the amount required to buy a vinyl now.
The Walkman ran on batteries, and no matter how many we had, it always felt less (even Duracell wouldn’t last much). And that became a bone of contention in the agreement, because no one mentioned who would pay for them. We have learned the lesson that there are always terms and conditions.
Years later, technology has made things easier and Walkman has gone digital. That meant you didn’t have to fight for batteries or pay for tapes; you can just store as many songs in music players.
And then came the cell phones launched to music lovers; they made you forget the Walkman and the music players.
Mobile phones – Moto Rokr, Sony Ericsson W series and Nokia music edition – became a symbol, and writing was then on the wall for music players. Still, the Apple iPod has breathed new life and brought back the lost glory for music players.
But people started to move away quickly, because cellphones not only played music but also took photos.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Coupe until 2020. Sony has managed to surprise everyone with an Android Walkman. But the question is who would buy a Walkman in the streaming era, with mobile phones offering everything a Walkman could possibly offer, and more.
When I held the Walkman in my hands, I thought it was a midget version of the Xperia phone (if it was, I would have bought it without thinking).
When the device came to life, I saw the familiar “Walkman” logo on the screen and I couldn’t control the excitement.
Then appeared the usual Android skin with familiar icons, and I had a hard time discovering that time had also taken its toll on Walkman. This had indeed changed – for better or for worse, we didn’t know it yet.
The new 103g Walkman has a 3.6-inch touchscreen (1280 x 720 pixels) with glasses at the top and on the sides. There are seven buttons on the right, including a “ hold ” button which was also present in previous versions of Walkman.
The screen may not appear sharp, and the colors may not appear punchy enough. But that’s all.
The physical buttons add to the ease as they allow you to turn on the device, adjust the volume, skip the song, play forward or backward and there is a “ hold ” button that locks the settings .
The bottom houses a 3.5mm headphone jack, a USB-C port and a micro SD card slot.
Is the micro SD card important? Yes it is. You would need one because the Walkman only has 16 GB of storage … and remember that the modern Walkman also supports apps like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. The back has the “Walkman” and NFC logo for pairing with wireless audio devices.
I checked the price tag and he read Rs 23,990. I checked the price again and he read the same. Thus, it is more expensive than the Apple iPod. Is the device worth this cost?
I thought I’d give up my phone for a day (for social media and music) and see if I could replace it with the Walkman.
It’s safe to say that it would have been if the Walkman’s battery had allowed it (the same old battery issue). This leaves much to be desired.
I loved the experience of having this little device that is in your hands and dedicated to music. I even started reading an e-book on the device that made me think of something new.
Plus, the best part was that social media detoxification took shape as the Walkman has limited functionality to support heavy use, including the lack of a camera.
I loved wearing the Walkman during my daily running, cycling and training sessions, and have never missed the phone.
But these are not even the important points. What matters most to audiophiles (I don’t know if I’m considered one) is the quality of the sound. Sony claims that it offers high quality sound, which sophisticated smartphones of the time are incapable of.
Now here’s the problem. By pure habit, you would be inclined to use Spotify, Google Music or even YouTube to listen to music, but the audio quality of these applications is limited to 16 bits in the device.
To get the most out of the Walkman, you need to save the songs to the music player (like old times) and this is something we are no longer used to.
Not only that, you would need a good set of headphones or earphones to use the noise cancellation or ambient sound functions. Fortunately, I had them. I have to admit that the details of the high resolution sound were simply beyond what we usually listen to – tiny guitar tunes in the back with the bass line that we usually miss in normal formats – the experience was overwhelming.
But in the end, city life is such that we simply cannot do without a smartphone. And there I was, back with my smartphone.
So I tried to make room for the new Walkman, and I would still love the power, but a lot has changed since we last used the classic Walkman avatar. The Walkman is good if you want a device dedicated to music, but overall, it may seem a bit irrelevant and way too expensive for today’s time.
P.S. Sometimes I still wonder if I could get my old Walkman fixed and play tapes on it.