It's strange to come across a Sony Ericsson (SE) phone that's not either a Walkman or a Cybershot. However, with its new range of phones, Sony Ericsson has done away with those monikers altogether. Instead we have phones that purport to do a lot of everything.
Design and UsabilityThe Sony Ericsson Aino is one such phone. It combines a "limited"touch-screen, an 8MP camera and full-fledged connectivity and multimedia options. The Aino is a slider phone that employs a 3.0-inch TFT screen capable of displaying 16m colors at a resolution of 240x432. The screen is a strange beast since it switches between being a capacitive touch-screen to a regular screen when the keypad slides out.However, it's not exactly a "limited" touchscreen, since Java apps like Opera Mini are able to use it perfectly. But more on that later.The Aino is not bad looking but it is a little thick when it is in touchscreen mode. However, the build quality feels solid and there is no unwanted movement when the keypad slides out. The keypad itself features relatively flat hard keys, a D-pad and a number of shortcut keys. However, some of these keys including the call receive and end buttons and the back button are too small for perfect use. The camera's back is plain smooth plastic with only the manufacturer's name and the 8.1MP camera with LED flash. There is no lens cover though, so scratches and dirt on the lens could become problems.The Aino also comes with a handy wireless hands-free Bluetooth headset with a 3.5mm jack. To charge the handset and the phone, there is also a well-designed docking cradle.The Aino utilizes the same Flash UI that was present in the Walkman phones. As a result, not only does it look good and is highly customizable but it is also quite simple to navigate. One big drawback is that because of the number of flash animations that the different interfaces use, it gets slow at times,especially when you are browsing for multimedia files. The touchscreen mode is also inconsistent as sometimes it performs admirably while sometimes it gets unresponsive.
FeaturesThe Aino doesn't miss much when it comes to features. It has connectivity pat down with 3G support, Wi-Fi and GPS. It still uses Sony Ericsson's proprietary port for charging and connecting to a PC, we wish Sony Ericsson would soon plug mini or micro USB ports on all their phones. It makes things much easier. Also, there is no 3.5mm jack and you have to use the phone proprietary port for that purpose too. The phone has a measly 55MB of internal space but thankfully the Aino also has a microSD slot which can accept cards up to 32GB. It's good to note that SE has moved away from the M2 standard and adopted the more ubiquitous microSD standard. The phone also comes with a bundled 8GB microSD card which is always a good thing to have.
PerformanceThe Aino's forte is its music playback capabilities. Music sounds excellent on the phone and there are also a bunch of sound customization options.The in-ear headphones that come bundled with the phone also sound good and are a pleasant surprise. The phone's 8.1MP camera with LED flash was excellent when it came to shooting outdoor scenes under sunlight.These pictures had minimal noise and the colors came out very vibrant.In macro mode too, the camera performed very well, although it took time focusing. Saving pictures also takes an inordinate amount of time and among other things we didn't like about the phone's imaging performance was the lack of red-eye reduction when shooting portraits with the flash on and the slight blurriness that the camera let in in indoor shots. However, the camera's video-recording capabilities were very good and one of the best we have seen from a camera phone.Browsing the Web on the phone's default browser is a pleasant enough experience but we would advise installing Opera Mini as that allows you to use the browser in touchscreen mode and that is definitely much more intuitive.
ConclusionThe Sony Ericsson Aino is priced at Rs. 25,700 (US$552) and in spite of its very good multimedia performance and features, that price-tag is a little hard to swallow. However, apart from that, the Aino is a good bet if you want a phone that delivers a good multimedia experience.
The Sony Ericsson Aino is a very good multimedia phone that commands a rather high price-tag.