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Sony Ericsson Aino Mobile Handset
Brilliant! The Aino’s is a well crafted handset. It’s well balanced and very streamlined and the weight, although a little on the heavy side, gives the handset a definite feel good factor. The pop slider lives up to the term. It’s very smooth and can be opened or closed with a simply flick. Volume/Zoom keys are on the same side as the shutter release for the handset’s 8MP camera (with LED flash). Sony’s proprietary USB slot is located on the other side. Sadly they didn’t think it relevant to have a 3.5mm socket; instead the Aino comes with a Bluetooth enabled receptor that can be hooked up to a wired set of earphones. The Aino comes with the new chargers that have a secondary proprietary port built in so one could use a wired headset while charging though one isn’t included with the phone.
The Bluetooth adapter for the handsfree can also be charged when it’s placed in the bundled cradle. The Aino uses microSD cards to increase memory capacity and comes with an 8GB card. The slot is unfortunately located under the rear panel, but thankfully that’s quite easy to pop open.
The 3 inch display’s touch functionality can be accessed only in landscape mode for media. The resolution is 240 x 432 with 16million colors, but for some strange reason, I noticed, the resolution seemed a little askew in the media mode in terms of overall clarity. However I do like the idea of having the touchscreen specific to only one aspect of the handset's overall feature set although that does have a small measure of disadvantage as well. Read on.
Features and Performance
Sony Ericsson’s UI has, sadly, remained unchanged. It’s always been colorful and very animated, which also leads to a burden on the battery. I found a little bit of lag in the Aino’s UI, even when I selected the least animated theme. Refreshing new data in the media section was also a bit slow. In contrast though, the touchscreen media UI was quite responsive and well laid out thus making it very user friendly. While the handset does have an accelerometer to rotate web pages and the media gallery there’s no virtual keyboard as it does not activate the touch sensitive one so you’ll have to struggle to use the alphanumeric keypad in portrait mode. And there’s your disadvantage right there, since the browser can’t be accessed from the touch sensitive media menu.
I’m quite disappointed with the audio functionality that the Aino brings to the table. While the quality of playback is not in question the decibel level is just too low. Mumbai city is deafening most of the time and without a decently high volume level you’ll never be able to enjoy your audio with the Aino. The Bluetooth tether for the handsfree is also a little large with a rather ‘Disco-like’ indicator system. SE has included quite a few very visually attractive visualizations to the player and of course EQ presets and a customizable option which do make a difference to the quality, while the volume still remained low.
The FM radio worked out well enough and managed to get all the available stations tuned in record time. Reception was quite decent in most places but not too great on my commute. A voice recorder is also on board. SE’s TrackID and access to the PlayNow section for downloading contend are available as well. Since the company hasn’t yet got codec support for DivX or XviD files you’ll have to spend a little time converting videos to 3GP or MPEG4. The videos that did convert were easy to watch on the 3 inch display.
The Aino is a very active handset in the connectivity department. Its Wi-Fi connectivity offers access to your PS3 for media streaming, but seriously that’s not really a very big deal as you can access just that console and no other device at all. Thanks to Sony Ericsson’s MediaGo PC software you can wirelessly transfer your data selected on the PC to the handset. I recommend doing this while the handset is charging as Wi-Fi does tend to suck the life out of the handset. Other connectivity options include 3G, EDGE/GPRS and Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP.
A Facebook application is provided for the Social Networker in you to quickly access and update your status, check up friend’s activities et al. A YouTube application allows you to stream videos from the site in an easy to use mobile friendly UI. You can also configure your Picasa and Flickr accounts quite easily to upload images. And of course POP and IMAP email accounts can also be quickly set up.
Another disappointment is that the handset, although equipped with a GPS module only comes with apps like Wisepilot and Google Maps that are primarily A-GPS enabled so quite pointless if you have no reception. The Tracker application is quite handy for those who enjoy jogging or walking as recreation or sport.
The Aino doesn’t lack any of the basic functions, though I was surprised to find just two embedded games since I know SE to usually include more. From the Calendar to the notes application and a Torch setting to use the camera’s LED, there’s not much you’d miss in the basics.
The onboard 8MP camera is equipped with Touch focus which didn’t work out as well as the Satio’s as it was very unresponsive and pretty much focused on what it wanted, Geotagging for Google Maps, face detection that worked out quite well and video stabilization (VGA resolution at 30 fps). It also has a few scene modes included and a self timer as well.
Image quality was not bad at all; in fact outdoor images looked quite crisp. Images without the flash, in low light conditions didn’t turn out too well, but on the whole the camera was definitely one of the better features of the Aino.
The battery life, as long as you’re not always logged into Facebook and you’ve done away with the unnecessary animations in the themes was really good. Talk time alone averaged in at over 5 hours which was a very very pleasant surprise. With normal usage you’ll get well over 2 days of usage before you’ll need to charge it. By far the best feature the handset has to offer is the battery.
The Bottom Line
The price tag on the Aino is Rs. 28,950 which may seem a little steep considering SE has the W995 a far superior 8MP camera handset on the market that costs a lot less. The MediaGo and PS3 connectivity is not enough to justify the additional cost even if this is a better looking handset and offers a slightly better battery life. Then again the W995 doesn’t have a touchscreen but it does have much better audio output. So if you’re looking for a sleek handset with great battery life and a high resolution camera for images with plenty of connectivity, the Aino is just one of the many choices out there. In my opinion it’s a good idea to wait till the price drops.
If you’re specifically interested in an 8MP camera, click here for some of the other choices.
For more information the Aino with prices click here.