Sony Ericsson has a knack for making beautiful multimedia-rich phones and it has certainly done so with the Sony Ericsson Aino. The Aino has a stunning display and a fantastic feature set that includes an 8.1-megapixel camera, a media player, Remote Play compatibility, Wi-Fi, stereo Bluetooth, GPS, and support for AT&T's 3G network. It even comes with a handy dual-charging dock, which will charge both the phone and an included stereo Bluetooth headset. We weren't thrilled by the lack of a standard 3.5mm headset jack and the cramped keypad, but if you want a well-made phone that delivers a great multimedia experience, the Aino fits the bill. However, you will pay a price for it--the Aino costs $600 because it is not available with any carrier subsidies.
The Sony Ericsson Aino has a fairly straightforward blocky rectangular design. Still, it does have rounded edges and a matte chassis that is quite attractive. Measuring 4.09 inches long by 1.97 inches wide by 0.61 inch thick, the Aino is a bit bulky and will likely make a dent in your pocket. It's no lightweight either at 4.73 ounces, giving it a very solid and sturdy feel in the hand. The Aino comes in both white and black.
What really catches your eye is the beautiful scratch-resistant mineral glass display. It is a generous 3 inches diagonally, plus it supports 16.7 million colors and 432x240 pixels. Everything from photos and videos to simple animations look fantastic. When the phone is closed, the display actually acts as a touch screen, but only for the Aino's 3D media browser. In fact, it's the only thing you can use when the phone is closed. The browser lets you access the camera, the photo gallery, the video player, the music player, and the FM radio without ever opening the phone. You can easily scroll and tap through these functions thanks to the intuitive user interface. The capacitive touch screen felt responsive with hardly any transition delays.
When you slide the phone open, you will be able to access the rest of the phone's functions, but the display will no longer be touch-sensitive. We were a little disappointed with the limited touch screen, but the physical navigation controls worked well enough. They consist of two soft keys, a round toggle with middle OK key, the Send and End/Power keys, a shortcut key, and the Clear key. The toggle can be mapped to four user-defined shortcuts, and the shortcut key brings up a My Shortcuts menu overlay, plus it lets you multitask between different open applications. Aside from the toggle, we found most of the navigation keys to be small and cramped.
Underneath the navigation is the number keypad. Even though the keypad is small, we found it to be quite usable, thanks to the slightly domed surface that lets us dial and type out text easily. On the left of the phone is the typical Sony Ericsson charger/headset jack, while on the right side are the volume rocker and the camera key. On the back is the camera lens plus an LED flash. We were disappointed that there was no 3.5mm headset jack. The microSD card slot is located behind the battery cover.
The Aino comes with a desktop charging stand that also works as a syncing dock. You can prop the phone up on the stand to view movies or slideshows as well. Another nice bonus is that the phone comes with a complimentary stereo Bluetooth headset that you can charge using the same dock.
The Aino has a generous 1,000-entry phone book with room in each entry for seven numbers, an e-mail address, a company name and job title, two street addresses, a URL, a birthday, and notes (The SIM card holds an additional 250 names and numbers). You can categorize your contacts into groups, add a photo for caller ID, or pair them with one of 30 polyphonic ringtones or one of 8 message alert tones. You can always use your own music tracks as ringtones if you like.
Other basic features include text and multimedia messaging, a speakerphone, a vibrate mode, a calendar, a tasks list, a notepad, a timer, a stopwatch, a flashlight, a calculator, and an alarm clock. If you're a little more tech savvy, you'll like the POP3/IMAP4 e-mail support, Wi-Fi, USB mass storage, PC syncing, the voice recorder, instant messenger, a file manager, and a variety of Bluetooth profiles that include A2DP stereo. There's also GPS support, which is especially handy with location applications like Google Maps.
As the aforementioned 3D media browser indicates, the Aino is a very multimedia-friendly phone. The music player compares favorably with dedicated Walkman phones, with features like airplane mode, an equalizer, playlists, stereo widening, clear bass, and shuffle and repeat modes. Aside from music, you can also easily sync with your favorite audiobooks or podcasts. Perhaps the thing we like most about the music player is the fun and playful user interface. Not only is the menu really intuitive, the different equalizer settings have different art icons, and you can choose from a variety of visualizer animations. There's even a SensMe option that lets you assign moods to songs. Like other Walkman phones, the Aino also has a Shake control that lets you shuffle tracks just by shaking the phone. Other music-related functions include an FM radio, which requires a headset to act as an antenna, and TrackID, a song-identification application.