The Sony Ericsson Jalou is a very small clamshell phone with a unique design that's intended to appeal to roughly 50 per cent of the population. Despite its diminutive size, it manages to include most of the functions you'd expect from a modern phone, and more besides. We've yet to see how much it's going to cost on either pay-as-you-go or contract deals, but we'll update this review when we find out. It's available for about £400 SIM-free.
The first thing you'll notice about the Jalou, especially with its clamshell folded shut, is that it barely looks like a phone at all. It's roughly the size of a matchbox, although that comparison does little justice to the Jalou's jewel-like appearance. Sony Ericsson's design team has obviously worked hard to create a handset that's eye-catching and convenient at the same time, and the result is something of a success on both counts. The Jalou comes in metallic purple, black and blue versions, as well a rose and gold special edition, designed by Dolce & Gabbana, for dedicated followers of fashion.
If you haven't guessed the Jalou's target market already, chaps, let's just say this handset isn't aimed at you. Other clues include a feature that allows you to use the phone as a compact mirror. This simple idea actually works quite well. The main display has a shiny, reflective coating. By pressing the cancel button with the phone open, the backlight switches off, allowing you to see yourself sufficiently well in the 51mm (2-inch) display to tease your hair, apply a fresh dose of lippie and check your teeth for chewing tobacco.
Unfortunately, the reflective coating is sometimes rather too shiny when you're using the handset as phone, often catching the light in such a way that makes it hard to see what's on-screen, particularly when used outside in bright sunlight.
A secondary, 33mm (1.3-inch) screen is located on the exterior of the clamshell, allowing you to view the time, battery charge and signal strength when the phone's snapped shut. The display is low-resolution (128x36 pixels), but integrates invisibly into the casing once the backlight fades.
It's often the case that fashion phones sacrifice a certain amount of functionality for the sake of style, but the Jalou has surprisingly good specs. It offers 3G and HSDPA connectivity, and it's possible to make video calls, email, browse the Web, play Java games, watch YouTube and so on. Wi-Fi connectivity is absent but Bluetooth is supported.
There's a 3.2-megapixel camera on-board too, and the results aren't bad as far as phone snappers go. There's no flash and, once you transfer photos to a PC, you'll notice some tell-tale artefacts, particularly around edges, but the Jalou is fine for taking casual snaps and recording short video clips. An FM radio and a music player that supports MP3 and AAC files are also included, although the provided stereo headphones are rather tinny. Replacing them will involve investing in an adaptor for the phone's proprietary connector.
With only 100MB of on-board memory, you'll also need some extra storage space for all your music, movies and photos. Thankfully, there's a handy microSD card slot that allows for up to 4GB of additional storage. The only drawback is that the slot is placed underneath the battery, which makes it unnecessarily fiddly to insert or extract your memory card.
Easy does it
The operating system is a Jalou-themed version of the same OS that you'll find on many current Sony Ericsson phones, including the eco-friendly Naite. It's not a particularly exciting interface, but it will be familiar to many people. It's also easy to navigate, and relatively fast and responsive.
The jewel-theme continues beneath the screen, with small, shiny, gem-shaped buttons on the keypad. These aren't particularly easy for large, masculine, sausage fingers to handle. The Jalou's battery life isn't fantastically long, but we got more than two days of fairly frequent use out of the phone on a single charge, which isn't bad.
Whether or not you like the Sony Ericsson Jalou's appearance is down to personal taste, and it's possible that a number of minor issues may rankle with some users. Nevertheless, from a purely practical point of view, the Jalou is an extremely convenient way of combining your phone, camera, music player and, of course, your compact mirror in a single, tiny device.
Edited by Charles Kloet