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Sony Ericsson Aspen: Tree-hugging touchscreen texter

The Sony Ericsson Aspen matches a landscape touchscreen with a Qwerty keyboard in a Windows Mobile phone with green credentials

Sony Ericsson is dreaming in green, taking yet another GreenHeart phone from prototype to reality. This time it's the suits that get to flaunt their eco savvy, with the Sony Ericsson Aspen, a Windows Mobile phone with a full Qwerty keyboard and a touchscreen.

This is one of the few times we've seen a phone that rocks a Qwerty keyboard on the front together with a landscape touchscreen, and we think it's potentially a great idea. If you don't need the bulk and screen real estate of a slider phone such as the Motorola Milestone, and you prefer the BlackBerry-like keyboard-and-screen combo, the Aspen offers a new option. RIM, the king of Qwerty, looks to be following suit with the upcoming BlackBerry Magnum in the US.

The Aspen is made of recycled plastic, has an online manual rather than a printed one, and is gussied up with water-based paints rather than solvent-based nasties. It also has a recycled plastic charger, among a few other eco-friendly features. Sony Ericsson says the production of GreenHeart phones generates 15 per cent less CO2 compared to standard phones.

The Aspen runs the latest version of the Windows Mobile operating system, 6.5, also known as Windows Phone. That means easy syncing with your PC over USB, support for Microsoft Exchange email, and the ability to edit Microsoft Office files, such as Word docs and Excel spreadsheets, on the phone.

Sadly, Windows Mobile isn't much fun to use, with tiny icons and a dated user interface waiting for a big refresh with the launch of Windows Mobile 7, which we expect to see next month. Sony Ericsson has slapped its own skin on top, using multiple home screens called 'panels'. We've used panels on the now-defunct Sony Ericsson Xperia X2, and our first impression was that it's an over-complicated system that doesn't do much to make Windows Mobile easier to use.

But we're big fans of Windows Mobile's free My Phone service, which backs up all your contacts and data to the cloud, and helps you find a lost phone by tracking it online, or wipe it if it's gone forever.

The Aspen has HSPA for fast Web surfing over 3G, a 3.2-megapixel camera, and GPS with Google Maps to keep you on the straight and narrow. We should see it in shops this spring.