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By Mike Joubert 16 November 2009

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We were big Sony Ericsson (SE) phone fans here in the office a few years back. They offered the best music playing capabilities, were easy on the eye and were always loaded with intuitive features. SE appears to have rested on their laurels a bit. Now you have iPhones, BlackBerrys and Google phones, with SE having nothing in the way of an answer (although the Xperia X10 looks really hot).

The Aino isn’t a smartphone, but rather a feature rich mid-range media phone. At this stage it is the closest thing to the much rumoured PSP phone, since it can stream content from your PS3 over Wi-Fi or 3G.

Looks

The Aino is a very sexy device with a 3" screen, slide-out keypad and reasonable specs. The handset we reviewed was a deep blue/ black in colour, but a white version is also available. When closing the phone a touch-enabled media menu can be accessed with video, music, pictures, radio and camera available for use. With 3" to play with we can’t quite understand why SE didn’t extend the touch-screen experience across the entire platform.

Content looked great on-screen and viewing video is made easy since SE includes a handy docking station that props the Aino up at a nice viewing angle. Also included is a Bluetooth headphone adaptor. We’re in two minds about this since having a wireless connection with a 3.5 mm jack is great, but you don’t have a 3.5 mm jack on the device itself which means the headphone adaptor becomes one more thing to remember when going out.

Connectivity

The Wi-Fi connectivity is really good, and once an access point is saved it will always connect to the net through that point rather than through a cellular network. It includes speedy HSDPA and we did find that it opened websites amazingly fast, for the most part.

The browser was frustrating though, as it only offers vertical scrollbars, and not a horizontal one, rendering content in a vertical grid. The YouTube and Facebook apps work quite well, with your friends’ Facebook statuses remaining on the phone’s screen once signed in. We were excited to find the BBC’s iPlayer onboard, but as expected it doesn’t work in SA.

Camera

The eight megapixel camera wasn’t overly impressive with only so-so image quality, although it does include cool features such as touch focus and face detection. Geo-tagging via the phone’s GPS is also possible. Speaking of which, the phone is A-GPS enabled, and comes loaded with Google Maps and personal navigation software via Wisepilot. With all these features in tow, battery life hovered around a day of usage before a recharge was necessary.

PS3 connectivity

A big talking point on the Aino is its ability to stream content from your PS3 to your phone via 3G or Wi-Fi. But in reality trying to set this up is a bit of a nightmare, and our recommendation is to rather stick to streaming via Wi-Fi since it’s easier to setup. Streaming via 3G will eat through your data bundle anyway. Consider the Aino for PS3 connectivity only if you love your PS3 more than your own mother.

The Sony Ericsson Aino hasn\\\'\'t changed our minds about SE. Although it’s packed full of features and looks beautiful, it failed to turn us on. Its PS3 connectivity turned out to be awkward and at R6999 it’s very pricey for a feature phone; competing with high-end smartphones in a similar price bracket. 

PROS
It looks good, has some impressive multi-media features and Wi-Fi connectivity was easy to set-up.
CONS
No 3.5 mm jack, PS3 connectivity via 3G is a pain and the browser renders pages poorly.
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