The retail package of the Sony Ericsson Aino is one of the richest we've seen - there's a wireless Bluetooth headset with a 3.5mm audio jack, headphones to match and a desktop docking cradle included. These two are easily one of the biggest selling points of the Aino so a dedicated chapter is well in order. The prebundled 8GB microSD card is quite a treat too.
The rest is the standard fare - a charger, a Fast Port to USB cable, and manuals. The software you need to connect the Aino to a computer is preloaded on the microSD card and you're prompted to install it when you connect the phone, so that's easy peasy.
The Aino display is 3 inches wide and sports the somewhat peculiar WQVGA resolution of 432 x 240 pixels. We don't remember seeing such a rare pixel count since the Samsung F490, which we reviewed a long time ago.
The closed Sony Ericsson Aino instantly creates the impression of a full touch device. The smooth simplistic front and the relative slimness do make the slide-out keyboard quite unexpected.
The truth however is Sony Ericsson Aino does have touchscreen capabilities but those are only limited to a few multimedia parts of the menu. Not that we haven't seen a similar approach before - the LG KF750 Secret had the same semi-touch multimedia thing going on.
The Aino front is mainly occupied by the large 3" display and a bunch of sensors located in the vicinity (some of them are hidden in the earpiece). The screen sunlight legibility is quite good.
As far as picture quality is concerned, the Sony Ericsson Aino performs decently but the resolution is on the low side for a 3" display. It's barely more than the typical WQVGA used in affordable touch phones with the same screen size, and Aino is set well above that category. Still, the screen has near 16:9 aspect ratio, which means movies and TV shows will make the best use of its real estate.
The touchscreen capabilities are centered on a new and specially designed multimedia menu, which has nicely thumb-optimized icons. It's a capacitive screen actually - nicely responsive to ensure fluid navigation.
Opening the slider reveals a whole bunch of keys and turns the Aino into an incredibly tall handset.
The dedicated Call and End knobs are crammed between the soft keys and the Activity menu and C key, but they are still large enough and easy to hit. The soft keys are slightly raised but perhaps too tiny, which makes them a little hard to use.
The alphanumeric keypad of the Sony Ericsson Aino is using a waved layout but is somewhat rigid, much like the navigation keys above.
The Sony Ericsson Aino has its Fast Port on the left side - it's high time Sony Ericsson drop it and moved on to more standardized ports such as microUSB. But we guess that time will come sooner or later with Sony Ericsson scheduled to implement it in 2010.
It's good that the supplied wireless headset does well to at least partly address the problem.
The volume rocker (which also doubles as a zoom lever) and the camera button are on the opposite side. Those are both comfortable to use and do not ruin the user experience.
The microphone pinhole and (quite surprisingly) the loudspeaker grill are at the bottom of the Sony Ericsson Aino. It's pretty strange for Sony Ericsson to claim the Aino is equipped with stereo speakers as the earpiece certainly doesn't give out any sound.
The only control on top of the handset is the lock key. It only works when the handset is closed and serves to lock and unlock the touchscreen.
The backside is neat and simple with the 8 megapixel camera lens and the LED flash at its top left corner. The camera lens has no cover, most probably to reduce the handset's thickness, but that makes getting it scratched a pretty probable scenario.
The Sony Ericsson Aino draws its power from a 1000 mAh Li-Po battery. The official numbers put the battery life at 300 hours of standby and eight and a half hours of talk time.
The microSD card slot is under the battery cover too. It's still hot-swappable though even if you have to remove the rear panel every time.
The Aino handles nicely and has a solid feel without being too heavy. The sloping edges top and bottom make it quite comfortable to hold - especially given the landscape position in which the touch media is exclusively used.
The capacitive screen is very responsive, the slider action smooth. The keypad is big enough, but the actual key press could've been better. Overall, the handset feels quite solid and durable, never mind the all-plastic build.
The white version we tested looks quite inviting. An unusual paintjob runs the risk of putting users off but this isn't the case with the Aino.
By the way, we can't help but remember the old saying that anything new is long forgotten old. The Aino did evoke memories of the O2 Cocoon - we're not sure if it was the white finish or the docking cradle. Anyway, the Cocoon is minor league stuff compared to the Aino but it did have some style.