The Sony Ericsson Yari is not strictly a gamer’s phone but it puts a fresh new spin on mobile gaming. The gaming keys and the Game Carousel are just a part of it.
Sure, there are the typical D-pad controlled games like FIFA 10, Guitar Rock Tour, Bubble Town, NitroStreet Racing, and Quadrapop. We’ve reviewed these games before, so we’ll skip them and get straight to the news.
The Sony Ericsson Yari comes with two motion based games preinstalled – Bowling and LocoRoco.
Bowling is a small but fantastic game using the motion sensor. Choose your position, direction and then swing with your hand and watch what happens. It's great fun and you can play in tournaments with your friends.
LocoRoco follows the adventure of a blob-like creature. By tilting the phone, you have to guide it through hills and valleys, even tunnels. LocoRoco is a fun physics-based game and is very kid-friendly.
Now for the piece de resistance – the gesture-controlled games. The gestures are performed without touching the phone – you put the phone in its stand and move your hands or entire body to control the games.
There are two gesture-controlled games preinstalled – Tennis and Fitness.
In the Tennis game you control the serve and shots. To serve, you swing your hand forward and then back. To return a shot you swing your hand left or right – it doesn’t really matter as forehand or backhand are chosen automatically.
Arrows show up on the screen to indicate the direction in which you need to swing your hand and the best moment to do it. That turns Tennis into a sort of rhythm game. The sensitivity is good enough and doesn’t take long to get used to.
Fitness is much simpler but, like with Walk Mate, the point is the exercise more than the complexity of the game. There are three modes – The Squat, Repetitive Side Step and Yoga.
Again you put the phone on the stand and follow the instructions – there’s nothing overly complicated. As the name implies, you either squat or side step. The Yoga portion requires you to do the Vrksasana pose (a.k.a. Tree Pose) and hold your balance.
There you have it – the method of control is quite innovative and promises to be the “next big thing” after motion control (like the Nintendo Wii). But the games themselves are not very impressive – even Tennis doesn’t quite hold up to the Wii version, perhaps because the accelerometer in the Wii Remote is a lot more accurate than the motion capture on the Sony Ericsson Yari.
As for the motion-controlled games – Bowling and LocoRoco – they can be quite fun for an impromptu bowling tournament or to entertain children.
“But what about the gaming keys?” you’re probably wondering. Well, just one of the preinstalled games uses them - FIFA 10. That hardly justifies putting dedicated gaming keys.
The Sony Ericsson Yari features a built-in GPS receiver. Its sensitivity is decent enough and with A-GPS enabled, it managed to acquire a lock almost instantaneously.
The Yari is equipped with Wisepilot navigation software and offers all the features you'd expect in a proper SatNav solution. There's voice-guided walk and drive navigation, maps are courtesy of NAVTEQ, there's 3D view of the maps, extensive route-planning settings, speed camera alerts, POI and weather. SatNav software is a big plus for every feature phone, because installing one is near impossible.
Its main downside is that maps are not stored locally but instead are downloaded over the air. A flat data fee is recommended but 1MB of data should get you about 600km of navigation. Still, we would have liked to have a map downloader as well, like with Nokia Maps. It really would have helped in avoiding data roaming charges.
We also wish there was a built-in compass like on most of its competitors to facilitate navigation.
Wisepilot for Sony Ericsson comes with 30-days trial period, beginning the first time you start the app. After this month expires you will need a subscription – 3 months for Europe will set you back 27.95 euro and for North America for 3 months it’s 27.95 US dollars.
After Nokia released their Ovi Maps with full voice-guided navigation for free that seems way too expensive. For almost 30 euro for 3 months we at least expected to get to download the maps, because paying the data charges (especially when roaming) really ramps up the price of the whole thing.
Google Maps is included as well if you prefer it.
There is also a Tracker application that tracks your route as you exercise – jogging, running or bicycling. You can view your previous routes as well as a summary, which includes things like Total, Average or Best lap time.