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Review of GSM/UMTS-handset Sony Ericsson Aino U10i
Live photos of Sony Ericsson Aino
In late 2009, Sony Ericsson top managers made a frank confession: the company missed the boom of touch-sensitive phones as it was expected to occur much later. There was much more wickedness in these words rather than the truth. The company had headed the development of touch-sensitive devices. It was one of the pioneers of this trend, having created it actually. Another thing is that at a time when the market began to develop rapidly, the company faced many problems, and potential niche was just forgotten. Well, it happens sometimes. As a result, the company had to catch up with huge leaps and released the touch-sensitive A300 in the form differing from the originally intended one. In fact, the only thing that has remained from the A300 planned earlier is touch-sensitive display, while the other features of the platform have slightly changed compared with the A200.
It was the sales package that was aimed to offset the lack of technology and to catch up with the development schedule. Aino model has been brought about as one of the richest in terms of the sales package, the task was to show off, to enlarge the sales package with everything imaginable, so consumers will not pay attention to other features of the device. Has the trick succeeded? We can say for sure that it has not. In Russian retail chains monthly sales of the handset do not exceed 500 units. In the world sales volume is not larger as the consumers do not understand what they have to pay for.
The model was planned as a gaming one; in particular, it was supposed to be one of the first devices featuring the PlayStation 3 support and being actively promoted by the game content. What seemed interesting to the company marketologists on the stage of the product development, had turned into incomprehensible muttering on the stage of its launch. It is surprising but the vast majority of people simply do not know how to use these opportunities, they are described extremely poorly in the instructions and the company does not pay much attention to them. Hence we have sometimes fantastic reviews where the authors argue that you are free to play usual PS3 games with the handset. Well, the fiction does its work rather well; there is nothing common with reality but a lot of speculation.
For Sony Ericsson the model Aino is not the most important device. It is a model for a time, until the company can do anything else on the A300. At the moment the platform is at a turning point, it is obscure whether the company will develop it or cancel altogether, focusing on Android.
The handset is interesting for fans of the Sony Ericsson old formation, for those who really use all the accessories and are ready to buy them in a sales package initially. Mostly these are men, as among the Aino buyers women are rarity. People who are involved in the handsets market and have no specific preferences, keep away from the Aino as they are not able to understand this device.
The U10i dimensions are not huge, but the handset is big, quite big – 104x50x15.5 mm, at 134 g of weight. Probably due to its size the handset is perceived as a purely male. Although the white version of casing (Luminous White) will appeal to girls, it is quite a problem to find such a color scheme, for unknown reasons retail chains prefer to purchase the black variant (Obsidian Black).
The sales package includes desktop charging cradle EC100, where you can put the handset itself or a wireless headset. The cradle comes in the same color scheme as the handset. The solution can be regarded as an excellent one, I admire such cradles as there are no wires, you don’t have to find the charger and the like. The fact that there is a place for a headset ensures that it will be charged and you will not forget about it.
When the handset is closed the front surface has no controls at all. To work with the phone you have to open it; the halves slip quite easily, although the device is rather bulky. Build quality is nothing to complain about; the handset is assembled tightly, in spite of being made entirely of plastic.
The upper end plays host to display lock button, the location is not very convenient, as you can work with the screen only in a horizontal mode (without opening the phone), and then the button appears on the left.
The left side houses a standard interface slot Fast Port both for charger and headset. On the right you can find the dedicated-camera button and volume rocker. On the bottom end you can see a metal grid hiding the speaker. The rear plays host to 8-megapixel camera and flash as well.
The U10I utilizes a 240x432 pixel TFT display (3 inches from corner to corner) that shows up to 16 million colors. Indoors the picture looks smooth, bright and crisp. However
separate pixels are quite noticeable, which is caused by a fairly low resolution for such a diagonal. The screen belongs to another class of products, it does not match the cost of the device; it is typical in low-cost models, but not in top-end solutions.
When closed, the touch-sensitive display is capacitive so you cannot use a touch-sensitive component. It is possible only when the phone is opened (except – a couple of programs, the most useful of which is Opera Mini). That was done without evil intent, Sony Ericsson just did not have time to change the A300 for use with touch screens, hence there is such a drawback. When the U10i is closed, you can access a special menu where you are free to activate the camera (that is active only with the phone closed otherwise it requires to close the phone), listen to music or radio, view photos and video. At the same time work with the phonebook and other functions is possible only with the phone opened. This fact really exasperates you, because it is the only phone in the market with such strange restrictions. If the device possesses a touch-sensitive display, it is touch-sensitive in any case. Here the company tried to make a touch-sensitive display, but only for a few functions. The reason is the same - haste and attempt to create such a product on the A300. The two types of player interface are especially amusing, one for a closed state and quite different – for an open one. That’s a sort of scorn on the part of interface designers and the total confusion in the minds of people who do not want to understand such nuances.
Thank God you can answer the call with the handset closed, you should just move the on-screen slider.
In terms of color quality the display is an average one. It accommodates up to 14 text lines and up to 4 service lines. Some modes provide you with more text lines. In the sun information remains legible although the picture fades.
The handset features a built-in motion sensor that makes the screen rotates automatically, when working with browser or viewing photos.
The display is covered with tempered glass.
The U10i’s keypad is made of a single plastic slab, the keys lit in white are bulky and convex, ergonomics is average. Symbols are clearly visible in different conditions, the keys are comfortable to work with. Functional block is also nothing to dwell upon. Typical ergonomics without any specific features; in this light the model is average without any pros and cons.
The model makes use of 100mAh BST-33 Li-Pol battery. As the manufacturer claims it is capable of providing you with up to 13 hours in speaking mode and up to 380 hours in stand-by.
In the conditions of Moscow networks the U10i was alive averaged 2.5-3 days at moderate use (up to an hour of talks, about 30 minutes of gaming, 20 minutes of browsing and several hours of music). In European networks the lifetime will be at least half as much again in all modes due to better network covering. The time of music claimed is 20 hours. It takes the U10i 2 hours (80% out of the whole capacity – 1.5 hours) to charge from empty to full.
When we used navigation program WayFinder the handset held about 3 hours.
Should you activate Push Mail option and turn off the navigation you will squeeze from the U10i about 6-9 hours of talks. Generally speaking the device looks like a typical solution on the platform A200; in some modes, however, power consumption is increased.
The U10i comes with around 55 Mb of user-manageable memory. Hot-swap feature is absent here; the top size of your memory card this phone can handle is 32 Gb (later and larger - with the emergence of the corresponding cards). The card is placed on the side under the battery cover. The model comes equipped with 8 GB microSD memory card.
On USB-connection you are forced to pick connection type - specifically whether you will be accessing data stored on the memory card to just keep managing the phone (Phone mode) or activate Print mode. For the first mode we mentioned above the handset goes off and you gain access to the contents of both the memory card and the phone internal memory. In spite of claimed USB 2.0 support data transfer rate is 500-550 Kb/s. If you just want your phone to turn into a modem, then pick the second option, when you will have a chance to play around with various USB settings for going online.
The handset comes with EDR-enabled Bluetooth 2.0, the menu enables you to turn on enhanced power saving mode. There is also A2DP support, which allows employing wireless headsets with the U10i. Its data transfer speed tops out at 100 Kb/s. The list of supported profiles:
This handset comes armed with Wi-Fi (DLNA 802.11 g) support. The device makes it easy to find the network, including the SSID, when connecting the password is entered. You are free to choose any input language which is important for non-English speaking countries. There is a list of selected networks to which the phone connects automatically. In the list of your networks you can set the priority networks, in this case they will be first to be connected with. In energy-saving mode inactive connection will be cut off.
The thing that spoils the picture is short lifetime in WiFi mode, it makes up about 3 hours, constantly activated WiFi also has a negative impact on waiting time. It seems that this feature is not optimized for the moment, the values are too strange. Lack of VoIP-friendly programs integrated with a phonebook does not allow to enjoy the SIP-telephony. It remains a thing in itself and completely inferior to the solutions on the S60.
In the process of navigation via WiFi-connection the handset resets a few times for no apparent reason (during 6 hours of work it reset three times).
The U10i carries onboard standard 8.1mpix camera (similar to that in the W995). Touch-sensitive interface makes it possible to select any item right from the screen menu which is convenient. You can focus on the object using your finger. In sunny day snaps quality is not bad but in other weather conditions it is not so alluring.
CMOS module, autofocus is present. There are two types of snaps compression available – Normal and Fine. Snaps on the examples are in Fine quality. The resolution is chosen out of the following variants:
The camera settings look the following way:
Video may be recorded in the 640x480 pixel resolution at 30 FPS (3GP). Files are recorded in mpeg format. Clip duration may be unlimited. The U10i videos are pretty average quality-wise, it doesn’t impress. The thing that many vendors could boast many years ago appeared in SonyEricsson-branded handset only up to date.
The device comes with navigation program WisePilot preinstalled; it is quite convenient, you can make use of the built-in weather forecast and other similar functions. Also, Google Maps are present on default. There is no sense to tell more about the program.
In navigation menu you can find the item Tracker. That is a sport application where you can specify you physical parameters (sex, weight, height, age), basing on which the program will calculate the amount of energy you are losing during the training. What can do this app? First, it memorizes the route, besides that you are free to set the velocity interval of your training. Should you go beyond this interval – the app will not take into account the distance you passed at lower or higher speed. It is clear that this app of interest to those running or riding a bicycle, for other sports it is of little use. The fact that the system needs to identify your position can be regarded as an obvious drawback as at the cold start this procedure takes up to five minutes. Imagine, you go to the street to do some jogging and you are offered to wait until your position is determined - it is quite inconvenient.
In the training diary you can see the routes for each day, the distance passed, spent time and energy. A full-featured training diary cannot be synchronized with your PC; it remains a thing in itself. Should you look for similar apps in the market, the same program for GPS-receivers of Nokia-branded smartphones can not only get the route and take into account all the parameters mentioned above, but is synchronized with your computer, where you are free to save the results. The fact that the app by Nokia is free and can be updated by just downloading new versions speaks in its favor. With the U10i the user device will probably have to be content with one version, updates will be available only for other models. As for criticizing I disagree with the decision not to use the built-in motion sensor to calculate the distance you passed, for example, the pedometer. This is a simple and efficient solution, which is more convenient than the use of “fashionable” GPS-receiver. In this case we have seen that this solution works fine on Sony Ericsson W580i and the previous models.
The headset included in the sales package comes under the name MH-100. It will be next to impossible to buy it separately from the Aino, as it was created with an eye to the product design and is quite a simple accessory. The casing houses player controls Play / Pause, REW, FF, multifunctional key that is used to receive/reject call, switch the device on and off or couple it with the handset. To be paired with the Aino no password is required, being switched on the two devices immediately find each other. At the edge of the headset you can find the 3,5 mm jack, Headphones HPM-77 are included in the sales package. It is interesting to mention that the headset edge possesses a sensor area, touching it with your finger you can either increase or decrease the volume. This function works fine, no problems were encountered. Lifetime is about 4-4.5 hours.
A nice headset that fully covers all human needs in this kinds of accessories.
The device is capable of connecting to the PlayStation 3. At that you are at liberty to playback music, view photos, videos or the console memory and other storage devices connected. This is an analogue of Home Media in phones by Nokia, everything is standard for uPnP. There are no special tips in the device.
In menu "Entertainment" there is an item "Remote Playback". When you select it, the Aino offers you set a registration code in the Playstation 3. The devices shows the following statement: "When you set Playstation 3 the registration code is displayed. Enter this code in your phone to use Remote Playback”. And then you can view all the content of the console on your handset as well as all photos and video from the phone can be watched on a big TV the console is connected to. Everything is very simple. To learn more about how it works watch the video.
There is no sense to review all the software features in detail; it is the A300 platform (in fact it is the A200 with a number of little things added), that is perfectly described in a specially dedicated review, here we will focus on the U10i specific features.
The phone comes preinstalled with a couple of games: Crazy Penguin, Quadrapop.
The phone's Applications section includes, AccuWeather, PhotoMate (a handbook on photographing), Blutooth Robot (shows available Bluetooth devices) and FaceBook (social network client).
As far as improvements in the way of platform go, we can't overlook the new Chat mode that's now available in the Messaging menu - all you need to do is push the navigation key to the right to browse your chats with various contacts, where messages are grouped up by date. Apart from obvious visual appeal, this mode also allows for one click replies be it via an SMS, MMS or email. All in all, it's a welcome feature that will become par for the course in many new phones.
YouTube – this application allows accessing the mobile version of YouTube.com. The U10i lets you view videos in full-screen mode and even check out ratings. In most of the cases the quality leaves much to be desired.
Multimedia features are standard for the platform, to get more information about them click here. I just want to remind that, in addition to the player, the U10i features FM-radio.
When closed the player interface changes but all the functionality remains (except the choice of equalizers, themes and so on). When it is opened the themes are available. These are animated backgrounds, due to which the familiar app looks much more interesting. I like the tape with the title of the current song and rotating wheels - beautifully and laconically.
I will briefly mention the lack of 3.5 jack which is the device’s drawback, they could have provided the casing with this jack as well. To the positive sides I would refer SenseMe function that is pleasant.
The Sony Ericsson Aino U10i doesn't bring anything new to the table with its moderately strong vibro alert, a bit too loud ring tones and decent call quality.
This device is actually a twin of W995, added with a touch-sensitive screen that works only in the closed state. How many people do need such a limited screen size? It seems to be sensor-like, but not always. The confusion arouses at once. The answer is the device sales – only a few need such a functionality. The device is sold even worse than the Satio, the count goes on hundreds of units throughout the country in a month (Russia).
The reason for such a moderate perception of the U10i lies in the fact that you can repeat the marketing formulae as a prey, but the consumer chooses the best quality / price ratio. By the time of the Aino release the market has already had similar devices, for example, Samsung S8300, and they were in the stage of decline, the withdrawal from the market. The same Samsung actually has been leaving the market since January this year, as the company squeezed from the model everything possible; its sales in April 2009, however, were not bad.
In fact, in the form of Aino we are offered a semi-finished product, in which programmers managed to implement only part of the functions for work with the touchscreen on the platform A200. In late 2009 the stability of the phone was up in the air, the new weaving has clarified this issue, and today the device is relatively free from problems. It should also be noted that the A300 in the way it is implemented in the Aino is not too fast, there are sluggishness in menus and slow-downs when the memory card has a lot of files. One has to put up with it.
Up to date the Aino is available at a price 20 000 rubles which is high for a semi-finished product. The W995 costs about 15 000 rubles, but the model has already done its work and it is difficult to be found in shops. One can say that both devices had played their part and we cannot expect more from them, there will be no sales (the hundreds of units remained are not so interesting). For Sony Ericsson the release of a crude model in the form of the Aino was an act of despair rather than a reasonable step. Anyway, the fact that the company has reduced the number of announcements of the A300 handsets shows that its managers realize the limitation of this approach. Ultimately Sony Ericsson’s attempt to jump into leaving train of touch-sensitive handsets with the help of the platform A300 has failed and now the company is oriented to Android.
Published 07 April 2010
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