Rumours of a Sony PlayStation phone have raged and been rebuffed on an almost daily basis this year.
And while the Sony Ericsson Aino is light years away from being the dream ‘PlayStation’ phone, it does, like the PSP, let you remotely access multimedia content stored on your PS3 over Wi-FI or 3G. Not a massive game-changer, but it’s a start.
As a member of Sony Ericsson’s new generation of multimedia mobiles – the 12MP-packing Satio touchphone and motion gaming Yari complete the line-up – the Aino also lets you wirelessly synch to update all your new multimedia content stored on your PC.
But for all this whiz-bang PlayStation connectivity, the compact Aino looks a little humdrum. The flipside is that it’s very well made, with a robust slider action and solid 134g hefty torso. The traditional keypad is also fine to use.
Unfortunately, like the Satio, the Aino’s touch experience is frustrating. But our beef lies not with its touchscreen performance – the 3in capactive panel is responsive to taps – but with its limited functionality.
Firstly, and rather strangely, its touch capabilities switch off when the slider is open.
Secondly, close the phone and the touch interface only offers access to the camera, photo and video gallery, music player and FM radio via a multimedia bar. This arrangement is half-baked and utterly baffling.
Unfortunately, these annoyances spill over when connecting with the PS3. Setting up Remote Play involves registering the phone on the console, then entering a code on the phone – simple enough.
Manually setting the PS3 into Remote Play mode and accessing your console’s photos, videos, music, PlayStation Store, via your home Wi-Fi connection is seamless. PlayTV users will also like the fact you can watch and programme recording schedules.
But using Remote Play while out and about is trickier. After enabling auto log-in and the Remote Start feature we tried to hook up using a local café’s free Wi-Fi. Many attempts, and conversations with tech support later, it failed to work and we went home in a huff.
The Media Home feature was less exasperating and worked first time. Your PC has to be on and the bundled Media Go software – Sony Ericsson’s answer to iTunes – open for successful synchronisation over Wi-Fi. Placing the phone onto the desktop dock also initiates automatic pairing.
The Aino’s camera lens quality is reminiscent of the W995: the 8.1MP snapper is accompanied by a rather weak LED flash and Face Detection. The camera’s touch interface is also a little fiddly, although touch focus is quick to get its eye in. You can also snap photos in a widescreen 16:9 format but only at 6MP.
Video capture is OK, shooting in a VGA-quality resolution at 25fps. NanoHD mode is designed to optimise playback on the Aino’s widescreen display, although it’s difficult to gauge its effectiveness.
Way of the Walkman
While there’s no integrated 3.5mm headphone jack, Sony Ericsson generously bundles the MH100 Stereo Streaming Bluetooth headset to encourage wireless listening.
With Clear Audio tech onboard to polish the sonics, it sounds dynamic and clean over Bluetooth and the 3.5mm remote adapter – complete with touch volume controls - means you can plug in your own earphones.
Compared to rivals, Sony Ericsson’s PlayNow Arena offers a paltry selection of uninspiring wares to download but the embedded Facebook app is nicely integrated into the homescreen. Keep the app open and you can update your status and view your friend’s status and pokes and requests.
After handling the Aino, that ‘PlayStation’ phone feels a long-way off. Its coolest and unique asset, Remote Play, proved a big disappointment while its half-hearted touch performance is ill-conceived.
If you don’t own a PS3, this slider is a pretty decent multimedia phone, but its cheaper and more reliable stablemate, the W995, still gets the nod.