All told, the headset and dock combination is very useful and it certainly adds value to the package as a whole. However, we can’t help but think that an optional universal dock system like that used by Apple would be a more sensible solution. Not only could it make this phone cheaper, you would also be able use it with another Sony Ericsson phone further down the line (not that it doesn’t work with other handsets but they don’t fit properly on the stand).
As you will probably have guessed by now from all this talk of docks and headset adapters, the Aino U10i doesn’t have a normal 3.5mm headphone jack. Instead, it uses Sony’s long-standing proprietary charging/USB/headset socket. This can be found on the left edge whereas the right edge is home to the volume rocker and camera button. A lock button sits atop the phone while the microphone and loud speaker ports are on the bottom.
An 8.1-megapixel camera sits unprotected on the back and it has only a single LED for company – the lack of a Xenon flash marks this out as not being in the upper echelons of the camera phone fraternity. Nonetheless, it’s nice to use, thanks in part to the touchscreen, which not only provides quick access to the camera’s settings, but also an interface for selecting a focus and metering point in the scene you’re about to capture. There are also extras like face detection and geotagging. Operation can be a little slow and the LED flash only has a range of a couple of metres or so but for most everyday social photography the Aino is quite adequate. Video recording at resolutions up to 640 x 480 (30fps) is also supported and the LED can also be used as a lamp.
The Aino’s software is fairly simple but very capable and makes for a very easy user experience. Being controlled solely through buttons, there’s no attempt to make a particularly fancy interface and it’s all the better for it. Menus are simplistic but elegant and reasonably logically laid out, though having all the pre-installed utilities, including the calculator, torch, and file manager, in the organiser section is a little counter-intuitive. Most importantly, though, is the whole system is really fast as is nearly every aspect of the phone.