Sony ericsson spiro

Despite the rampant growth of smartphones and the popularity of devices such as the iPhone 4, HTC Desire, and Samsung Galaxy S, not everyone wants to get in on the expensive phone/long contract game.

Sony Ericsson is clearly aiming at the kind of person who just needs a solid phone that makes calls, and maybe dabbles in Facebook and Twitter (if it's possible to just dabble in Facebook any more).

We liked

The Spiro is just an astonishingly well-made phone. Every part of the build screams quality. It may not be made of space-age milled aluminium or super-strength glass, but it feels solid as a rock.

The screen is nice, despite its modest resolution. We don't really expect any less from Sony Ericsson, but the Spiro absolutely deserves praise for the legibility of its menus.

Though it's hardly heavy on the options, equally we can't fault a phone that manages to fit Walkman software, Facebook and Twitter into a £40 package.

Finally, the battery life is very good for moderate users. If you're the kind of person who drops your phone in your bag for a week and forgets about it unless it rings, the Spiro should still be waiting with some power when you fish it out.

We disliked

Our single biggest problem is the software crashes we saw. They not only cause the OS to stop, leaving you staring at your phone like a lemon, but even occasionally stop you accessing parts of the phone! It's utterly ridiculous for a phone aimed at such a casual user.

The lack of 3G and Wi-Fi is understandable considering the budget nature of the Spiro, but still definitely comes under the 'dislike' banner. In fact, you can generally lump the whole internet experience into this grumble. After all, not only is the connection slow, but most websites won't load at all.

We get that this isn't a web-browsing super-phone, but the option is there on the handset. If it's on the phone, it should work. If it doesn't work, why include it?

Finally, the call quality was really disappointing. We expect better from Sony Ericsson, to be honest. These days, it's usually up to budget phones to show smartphones up in this department, to be honest. Not so here. When a phone makes you appreciate the vocal quality of the iPhone, you know it's taken a stumble somewhere.

The camera was also poor, and we had issues getting any videos we loaded on to work, but these are far less important quibbles than the software problems. We still wish a USB cable was included, too.

Verdict

We're so close to recommending the Spiro wholeheartedly, but we just can't. Even the voice quality wouldn't be a deal-breaker if it weren't for the software crashes.

We'd honestly say Sony Ericsson is onto a winner if it had only sorted out the software. Lacking fast internet is a shame, but many won't mind. Even the dodgy web browser can be avoided (though if it worked, that would be super).

What good is a phone – no matter how nicely made, no matter how good value for money it appears – if you can't trust it not to crash on you?

It's still worth a glance in the shop for those after a simple, well-built PAYG handset, but it doesn't get our vote.