Compared to modern smartphones – and even compared to its brother, the Zylo – the Sony Ericsson Spiro is an austere little chap software-wise.

The Home screen lacks any widgets or anything like that, save for informing you that you have a message or missed call. From it, you can use the softkeys to access the media menu and your contacts list.

Sony ericsson spiro

The navigation pad also offers some shortcuts. The up and down buttons are set, and their purpose is signified by the logos on them: up takes you to the Walkman software; down takes you to the TrackID music recognition service.

Pressing left takes you to a new message, while the right-hand button can be configured to anything the first time you press it.

Use the central 'select' button to delve into the main menu and you'll find a fairly standard grid of icons (though you can change this to a scrolling list if you prefer).

Sony ericsson spiro

While the advertising for the Spiro makes a big deal about its Twitter and Facebook access, you'll have to hunt for a while to find these. Rather than on the main menu grid, or in the Entertainment menu, you'll find them in Organiser and then Applications.

There's a kind of perverse irony in lumping Facebook and Twitter in with the productivity apps that we like, but more importantly it's needlessly obscure.

Sony ericsson spiro

We also wonder why the Radio app is in Entertainment and not Media. It's not an egregious mistake, but it would make more sense to put all the music playing options in together.

There are one or two other navigation decisions that might have you scratching your head for a moment, but you can't really get lost in the options, so you'll still find your way around easy enough after a day or two.

We did have a few issues with reliability on the Spiro. Some actions, particularly when changing settings or enabling access to the internet, would cause the phone's operating system to hang, with seemingly no way to get it back.

It would often fix itself after a minute or so, but after that it was a bit pot luck. Sometime when we retried what we were doing, it would crash the phone altogether, causing it to reset itself. Other times it would just do what we wanted and not have any further problems with that action.

In fact, the first time we tried to use TrackID, it caused the crash, then wouldn't allow us to access any of the TrackID, Facebook and Twitter apps. We restarted the phone and they came back, but it's pretty frustrating.

The crashes didn't happen constantly, but often enough to be a notable concern.

Finally, we think it's important to point out the nice and clear screen is part of what makes the phone fairly easy to navigate. It's easy to read what everything is, often with nice big symbols denoting purpose.

It may not be elaborate and technical, but it's not hard to use, which is very important for a budget PAYG phone.