It may sound like an object in an interplanetary tongue, but the Sony Ericsson Naite (pronounced nigh-tay) has its roots sunk deep in Earth. Like the Samsung Blue Earth, the Samsung Reclaim, and the Motorola Renew, the Naite is billed as an eco-friendly phone. It’s made from recycled plastic and it’s also packaged in a thinner, lighter box made from less cardboard. It also includes a charger that’s compliant with the Energy Star V standards. The standby mode sucks up less power, and the Naite comes wrapped in a recyclable sleeve that emits the unfortunate stale odor of “New Car Smell.”

Yet the do-gooding phone does many things well. For instance, there’s Sony Ericsson’s typically sharp and bright display, easy navigation, and some substantial features like e-mail support, Google Maps, and an FM radio. Although the 2-megapixel camera is nothing worth writing home about, the Naite makes amends with a video recorder and photo and video editors.

Naites come in two colors: Vapour Silver, the classic black and silver color, and Ginger Red, for those who prefer more pizzazz. We evaluated the unlocked silver and black Naite using T-Mobile’s service, but the features are the same on both models. The midrange feature phone is a strong showing for most casual users who aren’t looking for a business device–and we guess the reduced carbon footprint doesn’t hurt, either. The Naite sells for $159, which is very well priced for an unlocked phone.

Design
The two-toned candy bar Naite is an attractive, if slightly boxy, phone. It measures 4.3 inches tall by 1.9 inches wide by 0.5 inch deep; it sports a silver keypad and a screen that’s bordered in recycled black plastic. In fact, the entire phone is made from recycled plastics sourced from water bottles and CDs–from the stripe of silver running the length of the Naite’s spine to its black, vertically ridged backing. At 3 ounces, the Naite is light in the hand, but not particularly sturdy. It slips easily into pockets and purses.

On the Naite’s right spine sits a sliver of a volume rocker. The left spine houses the phone’s large proprietary charger port that also serves as the headset jack. We prefer these two to be separate. The nonstandard, two-pronged jack itself is inconvenient (the standard 3.5mm jack is best), and we’d much rather see it at the bottom of the phone than on the spine, where it forms an uncomfortable crater if you grasp the phone by the sides On the back you’ll find the Naite’s 2-megapixel camera lens (sans flash), and that ridged cover we mentioned, which you can pretty easily pop off to expose a microSD slot. We’re glad to see that Sony Ericsson didn’t stick us with its Memory Stick micro format. We’re not adoring fans of those ridges, however. The vertical grooves may be intended to improve grip, but they will slide the phone right off your hand when you tilt your palm.

At 2.2 inches, the Naite’s screen is fairly generous for a phone of this type; it’s about half its height. More importantly, it boasts Sony Ericsson’s typically impressive sharpness and saturation with its 240×320-pixel and 262,144-color resolution. Even at 70 percent brightness, the screen is easily read in low and bright lighting. Though you can change the wallpapers and animated themes, you can’t alter the font size.

Two soft keys flank a four-directional navigation pad that’s equipped with a central OK button. Navigation is quick and responsive. You’ll find the Naite’s power button sharing a key with the End button. There are also dedicated buttons for silencing the phone, locking the dial pad, and popping up some shortcuts. They’re fully separated and backlit, but we found the keys to be a little cramped and squat, even for modest-size fingers. We also found it difficult to dial by feel, although the key shape did not impede texting.

Features
The Naite’s address book holds 1,000 contacts, with seven possible numbers and an e-mail address per contact. You can’t create caller groups, but you can initiate a conference call with up to five people. You can also assign a picture to a contact, but not a ringtone, which is a surprising omission. There’s also no support for group calling, another common feature. The Naite has 18 polyphonic ringtones to choose from. There’s a speakerphone option during active calls, but when silence is golden, you can mute all rings and turn on vibrate mode to cancel the noise.

In the organizer, you’ll find a file manager, calendar, to-do list, notes, timer, stopwatch, calculator, and a password-keeper. There’s also stereo Bluetooth, 3G support, push e-mail, and text and MMS. Voice command and media syncing through the MediaGo app are nice touches. As for mapping features, Google Maps for Mobile comes preloaded, and includes directions (but not the turn-by-turn navigation found in higher-end smartphones). Integrated Facebook and YouTube apps serve as a social networking bridge. RSS feeds and podcasts are also onboard.

There’s POP3 e-mail syncing for accounts like your Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo in-boxes, and IMAP4 e-mail. The first time we had no problems downloading settings for a Gmail account, but our second attempt after deleting the account asked for manual configuration, which may require users to look up server names. We were able to send and receive e-mail messages, though the small chassis makes e-mail less ideal than on a larger phone with a full QWERTY keyboard.

Since we had to test the phone on T-Mobile’s network we didn’t get the full benefit of the Naite’s 3G (we were stuck on EDGE). Yet, if you’re with AT&T, the tri-band support (UMTS/HSPA 850/1900/2100) means you can access that carrier’s 3G network and you’ll be able to use 3G when roaming in Europe. To that end, the Naite is a highly functional gateway to the Internet, complete with search and the ability to bookmark, select and copy text, search for text, save a page, and send the link in an e-mail, MMS, or via Bluetooth. Load times can be slower or faster depending on your signal strength.

Although 2 megapixels offers a decent camera resolution for a midrange feature phone like the Naite, the tools under the hood pump up the experience. The camera supports 2.5x digital zoom and switches to panorama, frame, and burst modes as well as taking the standard shot. Although photos will resize for e-mail and MMS sends, you can also elect to take snaps at 1 megapixel and VGA (640×480 pixels). There’s also night mode, a self-timer, and black and white and sepia effects. You can even swap shutter sounds should you so choose.

The Naite offers plenty of options for after you take the photo, too, like zooming in, making color adjustments, and adding effects. You can also send finished photos to Twitter or a Web site, or attach in an MMS. Unfortunately, you’re not able to associate the snap to a contact from the editor, or save the picture as wallpaper. You’ll have to arrange that from the Media gallery instead. In addition to photos, you can fill the Naite’s 100MB internal memory with videos. Clips meant for multimedia messages are capped at 47 seconds, though you’ll be able to shoot for longer in standard mode. Also, you can attach to a picture message or upload to a Web site.

Other covetous extras in the Naite include a solid stereo FM Radio, audio recorder, photo and video editors, and a music composer that’s equipped to create ringtones from your song collection. There’s also a music recognition app (akin to Shazam, a smartphone app), which can identify recorded music when you hold it near the source. Sadly, some of the best multimedia goodies aren’t supported in North America, such as video ringtones, video calls, and the PlayNow store for buying more ringtones, games, and music. The Naite can host MP3 and AAC tracks and can stream A2DP and AVRCP formats.

As mentioned, the Naite accommodates an expandable micoSD card that stores up to 16MB, but you’ll need to buy your own. The phone does, however, come with four Java games, including Sudoku, with more games available via a download store that, as we mentioned, won’t work for North Americans. You can add your personal aesthetic touch with a limited number of animated themes, still wallpapers, and screensavers.

Performance
We got consistently good sound quality out of the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) Naite when we called various domestic mobile phones and landlines from San Francisco, using a T-Mobile SIM card. Voices sounded clear and loud on our end, with audible fuzziness and a low hum present only when we were in areas with weak reception.

On their end, callers shared our opinion that voices were natural, without any tininess. Callers mostly said that we sounded clear, with the exception of when speaking over speakerphone (we reportedly sounded distant) and a car’s Bluetooth, where we came across as more muted and hazy. Speakerphone quality was pretty poor, with voices sounding mumbly and indecipherable even when we were in a quiet environment. On the other end, callers heard a significant echo.

The Naite has a very high rated talk battery life of 13 hours and promises 25 days of standby battery life. FCC radiation tests put the Naite’s digital SAR at 1.32 watts per kilogram.

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