Exclusive: Dell Aero hands-on and UI walkthrough (video)

We took a look at the Dell Aero during last week's CTIA bonanza, but AT&T and Dell weren't exactly forthcoming with letting us take the UI for a spin. Luckily, we're pretty resourceful folks, so we've wrangled some face time with a functioning device, and walked away with some insight into the phone's unique personality. Read on after the break for a bulleted breakdown of exactly what this phone is all about, a video of the Aero in action, and make sure to feast your eyes on the gallery below.

Update: We've just been contacted by an AT&T spokesperson and told on no uncertain terms that the final version of the Aero will definitely have the Android Market, so that's a relief -- and it also means we should be able to get our hands on Maps, even if the firmware doesn't include it.

Update 2: We've also had Dell reach out to us, who adds that "since the Dell Aero is not generally available, this is not representative of the final product." Seems like the software deficiencies here have riled up carrier and manufacturer alike, which is probably a good thing.

So here are our main takeaways about this device:

  • The form factor is very, very sleek, though it feels surprisingly light compared to a Nexus One or Droid.

  • The UI has been completely reskinned, and there are multiple skins available -- but also missing is Google Maps, Gmail, and a handful of other Google-centric features... like the Android Market.

  • It looks like AT&T and Dell want to turn this device into a glorified featurephone, which is a huge downer -- it's definitely loaded with AT&T bloatware.

  • Dell has merged the home button and back button into a single target on the left side of the phone -- long press for home, short press for back, and it doesn't always feel very natural.

  • Screen responsiveness wasn't super tight, though this is still an unreleased version, so we suppose that could change.

All in all, the Aero was somewhat of a disappointment for us. It seems that AT&T is doing just about everything it can right now to rob Android of its nerdy core and replace it with stripped down (and frankly boring) featurephone skins. We really hope that the carrier wises up and lets some "pure" Android fodder hit its airwaves -- because this is no way to treat a 'droid. Hey, at least we can still hold out hope for the Mini 5.