One of the major criticisms of the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini Pro when it was originally released was that the 1.6 version of Android which the phone used was somewhat outdated severely limiting the number of the apps that the user could use, but now it’s been updated to use Android 2.1 so we thought we’d have a look at how the phone fared, especially given we’ve already reviewed the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10.
Mobile phones have been getting smaller and smaller pretty much since they originated and the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini Pro, much like its name suggests, is proudly carrying on that trend. But has some functionality been sacrificed in order to get its size down? It’s kind of a mixed answer…
Despite the fact that the form is so small there are surprisingly few issues relating to that which is arguably the biggest surprise to the phone; the external ports are sensibly and discretely positioned including a 3.5mm headphone jack (which everyone loves). It does just look like a very futuristic phone with the small size and black/silver finish helping to that.
It is however relatively thick which is down to the slide out QWERTY keyboard that flips out in a very satisfying manner and reveals 4 x 10 individual buttons which are incredibly easy to use despite their small size. I was expecting to find typing incredibly difficult, but in fact it’s easier than many phones twice its size due to the clever design of the buttons, and as most of them are multifunctional (there is a magic blue button for alternative characters, as well as a ‘shift’ button) you don’t miss out on any simple characters. There is even a dedicated apostrophe button, which may sound a little boring by is actually such a great idea!
The only other buttons that you’ll find around the outside of the phone is the on/off button that is nicely set flush into the form at the top, and the three function buttons at the bottom which are one of the biggest disappointments of the phone. The phone doesn’t actually come with a manual (it is stored on the phone which is great unless you change the supplied 2GB memory card like I did) so I didn’t know what they did, and to be honest after using it for two weeks I still don’t.
That’s slightly unfair as the one on the right is clearly a ‘back’ buttons, but the other two (one with a large square and one with four small squares) were frustratingly vague — sometimes they opened up the main menu but not if you were in certain applications, and sometimes this closed the application you were in (e.g. music player) but sometimes not (e.g. games). My best guess is that the one on the left is some sort of ‘additional options’ button, but again this only worked on certain applications so I am still a little confused.
However that is still only really a minor flaw and it is relatively easy to forget about it when you look at the rest of the phone: for a phone that small there needed to be some clever homepage designing, and fortunately there is. The main menu (which is accessed by swiping down on the screen or possibly pressing a button) shows 9 icons at a time which although may sound limited allows you to arrange your icons around so that those you frequently use are easy to get at the front, and those you don’t are at the back. There are also four quick-access icons that sit in the four corners on your home screen which make this even easier, although you are unlikely to want to change them from the preselected options of messaging, contacts, music player and calls.
Obviously the limited screen space is a bit of a problem, but surprisingly this doesn’t come in the way you would expect. Scrolling through lists is in fact very easy, likewise messaging thanks to the QWERTY keyboard (you can use an onscreen numberpad but that makes life incredibly difficult).
The difficult part comes when you want some options: the o/s seems to have cut out a lot of options, or just simply hidden them somewhere in the ‘settings’ folder, but certain things are incredibly difficult and time consuming to do: sending text messages to multiple people for example takes forever as you have to go through the rigmarole of selecting each person individually to add as a recipient. Creating playlists as well is incredibly difficult, and it is until you have to do one these things that you don’t appreciate how frustrating not having simple menus can be.
Also another bizarre choice with regards to the interface is how you end a call. This may sound ridiculous (probably because it is) but it actually took me a whole minute to put down the phone on my first call. The reason? I pressed the right button assuming that (with most phones, even touchscreen ones) that would end my call, but instead it took me back to my homepage where I then had to navigate my way back to the call to be able to hang up using the on screen button. I’m sure you would get used to this, and perhaps it is a good idea to be able to freely roam your phone when on a call, but it is another minor flaw with the phone.
You will be glad to know however that that is the end of the negatives for this phone, the rest of it is just brilliant. Considering the size the speed of the phone is pretty incredible, and you can run up to 6 pretty power consuming tasks with very little problems; the widgets that you can put on your homepage (accessed by scrolling side to side) are well designed and easy to use, especially those designed to help save power.
I won’t go into great detail with the camera mostly because there isn’t a lot to say: it is by no means the central focus of the phone but it still doesn’t disappoint like many such phones do. The 5 megapixel capabilities are more than adequate and cope well with both still and video shots in both light and dark situations — the latter helped by the video light.
Along with this the Mini Pro X10 offers geo-tagging and autofocus, but arguably the highlight of the camera is that it’s pretty easy to use. Of course if you are looking for lots of settings and options (as with the rest of the phone) then you’d be better going elsewhere, but it starts up quickly and taking photos thanks to the dedicated camera button is dead easy.
Of the features I haven’t mentioned yet the music player is arguably the one that will be most used, and it falls into the same pattern we’ve seen with the rest of the phone: it looks good, there aren’t many options but it is easy to use. The phone also comes with a reasonable set of in-ear headphones which is nice to see, and makes a change from the tinny offerings we often see.
The battery life, despite its small size, is actually pretty reasonable and you’ll find that even without thinking about what you are using the battery will easily last for a couple of days — and even if you need to cut back the widgets really help you to cut back.
We have seen Timescape before on other phones (where your texts, Facebook notifications, Twitter updates etc) are placed together in a stylish tile-inspired manner and Sony Ericsson have pushed it again with the Mini Pro and again you can’t help but feel lukewarm towards it.
Sure it’s a really nice idea, but I found myself using it very rarely; on the other hand the fact that the phone will sync all of your Facebook, Email and Phone contacts altogether is brilliant and really makes communicating with your contacts a lot easier.
The first thing to say is that if you are looking for a cheap smartphone this isn’t perhaps the phone for you — the price tag of around £260 sim free is really a little steep for that purpose. But if you want a small phone that will keep the various social aspects of your life together whilst allowing you to do all the things you would expect from a smartphone, then this is it.
With the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini Pro you do have to be happy to sacrifice a little amount of frustration for the size that this phone offers, but considering the fact that it’s now sporting Android 2.1 you can’t help but think that the wealth of available apps will more than make up for that.
As well as winning the European Mobile Phone 2010-11 Award, personally I found it was a really nice mobile phone to have, it was easy to use, it did (nearly) everything you wanted and it was a real eye turner, and if that appeals to you then you can’t go too far wrong.