Whilst the last 6 months may not have been as successful as they planned Sony Ericsson have been producing some very good phones recently such as the Satio and Vivaz, both of which we have had the pleasure of having a look at here at Zath, and both of which have impressed. So it was the turn of the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 to take the role of the flagship phone and yet again we’ve had a chance to have a good look at it.
Ever since the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 was announced and more recently as has been proclaimed across the country by the relatively prolific advertising campaign the X10 does have a lot going from it right from the off — the 4” screen, the Android operating system (including apps) and 1Ghz Snapdragon processor spring to mind — but will it be able to succeed its predecessors?
One of the first things you will notice about the Xperia X10 mobile phone is its size — whilst the 4” screen doesn’t sound especially big, it is very much so in comparison to other phones which of course brings its advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand this makes it incredibly easy and nice to use as there is lots of space for menus, buttons and the like, and it makes selecting and navigating around a lot less error prone. It’s also brilliant for watching videos on, and makes sharing the screen a lot easier.
On the other hand this does make it feel slightly unwieldy at times as it only just fits in the palm of your hand making it very difficult to use with one hand, and nigh on impossible to use the buttons on the side as well, but given the quality of the screen it’s a sacrifice I’m sure most people will be willing to make.
Moving onto the rest of the phone design and there are a scattering of some really nice and really annoying parts to it. For starters the small LED at the top of the phone (which goes red when charging and green when you have a message) is uselessly small, and unlike the Satio’s example which can grab your attention from a glance across you really have to be paying attention to notice the X10’s.
That however is easily outweighed by the inclusion of not only a 3.5mm jack but a MicroUSB port on the top of the phone (even if the dust cap is annoyingly short), and a power button that doubled as the screen lock, which was a significant improvement on the Vivaz example.
With regards to aesthetics it goes look incredibly sleek, with the blue highlights to the silver buttons adding a bit of colour to the otherwise black glossy finish. Unfortunately the functionality of the buttons takes a bit of getting used to as the symbols denoting their purpose aren’t especially clear, but there is a lot to be said for its minimalist appearance!
As I have already mentioned the X10 boasts the Android operating system (admittedly the 1.6 version) but along with that there is the option of the new ‘Timescape’ overlay which is what you will have seen on any of the adverts scattered around the country.
Due to the fact that it is an Android phone you can opt for the standard Android home page (which I personally prefer) which is easily customisable and dead easy to use — and the slightly more modern look that Sony Ericsson have given it works very well!
But it is the Timescape that is really the main selling point for the homepage: this is essentially a set of tiles that each represents a different action or method of communication… Twitter updates, songs listened to, texts, photos… all can be set up to have their little stack — or as they have been labelled ‘Splines’ — which you can flick through in a very visually appealing manner.
With regards to the rest of the interface the X10 is very nice to use — the menus are sensibly located and named, and finding the right settings is generally pretty easy. The notable exceptions are that certain parts (such as the ‘messaging one’) have their options hidden away and are therefore difficult to change quickly, but this really isn’t much of a problem once you’ve figured out where everything is.
A disappointing point about the X10 is that is only has Android v1.6 whilst many of the most recent Android phones are boasting v2.1 as seen on the Google Nexus One and HTC Desire handsets, which brings a whole range of minor improvements from the camera to live wallpapers — and although the X10 does have a significant number of these already it would be nice to have the latest version now. Sony Ericsson have promised an update to v2.1 sometime in this half of the year (by which time Android 2.2 (Froyo) will no doubt be common), but until then X10 owners will have to settle for v1.6 (which in fairness is still very good) and the occasional stability issues that this brings – let’s hope that this kind of Android version fragmentation becomes less of an issue in future.
This is another part of the phone that is split between the very good and the very bad. Starting with the positives the email options are very easy to set up which makes a change from most phones which are a pain to do, and it synchronises very well — and of course is shown on its own ‘Spline’ to make reading and navigating even easier.
SMS is also very impressive: I particularly liked the fact that new messages scrolled across the top of the screen meaning you didn’t have to navigate to the messages section to quickly see what someone had sent, and also loved the fact that it automatically grouped messages by contact (as opposed to time) and showed them in a ‘conversation style’ layout.
Unfortunately nice as this is, the keyboard is horrible to use and really is the worst feature of the phone. Despite the fact that the phone is pretty large Sony Ericsson seem to have done their best to keep the buttons as small as possible and thus make it as hard as possible to press the correct button. Given that you’d have thought that the autocorrect function would be a lifesaver, but it is just as hard to select the correct word and this inevitably means half the time that you select the wrong one and have to delete it all anyways — as you can imagine incredibly frustrating.
On the bright side the autocorrect is very intelligent and quickly picks up on words you use a lot and puts them at the front of the list, and I’m sure with more time and more dexterous fingers you could become a lot better at using it, but it is really off putting to start with.
Whilst the Sony Ericsson eXperia X10 may not have sounded great so far you would be wrong to think that this isn’t a really good phone, and the camera is one of the things that will help you to that conclusion. Whilst it may not sounds as impressive as phones like the Satio on paper, the 8 Megapixels that is offers along with a powerful LED flash are all you need to capture great photos.
The hardware is backed up by some very good software with all the features that you would expect and need from a cameraphone: quick shutter speed, touch-to-take, scene recognition, smile detection and multiple autofocus all being good examples of this. Whilst the video recording may not be the best in the world (ranging from ‘sketchy’ to ‘alright’ in quality) it’s still impressive enough, and so long as you don’t intend to do anything too taxing with it you should be fine!
Another area where the Xperia X10 excels is with its browser which makes the most of the 1GHz processor and offers an incredibly quick, easy to use and intuitive means of navigating the internet. Sure you can’t use multitouch (although there are rumours of that coming when the Android v2.1 update is released) but zooming is still very easy by either double tapping, or using the buttons on the menu which remains hidden until you tap on the screen.
The latter of the two is a nice feature as it means that the screen remains uncluttered and makes the most of the very large screen — something with of course makes mobile browsing a dream! It is also lacking in Flash video support but again we are promised that this will be arriving later in the year, but aside from that the browser has everything you need.
Of course inputting text is a pain (as you have to use the painfully poor keyboard) but the fact that you can easily share web pages by Email or SMS and easily set up and access accurate bookmarks more than makes up for this.
This is the final section that we will look at with the X10 for the reason that it is always nice to leave on a high, as this is really what makes the X10 shine. Split into ‘Photo’, ‘Video’ and ‘Music’ the MediaScape ‘area’ has obviously been the recipient of lots of work by Sony Ericsson and it has definitely paid off.
Like the rest of the phone the UI is very nice to use and the layout makes selecting the right track very easy to do, icon based display makes it nice to look at as well. It’s also very easy to get new music as the small ‘infinity’ button allows you access to a whole range of information regarding the Artist/Track via your browser, and the PlayNow interface allows you to instantly buy new music.
The video and photo options both benefit massively from the large and very good quality screen and this coupled with the great UI makes this easily the best phone for viewing media that I have seen (yes, that includes the iPhone 3GS).
So that’s the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 — a phone that can be summed up by its general excellence and a few shortfalls that although are small in number, are incredibly annoying, and anything that doesn’t fall into either of those categories (such as the battery life which will last you a day and a bit if you are lucky) is either unimportant or good enough to not make a massive difference.
Personally I really liked the phone, and I can only see it getting better as more improvements are released over the rest of the year, and it is definitely a worthy phone for the Sony Ericsson flagship and although of course the cost of about £400 may be far too much for most people, if you have that much money to spend on a phone you won’t be disappointed with Sony Ericsson Xperia X10!