Sony Ericsson is no newcomer to the phone market, nor are they a newcomer to the smartphone market. Sony Ericsson’s true inexperience exists in their first phone to launch with Android, the Xperia X10. In the past, Sony Ericsson had created top of the line devices with ultra-unique user interfaces and overall sexy looks. The only problem was that those phones [the Xperia X1] were simply too buggy for most users and we heard many complaints from numerous users about Sony Ericsson releasing a device that simply wasn’t finished.
So now we are looking at Sony Ericsson’s first foray into Android, the Xperia X10, and their release of the device into the US market only a few months ago. The only problem is that this device is running Android 1.6 which was released on September 15th, 2009. This time difference equates to the phone being released almost a year before the device’s launch… furthermore, there had already been updates released by Google to 2.1 and 2.2 which significantly improved almost every aspect of the operating system. Many critics of the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 specifically pointed to this issue as a sticking point for their dissatisfaction with the device or why it was a failure. Sony Ericsson has stated that they expect to roll out an Android 2.1 update sometime in 4Q 2010, but to many that is too little, too late.
Today we will be reviewing the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 and determining whether or not the device as a whole is an effective smartphone that runs as it should, and whether or not the lack of Android updates drags down the device.
Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Specifications:
Qualcomm QSD8250 Snapdragon processor running at 1GHz
4.0” capacitive touch screen operating at 480x854 resolution
1GB of internal storage and 384MB of RAM
MicroSD card slot supporting up to 16GB [2GB memory card included]
8.1 megapixel camera with LED flash and 480P video[for now]
Bluetooth v2.1 with A2DP
Lithium Polymer 1500 mAh
The packaging that is included with the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 is basically the standard carrier deal. This means, you’re going to be getting the AT&T standard box with the picture of the product on the front and a whole series of AT&T logos and color schemes all over in a fairly tiny box. When we played with this box to determine its overall ability to protect the device we did notice a little movement inside, but upon opening it we had determined that the phone itself was safe and secure inside of a plastic clamshell.
As far as accessories go, the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 is bundled with everything you’d expect a smartphone to have included. The provided accessories include the charger [and removable USB cable], the memory card, and a slew of guides. In addition to that, there is also an included headset with the phone although our review sample only provided the lower half without the actual ear buds. The extensive inclusion of paperwork in our eyes is a good thing if you were to ever get lost, but we would say that perhaps AT&T and Sony Ericsson should consider just a quick start guide and the manual and make everything else easily accessible online to save paper and weight.
In this part of the review we will cover the most important parts of the phone as well as the overall use of the device from all aspects. With the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10, we will be focusing on how much Sony Ericsson has improved the device’s functionality beyond standard Android and how much Android 1.6 affects or doesn’t affect the overall device’s usability.
When we first got this device and started it up, it was no different from getting any other Android phone. In that respect, it was very simply to setup and use right away. Also, setting up email accounts was fairly simple and since Android already has Gmail integration that was just one less thing to set up. When we hooked it up to Songbird the music and video integration was seamless from the start. The Facebook and twitter accounts that are attached to the Sony Ericsson interface were the only additional things that we had to setup outside of our exchange email server. Getting everything setup took about half an hour including the exchange email account, which we found surprising considering that Android doesn’t natively include that but Sony Ericsson[or AT&T] opted to include it.
As far as the user interface goes, there are technically two different interfaces that you deal with on this device. The two interfaces are the boring standard Android 1.6 interface and the Sony Ericsson Timescape interface. The Android 1.6 is nothing to write home about, and it definitely leaves us hoping that they had at least done an upgrade to 2.1 or 2.2 before giving us this device. Sony Ericsson also opted to go for a non-standard slide to unlock in order to prevent butt dialing or any other unwanted user input. When talking about the overall phone’s UI, we noticed that there was a very quick response to the accelerometer and that the turning control was very responsive to our movement.
Nevertheless, the real crowning glory of this phone’s UI is the Timescape interface that is also complimented by the Mediascape music, video and picture viewer. As far as Timescape goes, it is the one part of the phone that really sets the Sony Ericsson phone apart from all of the other Android devices out there. The Timescape interface under our use ran fairly smoothly and reliably with the occasional lag here and there but never crashed or corrupted once. Upon handing the device to many people, the majority of them responded positively to the unique user interface and praised its use, while a few others found it unnecessary and boring.
Timescape allows for the scrolling between various feeds of user information. The primary feed is a combination of all the other feeds into one feed based on chronological use. These feeds include recently taken/viewed pictures, played songs, Twitter posts, Facebook updates, SMS messages, and missed calls. Once you’ve selected a feed you may scroll up or down using the vertically stacked cards with the related information and image on it. The biggest problem with this interface we found was that sometimes there was a noticeable lag time between switching feeds and sometimes scrolling up and down, but that was less common.
Mediascape is an entirely different UI that allows you to review and manage all of your phone’s media content. Specifically, it allows you to manage and view your music, movies and pictures. When we talk about movies, we’re referring to both ones that have been added to the device as well as ones that were created on the device. The added features within Mediascape make it probably one of the best media players for any Android phone we’ve encountered, period. When playing a song, you can simply click the album art and it will immediately allow you to choose different songs off of that playlist without leaving the actual media player or song. This allows for simple and quick interfacing with the device which makes playing music an enjoyable experience on this device.
Additionally, when you press the infinity button above the album art, it allows you to search for other albums by that same artist on your phone as well as on YouTube without ever needing to pause the song or leaving the interface. As if that weren’t enough it also has a one touch web search button that makes finding out details about any band almost effortless. The rest of Mediascape is fairly similar and simple, except that Mediascape sorts photos and videos based on how recently they were viewed or taken. The photo part of Mediascape also allows you to browse your Facebook photos if you so choose, we’re not really sold on this but perhaps someone else wants to view their own Facebook photos on demand.
The Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 is probably one of the sexiest looking Android phones out there today. The phone itself simply emits class and overall style. Most people noticed the device and immediately asked what it was. The phone itself is about the same size as a Samsung Vibrant although there are points where the phone is a little bit thicker and a little bit thinner. For those that haven’t noticed, the back of the phone is not flat, but actually slopes downward to make it more comfortable in the hand… something we rarely see from phone manufacturers.
Xperia X10 compared to the Vibrant
The screen size was fairly large and made the overall use of the device easier compared to other Android devices with 3.5” screens. Also, the placement of the headphone jack was very well planned out and the centering of it made it not only look symmetrically appropriate, but also convenient. Next to the headphone jack, we also found the disappearing microUSB port which is not noticeable to the bystander and is only noticed under further inspection. This is a departure from the rest of the manufacturers all of whom chose to expose their microUSB ports which sacrifice looks and possibly safety. There are also two little white lights that light up when you press any of the three hardware buttons, this makes seeing the buttons easier in the dark and distinguishing which one is where.
USB port, headphone jack, and power button
Here they area again in in reverse order with the USB port opened up
Calling and Reception
The calling and reception on the Xperia X10 were fairly run of the mill, although when in call people did seem a tad bit quieter. When actually speaking to people they heard us loud and clear and there were neither connection issues nor reception issues inside buildings or by being held a certain way. We experienced a fairly good and stable calling experience on this phone as expected. Also, when using the speakerphone we got a surprisingly loud sound from the seemingly minuscule speaker; we were thoroughly surprised.
The web browsing on the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 was very good with one exception. The overall resolution and touch sensitivity of the device contributed to the ease of use, but there was a contributing factor that sort of put a damper on all of that. The lack of a flash browser. The simple fact is that since this device is running Android 1.6 and not Android 2.2 it cannot run flash inside the browser… and that, for many, is a problem.
With the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 there is no hardware keyboard, so the entire phone is all touch screen QWERTY. The Xperia X10 appears to use the standard Android keyboard layout, as a result there is the need for an added focus on typing accuracy which this phone accomplishes magnificently. When typing on the Xperia X10 we found that we didn’t make nearly as many errors that we had on other Android phones, even though this one does not come with Swype. This is coming from someone who has been using hardware keyboards on their primary phones for the last 4 years.
For the most part, taking videos on the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 was very easy and the majority of them turned out very well. The only problem was that they were recorded at a fairly low resolution considering the fact that the camera is capable of capturing 8.1 megapixel stills, and yet it only records video in WVGA resolution [854x480]. This is likely the result of the fact that this device does not run Android 2.2 and that limitation of the Android 1.6 OS hampers its ability to capture 720P HD video[which will be fixed in the upcoming update]. This is yet another episode where the lack of an up-to-date OS degrades the device’s abilities. Viewing recorded and pre-loaded videos on the device is magnificent as the screen’s brightness and overall quality is impeccable. In addition to that, the phone has the ability to zoom while taking video which most camera phones currently cannot do. This feature makes viewing things from afar a bit easier, but since it’s a digital zoom there is still a limitation on how much quality zoom you can get.
Below is a video test on the beach, the same place as our N900 review.
Here is a test of the active video zoom
Camera and Photography
As far as the camera goes, the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 takes great photos. The only part of the photography process that needs improvement is the actual button itself. When using the hardware button, there isn’t an even amount of pressure that can be applied to take photos. It requires too much pressure on the button to actually take a photo, because of this we ended up getting more camera shake than we would have liked. Although, we did notice that when viewing those photos on the phone itself, the images looked much better and didn’t have the standard yellowish hue that most camera phones have. Upon uploading the images, though, we did notice that yellowish hue, so the camera isn’t necessarily perfect. At 8.1 megapixels, though, they are extremely detailed and life-like. In addition to that, the digital zoom is a little better than some other phones since it has more pixels to play with. Below we have a few samples of photos taken by the camera.
This is probably one of our favorite things about this phone outside of its non-standard UIs and overall attractive look. Upon getting this phone we immediately wanted to test its battery life. We tested the phone in two ways. One was barely using it, only to occasionally check emails or texts. The other was to heavily put a strain on the battery and use the web browser, internet apps, video, camera, and play music. Upon doing the latter, we managed to squeeze out an impeccable 15 hour battery life. There is one disclaimer, though, this is with the Advanced Task Killer Android application installed and running with an 30 minute auto kill. This application in our eyes, if properly used, has improved the battery life of all of the Android devices and is practically a ghost running in the background. We don’t really care much for the light user statistics or light usage numbers as the majority of people are more concerned with how long the phone will last them under intense conditions rather than light usage.
When it comes to value, one has to consider the price of the device when subsidized from AT&T which is currently $150 with a new 2yr contract and with a data plan. As far as comparing this device to others’ value factors, I would say that the phone itself doesn’t present any additional values beyond the device itself and there isn’t anything bonus that makes us believe that there is any added or lost value in the device or accessories. As far as the price goes, we’d say that $150 is about right considering the hardware included. Once again the lack of Android 2.x is really a big factor in questioning the overall value of the device compared to other Android devices.
From our interactions with the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 we can tell you that it was a very well thought out device that has practically no bugs and is a very well quality built device. The Xperia X10 takes a combination of good hardware specifications and combines it with a unique take on the Android operating system. The only problem that we found with this device was probably some of the issues associated with not having Android 2.x[mostly 2.2]. As most manufacturers push Android 2.2 to their older phones and release new phones with 2.2, it can be expected that Android 2.2 is the de facto standard for Android as of now. We do know that Sony Ericsson is working on an Android 2.1 update, but we are still a bit disappointed with the fact that it won’t be 2.2. There are a lot of good things that are going to be done with this latest update, but we just feel like the only shortfall of the device is also a huge one that affects many aspects of its use.
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