March 31, 2010 | by Andrew Kameka
The Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 is launching at a challenging time. The dawn of the “superphone” is here, and competition among Android phones has never been hotter. The X10’s greatest strength – a gorgeous UI that no other phone sports – also happens to be its greatest weakness – a gorgeous UI that will take longer to receive new Android OS updates. Will the X10 still be viewed as a striking phone when new Google features aren’t available to it as quickly as they will on a Nexus One or Droid/Milestone?
I cannot answer that question for you, but I can tell you this: the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 is an Android phone worthy of taking a risk. The UX interface has model-quality beauty, the Timescape function is a useful if not gimmicky feature, and Mediascape makes this the first Android phone that can serve as a legitimate primary PMP. The X10 may be late to the party on Android OS updates, but the 1 GHz processor and 4-inch screen will help make this baby dance. Here’s Androinica.com’s Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 Extreme Review. What makes it extreme? Nothing. I just really like alliteration.
The hardware of the X10 is best described as tailored. Though it’s only longer than the G1 by a few millimeters, the X10 is slightly slimmer, and features a 4-inch screen. The back cover doesn’t feel like premium materials, but it is smooth. The slight curvature from top to bottom makes the X10 feel like it is tailor-made for the user.
Other specs are very pleasing. The device has 1GB of memory to provide ample space for installing apps, and battery life is respectable but not stellar. The scratch-resistant screen pops to make video playback and gameplay look great. The only problem with the screen is that it doesn’t seem to display gradients very well. While colors in video and still photos look excellent, graphics in certain apps don’t fade appropriately. PhoneDog mentioned the same problem and doing comparisons against my Hero and G1, there is a tiny problem with fading.
The UX interface needs no introduction. We’ve been in love with it since it was called Rachael, and a hands-on demo at CES only made that love run deeper. The look is centered on a serene, blue design that re-skins Android rather dramatically alter it. While HTC performed surgery on Android when it created Sense UI, UX is a makeover that puts the green bot in new clothes.
Most changes are cosmetic but useful. The Dialer/Contacts app moves navigation to the bottom of the screen and includes a readily-available search button, so locating contacts is much easier. The extra space afforded to a WVGA provides shortcuts to features that currently require pressing the Menu button on a G1.
Widgets look nice on the homescreen, especially the Web Thumbnails that can show the 3 most-visited or last-visited websites. Not all changes are as successful, however. While Sony changed the Analog Clock, Power Controls, and Search widgets to better interact with the design, it chose not to change the Calendar or Picture frame, making those widgets stand out for all the wrong reasons.
The XPERIA X10 also includes a redesigned keyboard that provides a lesson in irony. While I clamoured for a larger screen that would give me more space, I found it difficult to use the new keyboard because my thumbs are accustomed to typing on a G1 and Hero. I constantly pressed the wrong button during my first days with the X10, which was problematic since the keyboard’s auto-correction/suggestion feature was difficult to use and maintain decent speeds. Switching to the default Android input method helped, but I’ve since gone back to Sony’s keyboard in an attempt to get better and retrain my thumb’s muscle memory. There has been a big improvement.
The XPERIA X10 comes with some built-in apps that are decent but replaceable. OfficeSuite is good for reading documents, but DocumentsToGo is a better option. The same can be said for Wisepilot, which is eclipsed by Google Maps, CoPilot, or TeleNav. There’s also a suite of Moxier sync apps for Calendar, Contacts, Mail, and Tasks if you’re not a fan of Google’s services.
Sadly, the X10 doesn’t include multitouch. I typically don’t care about pinch-zoom functionality, but the fact that it lacks both software and hardware capability to perform the gesture could be a problem for some people.
Communication & Media
Call quality on any modern smartphone is mostly about the strength of a carrier and the phone’s noise cancellation abilities. I can’t test on all carriers, but I can tell you that sitting in a busy Barnes & Nobel with a couple of unruly children who could be heard through the entire store, I was able to have a quick conversation and not have to speak loudly to be heard.
The communication features of the X10 are also strengthened by Timescape, Sony Ericsson’s method for integrating both phone-based communication and the happenings of a user’s social networking. Read the full article on Sony’s Timescape.
The X10 changes the way user create and access multimedia. The phone has a new method of organizing music and video files, and the device is able to play video in the following formats: MP4, H.263, H.264, and WMV. It also supports MP3, eAAC+, WMA, and WAV files. If you have been dissatisfied with the way Android handles media, there’s a good chance you might like what SE has done with Mediascape. Read full article on Sony’s Mediascape.
Camera & Camcorder
The XPERIA X10 Camera app includes a number of controls to take advantage of its 8 megapixel camera. Users also have the option of taking shots that are 2MP or 6MP with a 16:9 aspect ratio. The camera works very well in outdoor and indoor settings with reasonable lighting. A light directly below the camera lens will help improve snapshots or videos in dimly-lit rooms, but you’re not going to get the same quality you would with a digital camera and flash under the same conditions (and you shouldn’t expect that). There are however solid photos and videos taken with controls for changing contrast, brightness, and switching between types of photos – portrait, landscape, macro, document, etc. There’s also a self-timer, image stabilization, and the ability to take photos as soon as someone smiles.
The camcorder function also makes it easier to optimize video captured on an XPERIA X10. Scene pre-sets for Portrait, Landscape, Night Mode, Beach, Sports, and Party help determine what type of lighting/motion settings will be best to record. The camera can also record video geared for playback through WVGA, VGA, QVGA, MMS, or YouTube. I was very pleased with the quality of videos taken, but you can see for yourself with these clips.
The Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 will launch shortly in the UK. Were it launching in the U.S. today, I’d probably be in line to purchase it because of my penchant for superficial beauty and media consumption. UX has been my favorite implementation of Android so far, and this device’s media strengths paired with a large screen and 1 GHz processor would make this an obvious purchase. However, there’s that elephant standing in the room that will become the barometer for all Android “superphones.”
The XPERIA X10 will launch with Donut 1.6, but that doesn’t detract me at all. The phone provides an experience good enough to make me not care about 2.0 or higher today, so getting those features in a future update would just be a bonus. Unless you’re someone starving to use live wallpapers or the handful of apps built specifically for 2.0, you will do just fine using the X10. SE just needs to accelerate the pace of how fast UX is able to handle tasks on the X10.
Buyers have a right to wonder when they will receive certain updates, but Android has become so fragmented between OEM and carrier that there’s no guarantee having a stock phone would make that update any quicker. When considering the X10, it’s best to judge the device on what it has rather than what it lacks. What the XPERIA X10 has is a litany of virtues that make it a great phone.