Friday, 25 February 2011

The Sony Ericsson Xperia X10

The Xperia X10 is Sony Ericsson’s first foray into the Android phone market and wow, what a way to kick things off! The X10’s specially-skinned Android software runs smoothly on the 1Ghz Snapdragon processor, and looks great on the phones huge 4 inch screen. A screen that looks a LOT bigger than it really is – looking especially massive next to the iPhone screen I’ve been more accustomed to.
The rest of the phone looks the part too. A shiny, black, angular affair. With the majority of the X10’s footprint given to the massive screen, the phone has a very minimalist look too. The only buttons present on the front of the phone are ‘menu’, ‘home’ and ‘back’ – although my one gripe is that the functions of buttons, apart from the back button, are not clearly delineated. Perhaps Sony Ericsson should rethink their icon design?
The rest of the X10 is pretty button free – with only camera and volume buttons on the side and on/off-come-lock button on the top. The top of the phone also features the standard 3.5mm headphone jack and a micro-usb port hidden under a typical dust cover. Other than that, the phone is clutter free… The X10 features a curved, supposedly more ergonomic  back – which also houses the camera lens and flash, which I admit does feel comfortable in the palm of your hand.
Enough about the looks, what about the software? I hear you ask…
Well the downside to the Xperia X10 is that it comes with Android 1.6 installed – not the most up-to-date version of Android I admit, but Sony Ericsson have already stated that they will be rolling out 2.1 updates later this year. The plus side is the addition of the new Timescape overlay – this adds numerous features to the Android experience, the biggest of which is Sony Ericsson’s new ‘Splines’ system. Essentially a stack of tiles (or ’splines’ as Sony Ericsson have dubbed them), with each spline representing an activity or action – be it a Twitter or Facebook update, a text message received, or a photo taken. You can set your homescreen to display the splines and scroll through them at your leisure – you can also just display splines for a certain function e.g. only show Twitter updates.
The spline feature is a pretty good idea let down only by two things – one, if you have a very active Twitter feed, viewing it via splines can make it impossible to keep up to date; and two (and this is my biggest qualm), each spline uses a really lo-res image, making what is a really a cutting edge design of phone look rather… low-tech. But hey, if you don’t like the spline feature you can always stick with a more traditional Android homescreen, even if it has had a little of Sony Ericsson’s sheen put on it.
But this is a phone right? So what about your typical phone features?
Well the phonebook is a mixed bag. Sony Ericsson have added a little of their own flair to the menu system, and it feels a lot like Apple’s contact menu, with the ability to scroll through your list of friends, or use the alphabet down the right hand side of the phone to get to the right name. But here’s where it gets tricky. You see Sony Ericsson have decided that your contacts page should be more about text messaging and their Facebook status rather than actually CALLING them! With my fat fingers I had trouble hitting the small area given over to my contacts phone number to make a call.
So I made some calls, what did I find? Well for starters the sound volume was ridiculously low, I mean really low. So low in fact that I had to mute the TV to hear a call indoors, and out in traffic I felt totally deaf! And, as you would when a call is quiet, I pushed the phone closer to my ear to hear – OW! The sleek angular design of the Xperia X10 becomes the first major downside to the phone when it stabs you in the ear!
As for texting… Wow, just wow. The X10’s on-screen keyboard is terrible. Whilst it works on the same principal as the on-screen keyboard on the iPhone, I found huge issues with getting the keys at the edge of the screen to register at all in portrait mode, and they were only slightly more responsive in landscape mode. The second major downside to the X10 methinks!
So how does the rest of the phone stack-up?
The Xperia X10 connects easily to any PC or Mac, I freely shared content via bluetooth from my Mac, and by the USB cable from my bluetooth-less PC with zero hassles – to both the micro SD card and the phones internal memory, meaning I could easily transfer files and photos to and from the phone. Speaking of which…
The camera on the X10 is a remarkable 8 mega-pixels and the results are stunning, especially when I’m more used to the iPhone’s terrible 3mp camera. I tested the camera out both indoors and outdoors and I was genuinely amazed at how good the final photos were – even when I set the camera to automatic. Check out these completely untouched (I have merely re-sized them to 50%, no other editing whatsoever) photos for proof:
The built-in Android browser is one of the best browsers I’ve used on a mobile device of this size, especially the auto-reflow of text on websites, meaning the text always fills the screen no matter how zoomed in or out you are. I will admit there are some faults, although with a few tweaks – namely making it easier to click on links without having to zoom in it could be THE best browser available on a phone (though I think it has more to do with the Android software rather than being exclusive to the X10). There’s also a huge variety of browsers available on the Android marketplace if you prefer something different.
So what about apps?
First up, a word of warning: the Xperia X10 doesn’t come with a built-in task manager, meaning you could end up with one hell of a sluggish phone with all those apps running in the background. The first thing you should when getting the X10 is download the Advanced Task Killer app from the Android marketplace!
Besides the Moxier suite, Google Talk, Facebook and Youtube, the Xperia X10 doesn’t really come with any decent apps built-in, so like all good Android users I hit the marketplace to find the all important killer apps. Besides the aforementioned ATK, another necessity for me was a Twitter app – yes the phone has a built in Twitter facility in the ’splines’ feature, but I wanted a pure Twitter app, and Twidroid provided the answer. Another essential app for a comic geek like me is a comic viewer, of which I found ACV (Android Comic Viewer) to be the best – I loaded comics (legal comics mind you) onto the SD card and I was ready to go. The app isn’t as good at displaying comics as those on the iPhone, but at least I could access some less ‘legitimate’ content such as back issues of Ritz videostore magazine… And you don’t get that in the Comixology app do you!
As for games, sadly this was the third major let down of the Xperia X10. I downloaded a number of games in the hopes of whiling away the hours with my head buried in a good game. Just one hitch, a LOT of the games that I downloaded required multi-touch, which the X10 doesn’t support. I tried a few emulators too… Again no multi-touch, no play :( Hopefully Sony Ericsson can update the X10 for multi-touch support when it pushes out the Android 2.1 upgrade… We’ll have to wait and see.
Whilst the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 has it’s problems – lack of multi-touch, poor call quality, unresponsive on-screen keyboard – it is still an excellent mobile device. If you can forgive it’s flaws, there’s a lot to like about the X10. Whilst I wasn’t particularly enamoured of the splines feature, a LOT of the people I showed the X10 to thought it was a brilliant addition to the phone. But hey, I might be biased. As a long time iPhone user I have yet to find any device that can replace it, although the Xperia X10 does come close, especially when Sony Ericsson roll out the Android 2.1 upgrade…


  1. Thinking of buying one of these..
    Cheers for the review man, excellent info here.

  2. Yeah it's one of the best android phones in Canada next to the Samsung Galaxy S2.

  3. I own this phone and must say its generally pretty good. Though do beware, the first one i received had a battery problem.

  4. thats why you root first day you get it and put a good rom on.

  5. im sticking with my iphone until july. I want to see what apple puts out.

  6. I'm waiting for SE Xperia Arc ^^