Sony Ericsson have been working on the X10 for quite a long time, taking the utmost care to make sure its software offers the best user experience possible. They wanted their first droid to be perfect and perfection requires time. That’s right – the XPERIA X10 is the first Android to roll off the Sony Ericsson assembly line, hard as it might be to believe. But it certainly is not the kind of the phone to quietly disappear in the crowd of first-generation droids.
Androids just keep coming and a look at our front page will tell you any newcomer will need big ideas to make a splash. The popularity of Google’s mobile OS is reaching unprecedented levels and the handsets adopting Android grow in number every day. And while Microsoft will try to unify their Windows Phone 7 and limit customization, Google favor the opposite approach.
Sony Ericsson immediately took on board the possibilities offered by customization and really ran with it. Their blue-themed interpretation breathes new life into the familiar Android OS and tries to give the user a whole new experience. But they didn’t stop there. The unique Timescape and Mediascape interfaces are supposed to give the XPERIA X10 a much-needed edge in the high-end class. Trying to compete with the HTC Sense is a tough job, but Sony Ericsson have managed to offer something completely different – giving media and communications a central place in their UI.
XPERIA X10 comes with top-notch hardware to meet its software demands. Here is the impressive specs sheet along with some potential drawbacks.
- Quad-band GSM and tri-band 3G support
- 10.2 Mbps HSDPA and 2 Mbps HSUPA support
- 4″ capacitive touchscreen of WVGA (480 x 854 pixel) resolution and scratch-resistant surface
- 16M-color ready (65K effective colors under Android OS v1.6)
- Android OS v1.6 with complete Sony Ericsson UI customization
- Timescape and Mediascape UI
- Excellent social networking integration
- Excellent build quality
- Qualcomm QSD8250 Snapdragon 1 GHz CPU, OpenGL ES 2.0 support; 384 MB of RAM
- 8 MP autofocus camera with LED flash, touch focus, image stabilization, geotagging, face and smile detection
- WVGA (800 x 480 pixels) video recording @ 30fps
- Wi-Fi and GPS with A-GPS
- 1GB storage, microSD slot, bundled with an 8GB card
- Accelerometer and proximity sensor
- Standard 3.5 mm audio jack
- microUSB port (charging) and stereo Bluetooth v2.1
- Document viewer
- Li-Po 1500 mAh (BST-41) battery
- No DivX and XviD video playback
- No smart and voice dialing
- No secondary video-call camera (or videocalling whatsoever)
- No free GPS navigation solution
- No Flash support for the web browser
- No FM radio
- An extra xenon flash would’ve made the very good camera perfect
- Feeble loudspeaker
- Poor audio quality
Most of the XPERIA weaknesses are hardly deal breakers and most people could live with them. Sony Ericsson have done enough though to reassure everyone that the XPERIA X10 will be on a par with its Android rivals at the time of release. Don’t underestimate the amount of hard work put into the X10 during the long manufacturing process. The delay was definitely worth it.
User interface: Timescape meets Mediascape
The Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 runs version 1.6 of the Android OS which seems a bit outdated now that version 2.1 is already available on several handsets. The interface has been thoroughly customized though with Timescape and Mediascape. Plus, v 2.0 compatibility is in the picture too.
The Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 takes full advantage of the powerful hardware – the fast-ticking 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor and the massive 4” capacitive touchscreen. The UI is lively and fluid, and looks quite attractive too.
There are plenty of Android smartphones these days so you should already be familiar with the standard Android UI. Indeed, all the homescreen, lockscreen, menus and notifications have been re-designed to give the X10 a completely different feel than its Android siblings.
But the changes are visual mostly, so we’d better concentrate on the real new stuff here. Namely, the Sony Ericsson Timescape and Mediascape add-ons.
They are actually two applications which should make your life easier, more connected and more fun. The Timescape will be your link to the world, your communicator, while the Mediascape is a media player to bring all your media contents together.
In other words, the Timescape and the Mediascape provide a novel and integrated way of accessing and managing your communications (including social networking) and your multimedia content.
Timescape, the ultimate communicator
The Timescape brings all your communications together. It displays an aggregated view of your SMS, MMS, email, call log, Facebook, MySpace and Twitter updates. Timescape has a tabbed structure, allowing you to filter the contents by type and get all relevant information in one place.
The Mediascape UI is actually no UI
The Mediascape is an application that brings together all the media content you can use on the handset – both local and online. We can simply call it a fancy file browser and a media player. But we would be oversimplifying things.
The XPERIA X10 phonebook has been visually customized but the great functionality remained untouched. As before, the phonebook can store a lot of information.
When adding a new contact you won’t see the standard list of uncountable fields with a plus or minus sign next to them but only 4 empty fields. However, you can add many new fields of any kind.
Telephony could have been better
The Sony Ericsson EXPERIA X10 had no issues with reception and in-call quality. The sound is loud enough so you don’t need to always set the volume to maximum.
Unfortunately, the X10, just like the rest of the Android crowd (except for the HTC Hero and Legend), doesn’t feature smart dialing (or voice dialing for that matter).
Text input options
As for text input options, the X10 offers a couple of on-screen full QWERTY keyboards. Even on the portrait keyboard typing is pretty comfortable, keys are large enough and well spaced.
Mediascape: all media in one place
The Mediascape keeps all the media content in three different categories – Music, Video and Photo. Sure enough, the Music and Photo tabs are very similar – they show your recently added, recently viewed/played files and your favorites in small rows of thumbnail images at the top of the screen.
The magic however is in the lower part of the screen, which is dedicated to relevant online content – if you link your X10 to a Facebook/Picasa/Flickr account you will be able to access your web photos or search the Sony Ericsson media store.
Below par audio quality
Unfortunately the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 failed to deliver in terms of audio quality. In addition to being pretty quiet in terms of pure volume, its noise levels reading (indicating the signal-to-noise ratio) and the dynamic range are plain very poor. So much that the XPERIA X10 background noise is comparable to that of an analogue tape.
On the positive side its frequency response is spot-on and the distortion levels are kept well under control but that hardly makes up for much now, does it?
8 megapixel camera
The Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 sports an 8 megapixel camera with LED flash capable of taking photos at a maximum resolution of 3264 x 2448 pixels.
Sony Ericsson have designed their own camera interface from scratch and it takes us back to the golden days of Cybershot.
Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 takes pretty good photos with excellent detail and colors. There are no visible problems with the lens or processing algorithm. There are some things here and there that need polishing, but we are more than satisfied with the results.
The Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 takes pretty good photos with very low noise levels – the noise reduction algorithm does its job well and thanks to the 8MP sensor there’re plenty of pixels to work with.
The color rendering is good, the only thing to note is the X10 camera tends to leave the shadows slightly underdeveloped.
Connectivity: 3G, Bluetooth file transfers and all
Connectivity is strong with the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 – quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE, three localized versions – each with tri-band 3G, 10.2Mbps HSDPA and 2Mbps HSUPA.
Local connectivity is well covered too – Wi-Fi b/g with DLNA, Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP and file transfers. Now, that’s quite a rarity for the droid folk – especially at ver.1.6. There’s also a microUSB port for connecting with a PC (including mass storage mode).
As we already mentioned the available microSD memory card slot is not hot swappable, as you have to remove the battery to access it.
The Android web browser has always been good, although the newer version we’ve seen on Android 2.0 has a better, more intuitive UI. Still, the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 browser renders most pages flawlessly and is very snappy.
The XPERIA X10 doesn’t have pinch zooming, despite its capacitive display, so instead it relies on the +/- zoom buttons and the magnifying glass feature.
Organizer is good, Office document viewing enabled
The Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 comes with a nicely stocked organizer and that includes a document viewer, which sometimes gets left out on Androids.
The document viewer in question is Quickoffice and it has support for viewing document files (Word, Excel, PowerPoint and PDF, including the Office 2007 versions). For editing, you will need to get the paid app.
Android Market and its growing catalog of apps
The Android Market on the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 is the older version that came with earlier OS editions. The difference is merely cosmetic, so you’re not losing out much in terms of usability.
Keep in mind that some of the newer apps require Android 2.0 or even 2.1, but most work with 1.6.
The structure of the Android Market is quite simple – featured apps on top and above them, three sections (Applications, Games and Downloads). There is also a shortcut up there for initiating a search.