I’ve recently been given an opportunity to use the Sony-Ericsson (SE) Xperia X10 for a period of time and now that I’ve finally put aside the initial period of playing with a new toy (plus the fact that I finally have a few minutes while sitting on a flight from Toronto to Charlottetown), It’s time to get into some of the nuts and bolts of the the Sony-Ericsson (SE) Xperia X10. This being the first Android offering from SE it’s a good start to what I’m sure is going to be a great line of phones for the consumer market. The phone does have some short comings but nothing that interferes greatly with it’s functionality as most are more annoyances than anything. Some things I may find as short comings others may see as features, after all there is no way SE is going to be able to please us all.
When you open the box the first thing that you are greeted with is the large bold screen of the X10, compaired to the screen on my HTC Magic this thing is positivly huge. It’s a 4″ TFT Capacitive LDC display, 480 x 854 pixles WFGA. Once you manage to get through with galking at your new toy and get down to the business of checking out the remainder of the box, you will find it contains a SIM card , Large 16MB Micro SD card, Charger with USB cable, a set of earbud style headphones and a mini audio cable that contains the microphone and answer button. The one thing noticeably missing is a slip case to protect that large screen from your keys when it’s in your pocket.
It’s good to see a company like SE taking some initiative by including a charger that uses the a micro usb cable to connect to the phone. Having the cable serve a dual purpose saves on some unnecessary cabling. I however, would have prefered a charger with cable attached and and the additional USB cable as the phone is not capable of achieving the entire day on a single charge (at least with my use). I need the ability to charge in multiple locations without having to drag the cable around with me so I’ll have to pickup a couple of additional Micro-USB cables to have the ability to charge the phone at work and in the car as required. Luckily the charger that I have for use in my car is of the type that you plug a USB cable into.
The audio cable is a well thought out design that I’m really impressed with. Having the included ear bud headset seperate from the cable that contains the answer button and microphone means that I can use my own headset to listen to music without having to worry about unplugging it to make a call. I’m sure that many people who use their phones as music players will appreciate this ability. The included ear-buds have a decent sound quality and the overall volume would be sufficient for most people. The phone is capable of louder sound levels than what I would normally use for any extended period of time but others may only find it just adequate.
The SD card, what can I say but 16GB wow! It’s nice to see Android phones hitting the market with greater storage capacities. I believe that many casual users would be hard pressed to fill this amount of space up in any appreciateable amount of time but, if you do need more space, according to the specifications on Rogers Web site the phone is capable of holding up to a 32GB card. The only drawback that I see with the included card is that it’s only a Class 2 which has a maximum data transfer of 2MB per sec. For now and for most users of the phone it’s not going to make that much of a noticeable difference unless you’re in the habbit of transfering large files to and from the phone. But if and when Google decides to offer a native ability in Android to store applications on the SD card, the speed limitations of Class 2 is going to be a problem. I would have liked to see at a minimum a Class 4 and preferably a Class 6 card included with a high-end phone like this.
This phone is crying out for some sort of case or slip pouch that it can be stored in. One of the specifications on the phone is that it’s screen is “scratch resistant” but I for one don’t really want to test the scratch resistance of the screen by throwing in my pocket with my keys and I would liked to have seen some sort of protective cover included with the device. Unfortunatly Rogers does not yet have any such accesories on their site, leaving it up to the customer to find other supply sources to order from. Hopefully Rogers will rectify this oversight soon and we will see some offerings on the Rogers web site. Until then a quick search with Google will lead you to many sources for ordering a case for the phone. *** update, I’ve learned today that Rogers will be stocking cases for the X10 and they should be available the week of May 10th. ***
Removing the back off of the phone can be a formidable task the first time you do it. Just like the HTC Dream, it seams like you are going to break the phone when taking the back off. However after a few times removing it you will find it becomes easier to do. Under the cover you will find a 1500 mHa battery branded with the Sony Ericsson name, I’m not sure if the battery is a Sony designed battery or if they they are purchasing a standard battery and having it branded with their name direct from the manufacture. A quick search with google however does turn up with a 1800mAh replacement battery from Mugen. If you’re finding that you can’t get enough time between charges, this might be the route to go as it should equate to about 20% increase in battery performance. As the case in most phones, the battery must be removed to install or remove the SIM and Micro-SD cards, which themselves are easy to access.
SE went to great lengths to give this phone some clean lines and they succeed. The front of the device contains only the large screen, recessed ear-piece and three push buttons (Menu, Home and Back), gone is the trackball or d-pad found on other Android Devices. The light and proximity sensors are also located on the front but are hidden behind the clear cover that takes up almost the entire front of the phone. The volume up and down buttons are on the right side of the phone which is a switch from most other phones that I’ve used in the past where they were to be usually found on the left side. After using the volume buttons, I find that this is a much more natural location for them and I really appreciate the thought that went into the ergonomics of the phone. The camera button is also located on the right side of the phone ( which will be the top when taking pictures). The top of the phone contains the power switch Mini-RCA audio jack and a covered Micro-SD connector for charging the phone and connecting it to your computer. The left side of the phone contains the audio output and what I assume is the microphone. The bottom has only a place for attaching a strap while the back contains the impressive 8MP camera and the camera light.
The first thing to note when booting the phone is that its boot-up time is great, I’ve clocked it at under 45sec from hitting the power button to being able dial out (This is with about 60 applications installed on the phone). This is a tremendous improvement over Rogers earlier offerings in the HTC Dream / Magic and the LG Eve. When booting the user will be met with a screen where they will have to swipe from left to right in an upward curving arc to unlock the screen. After using the swipe to unlock feature (SE needs to enable users to just push the home button to unlock as well) you will be greeted by the largest piece of screen realastate that you’ve ever seen on a smartphone. SE has even gone to the lengths to reduce the size of the information bar at the top of the screen and application pull up bar at the bottom of the screen. It could be my old eyes but I personally find that the size of the information bar is too small with many of the icons being hard to make out at times.
While in use the phone is responsive with the 1GH Snapdragon processor handling just about anything you can throw at it and it has lots of internal storage for downloading those applications that we all love. I’ve made an effort to use the included Timescape and Mediascape applications that are the cornerstones of Sony-Ericisson’s UX user interface. While I’m still on the fence over the Timescape application (which by the way can be set as the home screen), I am liking the Mediascape application. I’ll certanly keep on using these applications and write more about them on an individual basis. One thing to note on the Timescape app is that it’s more of a contact based than application based interface for all your social interactions, this is why I’m on the fence over it. I’m not used to using my social media this way and the app depends on your adding all your Facebook and Twitter contacts into the main contacts list. I’m not sure if I want all my twitter contacts to end up crowding my gmail contact list when it’s synced so I’ll have to check into the settings more to make sure if I add people to the contact list it’s just on the phone and doesn’t end up being synced to gmail.
After using the HTC on-screen keyboard, there are not many others that can offer up anything close to the functionality and ease of use. The keyboard included with the X10 is one of those that can’t measure up and it’s a major disappointment as it offers little more functionality than the basic Android keyboard. I gave it my best try to get used to it but gave up and installed a different keyboard on the phone that offered up a better interface and faster input. Since there are many keyboards available in the Market or otherwise this is nothing more than an annoyance that can be quickly and easily rectified by the user. And hey, if you’ve never used the HTC keyboard how would you ever know.
The camera is easy to use and comes with many functions. I’ve not gotten into using it much yet but what I can say so far is that it has multiple settings for photo quality, the camera can be set to take pictures at 2mp 16:9, 2mp 4:3, 6mp 16:9 and finally 8mp 4:3. It has an auto exposure that you can also manually adjusted and a light that has to be manually enabled each time the camera app is started. The bright LED does not act as a flash but rather just turns on to light up a subject. The range on the light is not that great so your subject will have to be fairly close before snapping your picture. The outdoor picture quality is great and having the camera set 8mp will give you decent pictures even if you’re using the 10X digital zoom feature. I can actually forsee many occasions where I wouldn’t bother bringing my digital camera with me and would rely on the phones camera instead.
Included behind the protective screen on the front of the phone are a light sensor and proximity sensor. The light sensor is used to automatically adjust the brightness of the screen based on the ambient light conditions. SE still has some work to to do with their auto-brightness as you can can see the brightness of the screen adjusting to transient conditions. I would rather see them take an average of the light level over 5-10sec and adjust the brightness according to the average. I have no idea what they are using the proximity sensor for, one would assume it would be to stop you from making selections with your face while talking on the phone. As I’ve never had that happen to me I can’t say for sure if that’s the reason or not so I’ll do a little more research into it and post again in another blog the reason for the existence of the proximity sensor.
To install the sofware that comes with the phone on a windows based PC, it’s a simple as attaching the phone to your computer via USB and then choosing to mount the SD. As long as you have auto-run enabled on your PC the installer will run automaticly. If not you can just navigate to the removeable disk that was setup on your PC when you attached the phone and run the install.exe file found on the root of the SD card. I’ll get into the PC software at another time on a different post so I can devote some time to it.
So in conclusion I find that this is well built and designed phone that I’m sure will be a great device for many users and I would certainly recommend it if you are looking for a device where you can keep all of your contact interactions in one place. Android power users may be disappointed in the phone, especially if they have used Google’s Nexus1 or any other device that is running version 2.X of Android. The phone is currently running on Android 1.6 which is an older version of the Android Operating System but SE has stated that the phone will be updated to Android 2.1 later in the year.
I’ll be back with further posts on the specifics in each area of the phones operation. I just want to have a chance to give each feature on the phone a good workout before I give my final opinion on it.
Large screen, Great audio quality, Clean ergonomic design, Amazing camera for a phone, Light Sensor included, Quick boot-up time, Quick response to user inputs, 16GB SD card
Poor battery life, No trackball or d-pad (some would consider this a plus), Basic on screen keyboard, Included SD Card is only Class 2, No Multi-touch capability
Items to Note:
Touch screen just a bit over sensitive and causing me to make selections when my intentions was to scroll
Auto brightness needs to smoothed out a bit. It shouldn’t be adjusting when someone walks behind you. It needs to be averaged over 10-15 seconds.
Accelerometer seems to be over sensitive as well or it requires smoothing of the output.