Sony Ericsson Xperia arc review

Sony Ericsson Xperia arc review
The Sony Ericsson Xperia arc has a lot going for it. A curvy yet painfully thin design, with an 8.1 megapixel camera, HDMI output, a massive 4.2″ screen and HD video recording with constant focus. It has the Sony Bravia display engine for a crystal-clear display and something called “Exmor R” for producing vivid photographs, even in low-light.

When you look at the specs a 4.2″ screen seems a little too much, but coupled with this design it really doesn’t feel like 4.2″ and fits the frame well. That screen goes right up to the edges of the phone and the thinness of the phone can feel a little “new” if you hold the phone between your thumb and finger. This is a phone with everything you normally expect from Android – GPS, WiFi, sensors a-plenty, Bluetooth 2.1, 480 x 854 pixel screen with multi-touch, a 1GHz CPU, FM radio, digital compass and HDMI out.


Sony Ericsson Xperia arc reviewOutside

At the bottom of the arc you’ll find just three buttons – no search button here. They’re thin and sit in an arc shape (see what they did there?). Back, Home and the Menu key. The latter will usually let you hop into the search option too..

Sony Ericsson Xperia arc review

Above you can see the three keys once again – they’re thin and sit just at the bottom of the main screen. Below the angled bottom section you can just see the lanyard loop and microphone.

Sony Ericsson Xperia arc review

On the left you can really see that arc shape. At the top there’s a 3.5mm audio port for plugging in your headphones or your headset. The sides of the phone are a polished silver with the other silver sections having a sprayed silver effect.

Sony Ericsson Xperia arc review

The top has a small power button which I did find a little fiddly to press at times and, to the right, a microHDMI connector which sits behind a rubber flap. Using this you can output your HD videos to TV and other equipment.

Sony Ericsson Xperia arc review
On the right is the microUSB connector for charging and syncing plus the volume up / down buttons and, way down in the bottom corner, the camera button. Look at the arc shape here. Nice huh ? I always love a dedicated camera key. Press and hold from anywhere in the phone to initiate the camera, then press down slightly to start focus.

Sony Ericsson Xperia arc review

Here’s another profile shot. I just wanted to include it again, perhaps just to stare at it. :)

Sony Ericsson Xperia arc review

The back panel has a sculpted feel to it – it sits nicely in your hand thanks to that curve and feels very ergonomic. The slot at the bottom is for the external speaker (next to the Sony Ericsson logo) and there’s the 8.1 megapixel camera at the other end with the flash. This phone will also do continual focus while you’re recording video, a great addition.

Sony Ericsson Xperia arc review

Here’s the 8.1 megapixel camera with the flash just above..

Sony Ericsson Xperia arc review

With the battery cover off you can see the included 8GB microSD card and the second microphone for active noise cancellation – this really does work. That’s where the hole just to the left of the camera comes in.

Sony Ericsson Xperia arc review

Inside

I have to apologise for the screen captures here. We tried our usual method of snapping screen images but all the shots came out red for some odd reason. Anyhow, Sony Ericsson have again added their Timescape “social aggregator” to pull in information from texts, Tweets, Facebook updates and more into one floating timeline. I did like this, but if you get many tweets and updates you could find that it gets a little too much for one central bucket. I also found that clicking on some things, like Tweets, just took you to the mobile version of Twitter – it wasn’t quite the interactive experience I was hoping for. I ended up using Seesmic and only using it for texts etc.

Sony Ericsson Xperia arc reviewSony Ericsson Xperia arc review

With such a powerful phone I was expecting a fast experience. I got this, however on the main screens the Sony Ericsson widgets sometimes caused a brief slow-down when sliding through the screens. The gallery “flipper” seemed to cause a little glitch but, after you’d swished past it a couple of times and it presumably had written to a buffer, it seemed to be OK again.

Sony Ericsson Xperia arc reviewSony Ericsson Xperia arc review

Ah, but perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself here. Powering up can be tricky enough – pressing the power button sometimes works, sometimes not. I found that pressing and holding it seemed to do the trick and I’m so glad I updated the software on the phone – it seemed to help the boot time a great deal but, for reasons I can’t fathom, every now and then it seemed to take an age to boot from cold. When I say a long time, I mean a very long time – two minutes or more. It’s like something inside is having to wind itself up..

After unlocking the screen with the left-to-right swish you’re into the main 5-screen interface. It’s this screen which lets you place widgets (Clocks, Calendars, Facebook, Latitude, Music Player, Switches for GPS / WiFi / Bluetooth, Timescape, YouTube etc), shortcuts into programs, folders and wallpapers. For the wallpapers you can pick a picture from your own gallery, have a live wallpaper or select from one of the Sony Ericsson wallpapers included on the phone itself.

The bottom row of icons can be changed too, although no widgets can be added you can at least reorganise and remove these if you wish. As default you have the media, messaging, contacts and phone shortcuts at the bottom but you can switch these around and have the camera shortcut icon there if you wish.

Sony Ericsson Xperia arc review

When you connect the phone you get a range of options – charge only, USB mass storage or the media transfer mode. There’s a Sony Ericsson Companion software which xcan be installed too – this will also help you to update the software on the phone. Extra functions include a media function called “Media Go” which will let you “access and manage your media files freely on the computer and in the phone”. It’ll let you automatically sync media, do CD ripping, conversion and more. This is a great tool and really helps bridge the gaps in media transfer and makes everything a lot easier.

A Sync Zone app will help to bring in your contacts and calendar appointments from your PC and sync them back but, as with all Android phones, you can use your Google login to sync with the Google Calendar, Contacts and Mail function online or use Microsoft ActiveSync. Sony Ericsson have also added their own flavour of cloud synchronisation too with “Sony Ericsson Sync” which will keep your content within the Sony Ericsson online portal.

The contacts system is intuitive and glossy. Here I’m allocating a picture to a contact. It’s just a matter of finding the contact, clicking edit…

 

Sony Ericsson Xperia arc reviewSony Ericsson Xperia arc review

..then I tap the picture and choose a shot from my gallery. I can crop the image too..

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..then, once save it’ll look like this..

Sony Ericsson Xperia arc review

Aside from the main five panels where you can merrily drag and drop items around, there’s another set of panels accessible by the centre button on the bottom row. In here you’ll find all of the apps you’ve downloaded. If you want one of these apps on your main (upper) screens you just press and hold – it’ll then pop up to the main screens up above and flop nicely down into a space you choose.

Gmail, IMAP, POP3 and Exchange Active Sync accounts can be added and, using the Exchange or Google “cloud” you can sync your email, contacts and calendar appointments. This makes it easy to add appointments into your PC and they’ll sync with your phone. The phone will remind you when you need to do something and it’ll all sync quite happily in the background.

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Sony Ericsson Xperia arc reviewSony Ericsson Xperia arc review

The apps include YouTube (which is as brilliant as it always is on Android and will let you upload video directly from your phone to YouTube as well as the usual video watching, searching and sharing), an Alarms function (which is quick and simple to use), a Music App with an equalizer (which shows album art and a lot of very useful functions), Google Maps (which includes everything your Desktop version does including Street View, Satellite View etc), Google Navigation (which is just utterly brilliant at getting you from A to B), Google Talk (an online instant messaging tool), Google Latitude (for finding your mates), the OfficeSuite for viewing Office documents, TrackID (for identifying music that’s playing), Postcard (an app for sending real postcards with photos you’ve taken on) and lots more. You also get Android Market for searching and grabbing new applications too, so there’s plenty to choose from.

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The Xperia arc also features an FM radio, which is always a nice addition into a smartphone. There’s a Media Server for streaming content from your phone to connected DNLA devices and an app called “LiveWare manager” for finding apps for your accessories and define their launch behaviour. What this will do is let you fire up a particular application when you plug in say, your headphones. That’s pretty useful. You can make it launch something when you charge it too.

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The browser is, as per usual for Android, brilliant. It will render pages as you’d expect and you can do tabbed browsing, bookmarks and the ability to find text within pages. Pinch / zoom is included and you can share pages via Twitter, email or via any other program you’ve installed.

Sony Ericsson Xperia arc reviewSony Ericsson Xperia arc review

When we first saw the Xperia arc in Barcelona Sony Ericsson told us that the camera was spectacular – that it was better in low-light than any other phone camera, that the stabilization controls would make HD video recording smooth, that the constant focus would make any camcorder surplus to requirements.

D’you know what ? I think they’re right. This is one of the best, if not the best camera I’ve ever seen. Colours are maintained in low light, pictures come out far better than I’d ever have expected. Video recordings were clear and stable. It’s probably best to show you what I mean with the aid of these shots..

The gallery system is fluid and quick. It has nice touches such as tilting the images when you tilt the phone and will let you crop, rotate, delete and share images via Facebook, Twitter, Messaging, Bluetooth etc – similar to sharing web pages. The whole system, is lovely to use.

Sony Ericsson Xperia arc review

Camera examples

Click each image for the larger version. You should definitely check out our Desire S vs Xperia arc video challenge and our Desire S vs Xperia arc camera challenge. It throws up some revealing results.

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Sony Ericsson Xperia arc reviewSony Ericsson Xperia arc review

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Video examples


The settings system will let you tweak absolutely everything to do with the phone – from enabling your own WiFi hotspot using the phones’ GSM connection to changing the wallpaper, ringtones, display settings, WiFi, Bluetooth, VPN, GPS settings, date, time and more.

Conclusion

I have to say I’m a little torn by the Sony Ericsson Xperia arc. There’s absolutely no denying that it’s a very well designed phone with almost impossible dimensions. A dangerously thin body which remains strong is no mean feat. I loved some of the little touches – the way that text message conversations pop up in animated bubbles and the way that contact pictures get zoomed-in during calls. It adds a little zing. I loved the camera. Pictures are clear and there’s no need to stand still when you snap them either. The constant focus during filming was a welcome and unexpected bonus and really helped to produce clear footage which could be slotted into a family movie. This is one of the first phones I’ve seen which would finally make the HD cam-corder redundant. Honestly, the way it smoothed out bumpy footage and handled low-light put it up there next to a Flip HD video camera. Still images were shockingly good – the camera really does live up to the promises.

There were some issues though. I still miss the predictive dial. I want to be able to key in names and it just dial with the first three characters. Luckily there’s free apps like Dialer One to easily get you out of this. My only other niggles were with the Timescape system, which wasn’t as useful as it should be and in places it didn’t feel like a complete package. But really, I’m nit-picking here.

However, with the blistering benchmark this phone set, with the sexy, curvy design and bright, clear display we just loved holding it and carrying it around. I want to mention that camera again. It’s brilliant. It’s really, really brilliant. This is an excellent phone.

Video overviews

We film hands-on videos which are always worth watching. It’ll probably fill in any gaps within this review and it’s a great way to gert a quick-fix if you’re too lazy to read this entire page ;)

 

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  • Matt

    Missing predictive dialling and the quirks with the timescape interface are easily rectified with apps from the Market (Dialer One and Launcher Pro spring to mind!) This is one of the great things on Android and a plus over every other phones I’ve had (including the iPhone).

    If you concentrate on the hardware aspects of the phone, then this is a winner. Innovative design – which makes a change fro the usual HTC clone we see a lot on this website – and a cracking screen and camera.

    This, for me, beats the HTC Sensation and Incredible hands down.

  • Moo Moo Head

    You mention it does not have the very latest version of Android? It comes with 2.3 no, or did you mean it does not have 2.3.3? I thought the biggest upgrade from 2.3.2 to 2.3.3 was for improved support for NFC, but that is not a feature of the Arc anyway?
    Thanks

  • ghostrider

    Hi. Can anyone comment on the in-call volume??? coz i am using xperia x10 and most of the times when you are outdoors you can hardly hear the person on the other side… This would be the deciding factor for me to buy or not to buy

    • Tushar5252

      In call volume is far better than x10.also speaker volume is pretty good.
      i will definately recommend this.

  • Anonymous

    I have this phone & find it a bit uncomfortable to use one handed & the camera button is on a slant so I find it hard to press.

    • ghostrider

      hey now that u are already using this phone can u tell me about the in-call volume and the overall volume??? is it loud enough like the other phones?

      • Anonymous

        My last phone was the HTC Desire, & I would say its better than than that phone. I have no problem with the in call volume & the external speaker is very good. The fm radio is also very good with htc desire all i ever got was static when indoors but the Arc is way better.

  • Porchy316

    I goy SE x8 – i absoloutley miss the dialer in Htc etc – living without predictive dialling and speed dials is a nuisance. Ive got Go Contacts installed (ive tried a few dialer replacements and this seems more UI friendly

  • I don’t get an option for “Charge Only” when connecting my Arc to my PC.

    The only two options available – Mass Storage / Media Transfer – I NEVER use, and it’s driving me mad! I just want to connect to charge!

    Like someone else that’s posted, I upgraded from the HTC Desire, and that has a load of features that the Arc desperately needs.

  • Sanjeev Saha

    it is one of teh best phone I would have bought but no video confrencing camera

  • Ramsden_paul

    I had the phone for a few months and had nothing but trouble with it.  When it was damaged I was actually glad that it had to be replaced so that I could get a better phone.  I see lots of good reviews on the net for it but the timescape widget regularly froze up the phone to the point where it became un-useable.  Using my insurance money to get a Samsung Galaxy S2.  Ever since 2 weeks after getting this phone I regretted it and wish I’d waited for the Galaxy S2.  My first smartphone experience was not a happy one unfortunately.  That said the camera is great for shooting video but in low light is was poor to average.   I’ll probably miss the Bravia display though as that really brought videos to life in a way I’ve never experienced before.  Lack of front facing camera is another big let down along with the single core processor compared to all of the dual cores coming out now

  • Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc is definitely a largely anticipated
    phone and it’s no wonder why, since it has an ultra slim design and that it
    comes with Android version 2.3 right out of the box. I am excited to get this phone,
    especially since I recently got my employee Sling adapter from DISH Network.
    With the Sling adapter, I can stream live and recorded TV to my Android devices
    everywhere I have 3G coverage or WiFi. DISH is actually offering Sling adapters
    for free so if anyone is interested, there is more info at http://bit.ly/iKbJ4Q.

  • rlaguio

    ..Just bought this new Xperia Arc..Im wondering how to saved images from web..and how to copy texts as well..can anybody help me with this..I’v long been using Sony Ericsson phones and I think this is my 6th one…well I can say that this is way too good from my other SE phones…its just that I dont know if it has this “save image” and “copy texts” functions..

  • Ashtonmjp

    I have got one but the problem is very slow performance than other android phone’s …. contact’s, message, and every application …. it takes hell lot of time to open the application…. one good thing is Camera quality is awesome 

  • Steven Eves3

    I am new to the Android market and was so overwhelemd by the technology and the vast choice of phones to choose from. Previously owning a SE I decided to stick with this make and opted for the Eperia Arc, I have to say this really is a delightful phone and there is so much that it can do. However,  It is a real disappointment not to have the Video call function as the Camera does not have the front veiw option so Skype is a no no. This I found very surprising as my previous SE C510 had this. Very Disapointing Sony Ericson!!! Also, with the technology avaialble they should improve this phone using Dual Core Processor rather than single as with the Arc.

  • Apoorva1105

    i agree with not being entirely satisfied with where i have invested my money.The gallery takes eternity to load my videos nd pics..if it’s not been used for long. it’s an embarassment coz every time it happens in front of my frnz..they r like..”if u had to spend tht kinda a money..it shud have been galaxy S2..or any other phone for that matter..but sony ericsson”. and shud have been a Dual Core Processor.

  • Jaroslaw

    Anybody knows how to setup speed dialling? Automatic answer for the bluetooth headset?

  • I Need A Mobile

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  • Anonymous

    I purchased the Experia Arc about two weeks ago, and I must say that the site’s review was spot on; everything worked wonderfully. Well, nearly everything.

    As a former lecturer turned private tutor who shedules and alters many lessons during the week, a good scheduling function is no less important than the phone functions themselves, and even more so than the media functions. Interestingly, with all of the reviews of the various smartphones accessible on the Net, not a single one pays any kind of significant attention to the details of the scheduling application.

    For years now, it has been possible to own nearly any kind of PDA having a basic scheduling application which enables one to set up a repeating entry and edit individual ones in the series without causing changes to the remaining entries in the series. Not so the Experia Arc, which I had purchased prior to the first update. The handset I bought allowed one only to alter the entire series, which is ludicrous. The update I downloaded from Sony Ericsson’s download site did not solve this problem in the least: the new version now enabled one to either change the entire series or an individual PLUS future entries – but not just a single entry! Even worse, these options come into play only from the SECOND entry in the series, thus totally negating the usefulness of any options. I am currently dealing with the manufacturer’s support team in trying to get them to solve this problem; wish me good luck.

    Smartphone purchasers and reviewers alike are so obsessed with style, speed, memory and media functions that they tend to ignore the more basic functions that PDA’s were meant to handle from the start. When you possess a state of the art device that cannot efficiently provide basic functions, one might as well return to the 1980’s when a Casio electronic organizer was all the rage.

  • After much deliberation over which phone to buy, I eventually went for the Experia. I have to say I have no complaints at all, it’s a great phone with a great camera and has been designed really well to be so thin yet I’m not worried about breaking it. I got it second hand as well from a site http://www.freedom-mobiles.com so meant it was cheaper from me and it arrived the next day. Would recommend the phone to anyone