The Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini is small. Now, before you click away in disgust at that opening sentence, let me just repeat that. It is small. There’s no camera trickery going on here. This is the smallest phone I’ve ever tested. Get your credit card out of your wallet now and stick it on the table. Go on, do it. The Xperia X10 Mini is smaller than that in height and width, plus it’s only 17mm deep.
Instantly you start to worry about it. Why? Well, small usually equals “fiddly” with most things. Can Sony Ericsson prove that size doesn’t matter? Well, let’s take it out of the box and see.
This review unit came with many coloured “backs” including a pinky white one, green / lime, silver, red, white and black. You can swap the back to suit your modd, but we’re guessing that only one “back” will be available per network. Have a check in the box or ask the store before you buy.
The handset, when held, will sit in the palm of your hand easily. It feels almost crazy to be holding it to your ear – your mouth feels miles away from the microphone but, when tested, calls are clear and there’s not really an issue with people hearing you unless you’re stood somewhere windy.
Screen – 240 x 320 pixels touchscreen (QVGA) (2.55″)
OS – Android 1.6
CPU – 600 MHz Qualcomm MSM7227
Extras – Sony Ericsson Timescape UI
Navigation – aGPS / Google Maps / Wisepilot
Connectivity – Quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE, 3G/HSPA (triband), WiFi, Bluetooth
Headset – 3.5mm audio jack
Expansion – 2GB microSD included, you can add more storage
Camera – 5 Megapixel with autofocus and geotagging
So, squeezed into this tiny device is a pretty decent set of specs. Now, let’s take a closer look around the device in our usual up-close tour..
On the bottom there’s a standard 3.5mm audio port for connecting the supplied headphones or your own, then to the left you can see the microUSB port which is covered by a small flap. This is where you charge your device or connect it to your PC for moving files across. Just above it is the microphone which, we’re guessing, is slightly larger than normal because the phone is further from your mouth.
Up front there’s just three buttons. From the main screen, if you press the “Menu” button (the first one here) you’ll be offered the chance to arrange your widgets, change the wallpaper or arrange the icons. In other applications it’ll do different things, such as bringing up more options for the YouTube app, the Google Mail app or the Maps application. The centre button is the “Home” key and will take you back to the main screen or, if you’re already there, it’ll pop up the
Android apps list screen which is tucked down below.
To the right is the “back” key which does pretty much what it says on the tin. This is useful when you’re browsing or navigating menus or sub-screens within apps and will return you back to the screen you came in from.
On the right side there’s two sets of buttons. The volume up / down and the camera button. You can pick up the phone at any time, turn it on and hit the camera button to start snapping. The volume keys are again dependant on the app you’re in. If you’re watching a YouTube video it’ll adjust the volume for that. If you’re in a call it’ll adjust your in-call volume, if you’re not doing anything else then it’ll adjust the ringer volume. These keys form part of the rear cover, so they actually come away when the case is removed.
On top there’s the power button that you’ll find yourself pressing fairly ofren to wake the device from its’ slumber. It’s fairly small, and sits flush with the device, but does seem to be easy to press and is shaped a little like a finger nail. Press it when the screen is on and you’ll lock the phone instantly. To unlock you need to press this again, then press the “Menu” button we mentioned earlier.
On the back is your flash, external speaker and 5 megapixel camera. All the rear panels have a hole, so there’s no plastic covering the main lens to cause picture problems.
The back, once removed, also reveals that the battery isn’t removable. To be honest I’ve no idea where Sony Ericsson have hidden it. It must run on magic, because this battery is small, built in and seems to last for quite a while.
The Android system works slightly differently here. Yes, the Sony Ericsson UI is here but it’s not quite the same as the one on the bigger X10. On this UI you’ll find yourself moving both up and down aswell as left and right quite a bit. We’ll look at that a little more in a moment but first let’s take a look at the main screen.
Yes, you may have picked up on the specs and you may think “it’s a little low res” but, with a phone this size, it really isn’t. Each corner fires up a frequently used application. Top right, music. Top left, text messages. Bottom left, the dialer. Bottom right, your contact management.
There’s some slight differences with a screen this size. Sure, you can add widgets to the main home screen, but not programs or folders. To add a widget, you whack the “Menu” button, choose “Arrange widgets”, then “Add widget”. It’ll add one widget per page, so there’s no danger of the iPhone-esque programs or buttons list that you’ve seen on other
Android devices. You can of course still get to the apps and programs you’ve installed – just slide your finger up the screen to scroll down, then left or right to flick through your programs. It’s a 3×3 grid and you of course have access into the Google Android Market to find and download extra stuff.
Out of the box there’s some useful apps including a Facebook app, YouTube viewer, FM radio, Stopwatch, Timer, Voice Search, Wisepilot and RoadSync. Games include Peggle and Edge, plus there’s a TrackID app for identifying music from TV or radio, PlayNow for experiencing and downloading media, NeoReader for scanning barcodes and the Sony Ericsson Timescape application for keeping track of your interactions (text, email, Facebook updates etc) with others.
Navigating around is pretty easy, with your finger allowing speedy access to most parts of the phone without problems. Data entry got us worrying though – navigating around is easy enough, but what about texting, emailing and entering URL’s into the browser? Well, it turns out that Sony Ericsson have put quite a bit of thought into this too. There’s a predictive word system and you enter everything in the classic “T9” style, with auto or multi-tap settings letting your choose the best system for you. The means that each key has three or four letters on each. On the first key is “abc”, so if you want to enter “cab” you’d press that key three times on “auto” setting or, on multi-tap, you’d press that key three times for “c”, once for “a” and then twice for “b”. To the side of the main keyboard are sliders for popping out the numeric keypad for your numbers or the symbols keypad for your pound signs and that jazz. On the web browser this includes “.com” and “.net” etc for even speedier data entry. Good idea.
You can even build up URL’s using the suggested words, so for coolsmartphone.com I just entered “cool”, accept, “smart”, accept, “phone”, accept, then I used the funky .com button in the symbols pad.
The browser is pretty good, although multi-touch (pinch / zoom) isn’t included. There’s multiple tabs and a really nice “zoom window” that highlights sections of a web page like a magnifying glass. The menu button lets you check your downloads, add a URL to the main menu, reload the page or send a link to friends. You can also add bookmarks, switch tabs or open another URL. I liked this browser and the attention to detail – it’s comforting to think that someone, somewhere has sat down and gone, “right, this is a small display, we’re going to have to play with the browser .. a lot”. They could’ve just gone “ahh, stick it on full zoom”, but they didn’t, and that’s good.
A photo album will pull your pictures from the data card and from here you can delete pictures / videos, view them and then from there you can send the picture (via email, text, Facebook, etc) or set it as a contact picture or wallpaper. As is usual with Android phones, you can switch the phone around to see the pictures in landscape mode.
An email integration obviously includes Google Mail (or Google Apps accounts) plus you can add your own POP3 accounts. The Android Market is here and, although it doesn’t give you access to perhaps all the apps that someone say, using a HTC Desire would get, it’s still a vast selection of apps. Once you’ve downloaded an app this app will also
keep your apps up to date and will tell you when a new version of the app is available. You’ll need a Google account to access this though.
An alarm system, which is easy and simple to set, and a calendar which will sync with your online account.
Scroll your finger to the right and we get to the next screen. Here you’ll find an FM radio which works using your headphones as an aerial. It’ll put the sound through your headphones or the external speaker.
The Timescape system, which we’ve seen on other Android devices from Sony Ericsson, is included here. It’ll pull in updates from your Twitter account, Facebook account, text messages and missed calls into one screen. Here you’ll see one tile, but as the tiles (updates) build up, there’ll be a tower of tiles with relevant contact images included. Click one and it’ll take you to that service and that update. This is included on the main screen too. It’s a Sony Ericsson way to pull together multiple streams of content into one screen and, to be honest, it’s a pretty good system. The settings screen (which is accessible by pressing “Menu”) allows different services to be added and you can schedule updates.
On the top right is a contacts search options. On the top left, you can filter the updates between all events, messages or missed calls. On the lower left you can edito your status or select the services you’d like to check.
So, Facebook is here too and, after logging in, you can keep check with your friends around the world. You can pretty much do everything you can on the main site. Check what friends are doing, update your status, see pictures and add comments.
The PlayNow app will bring the latests games, apps and music to your X10 mini and there’s many to choose from.. from a price. There’s charts and categories but the apps do tend to overlap slightly with the Google Android Market.
Next to the normal on-board video player (for watching those videos you’ve copied to the phone or any you’ve recorded) is the YouTube player. This will let you search for videos on the site and watch it on the move. The usual controls are there – pause, play and you can skip through the video. It’ll play in landscape mode.
There’s also Google Maps, which gives access into Street View and all the features you get on the normal Google Maps. We missed multi-touch a little here but, with GPS on board and the compass for viewing street view it’s fantastic.
Google Mail and Google Talk are also here so you can chat with friends plus there’s some helpful tools like a calculator, timer, stopwatch and a trackID system for identifying songs played on TV, radio or anything else. There’s a geotagging system and this rather addictive game called “Peggle”.
A barcode reader, which will handle 2D and 3D barcodes, and a Voice Search system will help you search for stuff just by speaking to the phone.
In addition to the navigation you’ll find in the ever excellent Google Maps app, there’s this – Wisepilot. It’s a fairly nify navigation / satnav system with night colours, 2D and 3D routing and either tone or voice navigation. GPS will locate you and you can navigate to addresses, businesses or places near you. There’s also a weather service, destination details, favourites and a very speedy maps system which lets you zoom around the UK and beyond very quickly. There’s also traffic information, traffic cameras and speed camera warnings. It’s all based on Navteq maps and from what we can see this is a trial syste, which you can buy. There’s more details on this at wisepilot.com.
Whack the camera button and you’re straight into the camera app. There’s those four corners again – one which turns the flash on and off, one which switches from camera to video, one for changing to Auto / Sports / Twilight or Macro mode and one for getting in the albums. You can hold the camera button, get focused and snap.
To be honest it was a quick camera producing decent results, as you’ll see below. The flash was good and the focus was quick. I really liked it.
Overall, whilst I don’t think that this phone is designed for power users it certainly surprised me. A phone of this size really shouldn’t work but it does, and Sony Ericsson have rather skillfully trimmed Android to fit. There’s not quite the same level of flexibility but it’s a fairly decent trade-off.
The camera is pretty decent and, although we would’ve liked to have seen predictive dial and multi-touch added, this is a neat little handset which has been modded by Sony Ericsson in a very useful way. There are some instances, such as reading texts and emails, where you do wish the screen was just a little bigger and there’s probably some power-users out there who will want a little more screen and speed, but for the style-concious trendy people this is an excellent device.
There’s a lot of shots that we couldn’t fit into this review. Get more up-close photos of the Sony Ericsson X10 Mini in our gallery.