The X10 reviewed here is exclusive to Orange in white. The X10 is an Android powered handset and there’ll be more from the X10 family in the shape of the Mini and Mini Pro. This, however, is the big daddy and has specs a-plenty. It’s a quad-band GSM phone with tri-band 3G / HSDPA here in Europe. It weighs 135g and measures up at 119 x 63 x 13 mm. Other specs include the capacitive 4″ 480×854 screen, 3.5mm audio port, 1 GB storage, 384 MB RAM, microSD expansion (we had an 8GB card included in this Orange version), WiFi, Bluetooth 2.1 and the microUSB connector.
Around the back is a hi-res camera which produces 3264×2448 pixel photos or WVGA@30fps videos. It’s an 8.1 Megapixel, shooter with autofocus, LED flash, touch focus, image stabilization, geo-tagging plus face and smile detection, which we loved.
The X10 has sensors a-plenty. There’s a proximity sensor for turning off automatically, digital compass and an accelerometer sensor for auto-rotate. Oh, and let’s not forget the on-board aGPS too.
This is a phone powered by Android 1.6 at the time of writing, although Sony Ericsson do say that a 2.1 upgrade is on the way. Perhaps the most important thing for some is the processor speed. It’s a Qualcomm QSD8250 Snapdragon 1 GHz processor and that instantly draws comparisons with the HTC Desire.
Powering all this is a Li-Po 1500 mAh battery giving up to 10 hours of talk time if you turn off the 3G, or 8 hours if you leave it on.
The key part of this handset, and something that Sony Ericsson would shoot me for not pointing out, is the Timescape and Mediascape user interfaces. Timescape is a timeline of your events. Anything you’ve done communication-wise will be there, with the newest stuff at the top. Texts, Tweets, Emails, Facebook messages and calls will be stacked up – you just move your finger up and down to flick through your timeline and see what’s going on. Images and photos of your contacts will be pulled in from Google, Twitter, Facebook or your normal contacts list and they’ll display on the screen too. Just select one and more information will pop up about that particular message.
Like HTC, Sony Ericsson realise that information overload and information distribution can sometimes be a problem. On phones of old (OK, perhaps last year) you’d find yourself flicking between email, texts, call history, Facebook, Twitter and other streams of information to try and keep up-to-date. Here it’s all funnelled into one place, so it only takes a moment to check and react to what’s going on.
Mediascape, meanwhile, puts all your media content into one place (duh). Videos, music and pictures. Its all in one spot and organised for you.
As usual with our reviews we felt that an overview video is a quick way of showing you around the phone..
Here’s a look at Google Maps and Mediascape…
Initially the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 feels quite angular, especially on the front. It’s almost as if two people have designed it because up front there’s fairly sharp corners and flat sides whilst at the back it’s all soft lines, slopes and curves.
At the bottom there’s just three buttons. That square one in the centre is the “Home” key. Tap it once to get back to the main screen, or press and hold to go into yourrecently used programs. On the left, the menu key pops up the lower menu in pretty much every app or the main screen. Press and hold to pop up the keyboard. The back key is just that, and takes you back to whatever you were doing before.
On the left side of the phone there’s nothing at all apart from the larger hole near the top which is for an external speaker.
On the right the “search” button appears to have has been moved onto the volume “down” key, but no matter what I did this didn’t activate the search function on the phone. Press and hold, double-press, nothing. Weird. Tap it briefly for volume down and, obviously, tap the up arrow to turn the sound up.
Near to the bottom is the camera key. Press this to activate your camera, then press and hold to take a snap. Click briefly to focus.
On the top is the now standard microUSB. Port for connecting through the supplied cable. This’ll hook your phone up for transferring files or you can charge it. Everything is hidden behind this flap, which is tethered to the X10 to stop you losing it. Yes, your charging point is on the TOP of the phone. I’m guessing that Sony Ericsson don’t want people making desk cradles for this. It’d be like having the battery contacts on your home DECT phone on the top.
To the left is the power button for turning the phone on / off and waking it from it’s slumber. We did find that there was a slight delay between pressing it and it starting to boot from a cold “off” state. Unnerving, but we quickly got used to that.
On the bottom is a big lanyard loop for hanging this on stuff.
The pearly white back has a thin silver strip at the top and that 8.1 Megapixel camera with the flash right next to it. There no protective plastic.
We’ve tried a few battery tests on this and it does seem to be a bit of a burning issue. As with most other handsets featuring power-sucking capabilities like WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth, colour screens and always-on web browsing you’re going to get a hit if you’re a heavy user of these facilities. We got a day of hefty browsing and WiFi usage out of this along with some GPS use, but as always we’d recommend having a car-kit if you’re going to bash the GPS function for a longer period of time.
Sony Ericsson have added their own “skin / user interface” onto this device with a “Mediascape” and “Timescape” sections which we touched on earlier. Both systems are similar and try to organise your digital life into one stream of events or info.
First up, the “Timescape” app organises and displays all anything connecting your contacts, social networking, texting or email. It’s a set of tiles which can be flipped up and down the screen to slide through the time-line. You also get small icons to let you know how this information appeared – be it from Facebook, Twitter, messaging (MMS / text) etc. A tap on the tile will show you more info, a slide to the right or left will send you onto the next tab. It’s certainly a great way of sorting information out and avoiding the “information overload” that can come from a heavily connected lifestyle. All your social-media connections are brought together in one place.
Tap into each contact and you can hit the “infinity” button to show a timeline of any and all communications with that person.
Mediascape works in pretty much the same way. Your 8 megapixel photos are collated alongside the videos and any music you may have copied onto the microSD. It’s up to you how they’re sorted (last accessed, alphabetically etc) and pics from Flickr can be pulled in too. The system, as you can see, hooks into the “PlayNow” system and pulls in YouTube vids too.
I was a little disappointed by the lack of “auto search” through the dialler. If I want to call my mom (for example), I’d expect to type “666” into the dialler and have it search .. but it doesn’t. Instead I need to go into “Dialler -> Contacts”, then scroll down to the contact, then choose the number I need from within their contact details. It was a little annoyance but one I didn’t expect. It didn’t seem to integrate Facebook details in either and voice calls were a little quiet, even with the in-call volume cranked up.
By default you have a Sony Ericsson on-screen keyboard, but this can be altered by pressing and holding on the small smiley on the keyboard and switching into a standard Android keyboard.
On the main screen you’ve got the usual drag and drop functionality that we’ve come to expect from Android. Stick apps, widgets and folders anywhere you want on the main screen, drag them around the screen or drop them on one of the other screens that live to the right and left of the main panel. Up top, there’s a notification bar tucked away – it’ll let you know what’s happening and you can drag it down to get more detail, but it won’t get in the way, which is great.
It’s pretty nippy on the 1GHz CPU and we’re hearing that Sony Ericsson will be rolling Android 2.1 and you’ll get HD video recording. Whilst typing out messages on the keyboard we found that the auto-correct function popped up and found words very quickly indeed. One thing I did find, especially coming from a HTC phone, was that when a word was entered incorrectly I had to manually select it when typing. Let’s say for example that I’ve entered “Jackey” instead of “Jacket” – if I press “space” after the word it’ll just leave “Jackey” in there, it won’t auto-correct it. You have to manually push the “Jacket” suggestion. This was kinda made worse by the fact that there’s no optical trackball. If you’ve made a mistake and want to position your cursor in the middle of a word it’s really tricky just using your finger – a trackball of any kind is a necessity in cases like this and I really missed it.
Browsing worked very well indeed and pages rendered smoothly on the inbuilt browser. I was a little lost without the multi-touch “pinch to zoom” functionality and Flash files wouldn’t show up either. There’s lots of options within the browser – an easy search function (well, it’s a Google OS, what do you expect eh?), the ability to share pages on Facebook or email and you can rotate the phone around to browse in “widescreen” automatically. There’s no lag when you do this, which is brilliant.
Camera images were very good. Sharp, precise and quick with excellent shots taken nearly every time. There’s smile detection, multi-focus, macro and “infinity” modes to get the best shot possible. The video recording was pretty decent too, with HD recording coming up soon thanks to a new OS release.
We were pretty bowled over with the camera options. Clicking around there’s a “night scene”, “beach and snow” mode and a “document” mode if you want to do some photocopying! Face detection was particularly amazing – you take a shot of someone, tag it to their name and then you can simply sort by their contact. The camera will detect where their face is rather quickly, but it’s still up to you to stick it next to their name. Here’s a demo of that in action…
Before we look at the camera images, here’s a video I recorded on the handset with the current 1.6 Android (pre-HD) OS..
We’ve included a selection of shots below so you can see what the resulting images look like. As usual these are all directly from the camera. Click each image for the full image..
As usual there’s a bucket load of applications available within the Android Market and they skip along thanks to the fast CPU. The phone can be made your own with the vast array of ringtones, backdrops and the drag-and-drop functionality. Let’s not forget the fact that you can hook this up to your computer and copy stuff across (like MP3’s) easily, plus the fact that your pictures can be set as backdrops of copied to your computer for safe keeping.
Given the problems with Windows Mobile devices from Sony Ericsson, I wasn’t expecting too much from the first major Android venture. However, it’s a fairly solid performance. The Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 has a few rough edges – it needs an optical trackball, it needs a speedy dialling system and a more intelligent word-prediction system when typing. However, these issues are offset to some degree by the quick CPU, ultra-cool camera and Timescape interface, which I found very useful and informative.
The commitment from Sony Ericsson, the 2.1 update to add HD video recording, the smoothness and the prospect of additional X10 devices (the X10 Mini Pro looks particularly cool) means that things will improve. The X10 isn’t up there with the likes of the HTC Desire but it’s a very solid start by Sony Ericsson.