Sony Ericsson Xperia X10

07Oct10

Sony Ericsson Xperia X10


Cross posted from Girly Geekdom

“Is that an iPhone?” Puzzled looks.
“No, it’s an Xperia – an Android phone from Sony Ericsson.”
“Oh.”
Clearly I have just used a string of baffling words. I may as well have said, “This phone is made by Acme out of Kryptonite particles found on the Moon.”

[NB: Superman fangirls, please feel free to go crazy at me – I am aware that Kryptonite does not come from the Moon. Or does it? I’m confused.]

The real problem, of course, is that Android lacks brand recognition. According to research conducted by Lady Geek with YouGov SixthSense, Android has a real ‘dude problem’. Nobody knows what an Android phone looks like, though there are tons out there, because nobody associates the Android OS with one handset. Sony Ericsson therefore have a problem in differentiating its handset as a real player in the bloodbath that is the current smartphone market.

Android has been extremely successful in reaching geeky boys with its freer and more customisable user experience, but at the expense of reaching the masses. A direct result is the aforementioned typical conversation I would have with someone while wielding the Xperia X10 – recognition that it is a smartphone, but confusion because it is not an iPhone (though not obviously so). I suspect a few of these people (mainly women) come away with the impression that the Xperia is the equivalent of the Hermes Birkin bag replicas you see everywhere from River Island and M&S to DKNY. A real shame, because these handsets, the Xperia X10 included, are fantastic and do not exist purely to give the iPhone a bit of needed competition – though this is rapidly becoming the story of the smartphone wars.

Rant over. On to the handset itself.

For the unfamiliar, the Android operating system is Google’s “free” (obviously not free, according to Microsoft) mobile operating system. Similar to the iPhone OS, the Android OS utilises apps for a user-customised experience, as well as allowing smartphone handset manufacturers such as Sony Ericsson to put their stamp on the phone. The difference between handset makers largely comes in how they choose to customise the user experience and the hardware.

Sony Ericsson have exerted a little more control over the user experience of the Xperia than some other Android manufacturers. The icons and look of the interface are aesthetically pleasing, especially in comparison to some other Android handsets, such as the HTC Tattoo. The interface is also easy to use, while every gesture results in a sleek and seamless reaction from the phone – except when Timescape is updating.

And it’s always updating.

Timescape is a great feature in theory, collating text messages, emails, tweets and Facebook statuses (depending on your preferences) into a one-stop social timeline. However, the super-bright screen, multitasking applications and the software itself take up an incredible amount of power. Timescape proves a step to far on occasion and creates unnecessary lag.

This is not a phone for the clumsy. While I can see my lovely PR contacts cringing as I type this (hi, Yasir!), this is not a handset that holds together when you drop it. While nothing major happened (I REPEAT, YASIR: NOTHING MAJOR HAPPENED), it was a little difficult at times when you run into your bedroom door because you’re marvelling at your Clueless closet in the MyCloset app (warning: you will need a PhD to operate this app, preferably in quantum physics) and the phone drops out of your hand. A drop on a table was enough to lose the back of the phone and the battery.

That being said, the 8 megapixel camera is actually better than my own clunky digital camera and anything involving media was handled swiftly and intuitively on this phone. Bonus points for NOT cutting out midway through music tracks. You would think I wouldn’t have to ask a smartphone for this, but some Android handsets (again, the Tattoo, as well as the HTC Legend) seem to struggle with the concept of having a music player onboard.

The enormous, bright and perfectly touch sensitive screen is among the best on Android handsets. I found it incredibly easy to transcribe messages and type out commands – no clumsy finger punching for me. My upgrade wishlist for this handset would, of course, include a Swype keyboard.

Currently, the Xperia X10 runs Android 1.6, which feels comically outdated. Sony Ericsson has reassured the world that an upgrade to 2.0 was forthcoming sometime in Q3, but we are now in Q4 with no 2.0 in sight. Generally, the more involvement the manufacturer has with the OS interface, the longer the update. A swift update, however, would make it one of the best Android handsets on the market.

Overall, the Xperia X10 is lovely to use, intuitive and a great Android model, though the missing Android 2.0 upgrade, build issues and occasional lags somewhat lets it down for its £549 price tag. Buck up, boys – and girls, I hope.

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