From its name, you might assume that the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 is a successor to the Xperia X1 and Xperia X2. Actually, it's a radically different device.
In addition to major hardware differences, the biggest change is that the X10 is powered by Android OS 1.6 instead of Microsoft's Windows Mobile. The X10 also doesn't have a hardware keyboard; all interaction is done using a 4-inch capacitive touchscreen and three buttons beneath the display.
Underneath the surface lies Qualcomm's fast 1 GHz Snapdragon processor, making it Sony Ericsson's most powerful smartphone.
The X10 represents the first Sony Ericsson phone with Google's operating system, and its launch took quite a while, mostly due to the vast UI-related modifications the company made. Unlike other manufacturers' Android interfaces, Sony Ericsson's focuses on multimedia content and Internet communication.
BUILD & DESIGN
The X10's small box in belies its actual size. It's Sony Ericsson's biggest phone to date and one of the larger cell phones on the market overall. It's unsurprising, given the size of its display, which covers almost the entire front of the handset (119x63x13 mm) and it's a comfortable fit for a large palm.
Clearly aware that the phone's size may be an issue for some customers, Sony Ericsson presented two smaller versions at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February. The Xperia X10 mini and Xperia X10 mini pro are going to be available later this year.
The X10's black, sharp-edged design gives it a certain serious, even severe air. The phone's sides are covered with curved aluminum, which gives it a futuristic look. The right side of the handset features multimedia control buttons, i.e. controls for the camera and MP3 player.
The battery cover stretches over the entire back of the X10 and is not easily removable. Since it doesn't slide on and off, you need to use your fingernail to remove it. This, in turn, is only possible in a groove at the bottom of the handset. Right next to it are lanyard holes, though neither lanyards nor pendants seem to be appropriate accessories for the phone.
A 4-inch capacitive display with a resolution of 480 x 854 and 64K color support brings good image quality and features. Android OS in version 1.6 comes with a 64K color limit, but you can upgrade Xperia X10 to the latest version of the operating system, 2.1, which supports 16M colors. The difference isn't that noticeable, so it doesn't diminish the experience of the lavish screen, which is far better than screens on past Sony Ericsson handsets.
It has excellent contrast and is adjustable according to surrounding light, which is among the display's best features; the image remains clear even under direct sunlight. Sometimes the image might seem too bright, but this can also be adjusted in the display settings.
The screen is very sensitive; the reaction to finger touches is fast, but more important, precise, which facilitates the use of virtual keyboard in both the horizontal and the vertical position (full QWERTY keyboard appears on the screen in both cases). Similarly, browsing through photos and contacts, web page scrolling and other actions that include moving the finger across the screen can be performed quickly and accurately. The 1 GHz Snapdragon processor definitely brings something to the table.
However, multi-touch is not supported. Unfortunately, it won't be supported even if Android OS was upgraded to version 2.1 (or later) due to "hardware issues," according to Sony Ericsson. Unlike other handsets with Google's OS, web pages and photos can't be zoomed in by pinching. Instead, zooming in can be performed by pressing the icons marked by the plus and minus signs that show up on the screen in certain situations. It's one of the biggest downsides of the phone.
The three buttons below the screen upfront have the same specific function at all times. Pressing the left button always activates the standard context menu that offers the same choices on every Android handset (the list of available options changes according to the active application). Pressing the middle button always brings you back to the home screen, while the right one is a one-step-back button.
As soon as the buttons are pressed, two small lights between them light up. The lights are mostly for aesthetics, not functionality. All three buttons are clearly marked and protrude enough to be easily pressed without looking.
Multimedia buttons around the sides are significantly smaller, flatter, and poorly marked. They don't react promptly, but with a delay of a few hundredths of a second, so it's a good thing photos can also be snapped by pressing the much more sensitive screen instead.
The top of the handset contains the power button, a micro-USB port covered with a flap and a standard 3.5 mm headphone jack.
Thanks to the fast processor and big screen, the X10 performs exactly how you would expect from Sony Ericsson's flagship device. The operating system and applications run very fast, and the smoothness of zooming in and scrolling through multimedia and web pages is impressive.
The smartphones comes with Android OS 1.6, an older version of Google's operating system, but Sony Ericsson has promised to release an OS upgrade.
The handset comes with 1 GB of internal memory and an 8 GB microSD memory card, which is enough for storing plenty of apps and files. For users who need more memory space, microSD cards of up to 16 GB are supported.
The Xperia X10 supports all 2G and 3G bands, therefore can be used easily around the world, without thinking about mobile network operator's technology, which is something frequent travelers might appreciate. The phone also supports Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.1.
There's no other way to say it: call quality isn't satisfactory. People on the other end sound as if they were in a small confined acoustic space and their voice is followed by a faint echo. Many other handsets have a significantly louder speaker. On the other hand, the microphone quality is very good; the user is always heard distinctly on the other end.
It's a pity the address book isn't intuitive enough. After a desired contact has been found, it takes an additional three screen touches in order to actually make a call (first for the number and then on the call icon). This issue can be sidestepped by installing a better dialer, many of which are available in the Android Market.
Sony Ericsson used the adaptability of Android OS and created the Timescape/Mediascape user interface for its first handset with this platform. The UI focuses on Internet communication and multimedia content stored in the phone. Timescape is an application that manages many types of communication: calls, SMS text messages, emails, and Facebook and Twitter, among other social media outlets. It can also be set as the home screen.
All the messages are lined up in reverse chronological order when Timescape is activated, and show a photo of the person who you communicated with. They can be filtered according to them type of communication and every one of them, along with the photo, has an icon with the infinity sign that shows a complete communication history with that person.
Mediascape functions similarly, but with photos, videos and MP3s organized in reverse chronological order; files most recently used or added are first on the list.
Web Browsing and Email
The smartphone features the standard Android OS 1.6 browser, capable of rendering even complicated web pages. Furthermore, the handset's 1 GHz processor allows very smooth scrolling and zooming, making web browsing a very pleasant experience.
Flash is not supported, but this downside is somewhat offset by a fast and simple YouTube browser.
The handset includes an application suite for synchronization of various segments of MS Outlook with the handset (email, contacts, tasks, calendar). The most interesting among them is Moxier Mail, used for Exchange Server email access that doesn't need server-side extensions since it uses the server's Outlook Web Access interface.
The standard email app can be used for POP3 and IMAP email accounts, as well as for Gmail.
The X10 features an 8 megapixel camera with an LED flash. The camera software has a large feature set reminiscent of Sony Cyber-shot cameras. In addition to excellent face detection, people in photos can be tagged (similar to Facebook), which can prove to be useful for subsequent sorting in Mediascape.
Daylight photo quality is above average for this class of handset, exceptionally sharp and with vivid colors. Photos taken in darker settings, however, have much duller colors and a large number of artifacts. Some Sony Ericsson phones have much better image quality in this type of setting; it's a shame that the X10's camera doesn't. Furthermore, the LED flash must be manually activated, which is another downside.
The Xperia X10 features a 1500 mAh Li-Poly battery, sufficient for about two days of normal usage. Heavy usage of Wi-Fi, multimedia and GPS functionalities reduces the autonomy drastically; the handset, under those conditions, will have to be recharged daily. The reduced battery life is probably due to the large screen; the good news is that, just like other Sony Ericsson phones, ordinary calls have little impact on battery life.
The Xperia X10 is Sony Ericsson's best mobile phone to date, though not the best Android-based phone on the market.
If Internet communication (especially social networking) and multimedia capabilities are features you primarily look for in a mobile phone, you will be more than satisfied. However, if you want other functions like multi-touch, look elsewhere.
Overall, its speed, and notably its screen, will likely satisfy many users.