Xperia X10 Hero

The Xperia X10 is such an exciting device that I braved rush hour traffic and drove to the other side of town to pick it up. Imagine my dismay when after a week with the X10 I decided that it was rubbish? It is a pity really, I had high hopes. The specs are industry leading and its runs Android, I thought this would be a winning combination. Unfortunately not so.

Android, Google’s operating system, is really an excellent operating system. In my opinion it is not as slick and polished as the iPhone OS, but it does everything the iPhone does and more. It has full exchange support, a well-populated application store, large selection of home screen widgets, and a very intuitive menu system.

There are two ways a manufacturer can implement Android. The first is adding enhancements to the usability and functionality; “skinning” the OS with product specific widgets, keyboards sized to fit the screen, different menu views, and most notably social media integration. HTC have done a fantastic job of this, with their Sense interface. It enhances Android to work perfectly with their devices and in turn make the HTC’s the current leaders in the Android market.

The second way manufacturers can implement Android, is going stock standard, with very little OS enhancements. All extra features, widgets and enhancements must be downloaded from the Google App Store. Motorola have been very successful with this strategy.

What Sony Ericsson did is implement their TimeScape system of social media integration, include one or two pre-installed apps, and a widget here and there, and off you go. What this adds up to is a poor attempt at enhancing Android.

TimeScape looks awesome! Yet it barely works. It does pull your Twitter, Facebook, Picsa and Google feeds together and displays them with your SMS’s, MMS’s and emails in one swish looking list. This leads to everything being completely buried in melange of LOL cats and #Fails. You do have the option to view each feed individually; this would actually work, but instead it displays TimeScapes main downfall. TimeScape is merely a skin; it is not a full social media application. You cannot view full tweets, or Facebook statuses, and when you click on an update it exits TimeScape and takes you to the mobile Twitter or Facebook website.

The second major failing of TimeScape, is to allow it to display your emails, you have to use Sony Ericsson’s email client. Again this would be fine, except for the fact that to use Android you need a Google account, and if you have a Google Account, you have a Gmail account. So, intelligently when you enter your Google account details, Android pulls all of your emails, your calendar, and your contacts from your online account. This results in you having two email clients getting email from one source; doubling the amount of data you download. Why couldn’t they just integrate TimeScape into the already brilliant Gmail App?

Finally, timescape displays your recent photos, which sort of undercuts Sony Ericssons second Android enhancement, MediaScape.
I blame MediaScape for TimeScapes shortcomings. The software engineers must have spent all their time on MediaScape and around a week before launch thought “oh no! We forgot to do the TimeScape thing!” MediaScape is media interface combining music, videos and pictures in one application. And it is brilliant. It’s intuitive, it looks really cool and it is innovative.

This is one of the best media interfaces on the market. It certainly makes Nokia’s X6 look stupid.

The rest of the OS is stock standard Android 1.6 which is old already, with all new devices from HTC and Motorola, coming with Android 2.1. Not to mention Google is currently testing Android 2.2. The difference between 1.6 and 2.1 is huge; 2.1 is smoother, more reliable, more responsive, faster, has better graphics… the list goes on.

Since Android is free, the only reason I can think of why Sony Ericsson has not upgraded to Android 2.1, is that they can’t get TimeScape and MediaScape to work. This is a poor excuse as Android 2.0 has been out for over a year, which in the technology world is practically a century. There are rumours that it “might” get an upgrade sometime in the second half of this year. By then iPhone 4.0 would be out, so will BlackBerry 6.0 and hopefully Symbian ^3.

Some people feel that the screen it is too big, I don’t. I think it is just the right size. It’s big enough that my when using it with one hand, my thumb just reaches the top of the screen. If you have smaller fingers it might be a bit of a bother, but you can still use the keyboard perfectly.
That said the X10 is very pretty. It is matte black with an elegant chrome bezel. It is also available in white – Yuck.

The X10 is not just a pretty face; it is a very well built device. It has a heft that I rather like, this makes it feel solid and well put together. The X10 feels very expensive, which is a good thing. The X10 will retail for around R6 500 (£460; $600)

Sony Ericsson have a new design direction called the “human curve” I was initially sceptical, thinking here is more marketing speak, but I must say it does make the X10 a lot easier to use with one hand and it gives it a very sleek profile.

I know I’m going on a bit, but the X10 is one of the most aesthetically pleasing cellphones I have used in a very long time. There are no wobbly bits; the buttons (all four of them) are solid and responsive with cool LED backlighting. The X10 makes the Nokia X6 feel like a joke, the BlackBerry Storm2 feel like it was put together by drunkards, and the iPhone feel, well, boring.

The X10’s screen is beautiful. It is large and bright. Unfortunately, the touch is not nearly as responsive as the competition. Typing becomes a mission; I frequently hit the wrong keys and scrolling is just a pain as the X10 cannot seem to differentiate between a tap and a swipe. When you swipe to scroll it often just selects something – annoying.

The beautiful screen is not complimented by a beautiful camera. It’s not bad, it’s just not great. Previous Sony Ericsson 8 Megapixel cameras have been excellent; they just didn’t seem to pull this one off.

Finally, and most annoyingly, is the processor. The X10 comes with a 1Ghz Qualcomm Snapdragon. Simply put it’s one of the most powerful mobile processors on the market; it just doesn’t feel like it. It is not the processors fault, other Snapdragon devices are so quick they make you queasy; why the X10 is sluggish, I have no idea – perhaps poor driver implementation by the boys at Sony Ericsson.

To Wrap it up
Overall the Sony Ericsson X10 is disappointing, mostly because my expectations were so high. The X10 should have been a fantastic device. Sony Ericsson has just missed the mark and in this high-end segment of the market – with so many great phones available – it’s not going to fly. An upgrade to Android 2.1 and enhancing TimeScape could solve many of the X10’s problems. But for the meanwhile it is a real shame; aesthetic brilliance coupled with a frustrating, and completely uneven user experience.

Confirmed: Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 will get Android 2.1 upgrade in Q4 2010 – Official Sony Ericsson Blog


Brendon Ambrose