It’s got all the makings of a true classic – a whopping 4-inch screen, a 1GHz Snapdragon processor and it’s rocking Android with a cool overlay.
It’s odd, but given the massive screen on the phone, the first thing you notice when looking at the Xperia X10 is not the screen,the main thing is simply how shiny it is.
It’s an understated phone, with a sharp, angular design and minimal buttons,in short, it looks like the kind of high-end handset we’d expect from one of the leading mobile manufacturers.
The screen dominates most of the front of the Xperia X10, and there are three buttons at the bottom, denoted as menu, home and back.
Between each of the front buttons there’s a little LED, which glows brightly whenever the phone is used – a nice touch that adds a premium feel, although they can get a little annoying, especially in the dark – and it seems there’s no way to turn them off.
The rest of the phone is pretty sparse – compared to the likes of the Sony Ericsson Satio and Vivaz, it’s a little odd to only see a single camera shutter button on the right-hand side of the phone, with the volume up/down key above it at the other end.
On the top of the phone, there’s the 3.5mm headphone jack, flush to the chassis, and the on/off button, which doubles as the lock key too.
It’s a little far away from where you usually rest your hand, so you’ll generally find yourself using your other hand to activate it – which is a little irritating.
The microUSB slot is located at the top as well under a dust cap – this is a little awkward to get off at times, and has a frustratingly short leash to keep it in place – meaning you have to really wedge it out of the way to connect up the charger.
There’s nothing at all on the left-hand side of the Xperia X10, nor on the bottom, save a little grille to attach a lanyard if you’re one of those that sees a big mobile as an ideal replacement for a necklace.
The back of the phone is slightly curved – we assume this is another corollary of the ergonomics study conducted by Sony Ericsson which led to the ‘human curvature’ of the Sony Ericsson Vivaz.
It does make it slightly nicer to hold in the hand admittedly – but it adds a lot of thickness to the device, which is 13mm.
When you consider the HTC HD2, which has a much larger 4.3-inch screen, is a couple of millimetres thinner at 11mm, it does make something of a difference with a device this size.
Overall though, it’s not the worst looking phone in the world by a long way – it certainly doesn’t overpower your hand when you’re holding it, and the screen looks lovely and bright in use, without being dominated by the chassis.
In the box
Sony Ericsson usually chucks in everything it can find into the boxes of its phones, but with the Xperia X10 things are a little more minimalist.
Like HTC and Apple, the box for the X10 is coffin-like, with only basic cables inside.
The environmentally friendly idea of offering a microUSB cable with plug adaptor saves on needing an extra charger, but does get irritating when you keep having to go off and find the lead when transferring content.
Of course, it’s probably easier to just perform the latter task by just connecting a memory card and transferring content that way – especially when you get an 8GB card in the box and Android is set up to connect up to your PC and easily copy content across.
If you’ve ever heard anything about the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 before, you’ll know that it is not only rocking Android but its headline-grabbing feature is the new Timescape overlay.
There are two ways to customise your home screen on the Xperia X10 – you can either have the generic Android screen or have the Timescape Spline as the main display.
Timescape is basically a stack of tiles, with each one representing a different method of communication or action. Twitter and Facebook updates, text messages, songs listened to, photos taken – all of these get their own tile in the stack.
The main view is all of these things together in one long scrollable line – you can set the likes of Twitter and Facebook to update as often as every 15 minutes, but this will obviously drain the battery life faster.
Swipe left and right and you get each activity in its own separate Spline, making it easier to get to things like music or emails.
It’s easy enough to just swipe left and right, but if you want to go to a specific Spline, then it’s much harder to scroll along the bottom, where all the icons are held.
If you have the default Android UI as your main home screen, then things should be pretty straightforward – swipe up from the bottom of the screen for the menu, swipe down from the top and you’ll get access to all your notifications.
You get three home screens to swipe left and right onto – here you can drag and drop icons from the menu, or long-press the screen and get access to the widget list, such as power management or clocks.
There’s not the greatest range of options in there to be honest – we’d have hoped for more from Sony Ericsson on its first Android phone.
But switch to Timescape for your home screen and while you get constant updates on what your friends are doing, you’re also lumbered with an annoying UI.
For instance – in this mode you can set four icons at the bottom of the screen to be permanently present, but these oddly take the place of the tab you need to swipe to open up your menu.
Instead you get a teeny little tab in each corner of the bottom of the screen that’s nigh-on impossible to hit – we have no idea what Sony Ericsson is doing here, but it’s a ridiculous idea and makes you instantly want to switch back to the default Android view.
But if you stick with it, you’ll also realise that you can’t add any icons to the Timescape screen and it slows down the menu massively, taking a couple of seconds to load it up.
We’ve used all the other Android phones on the market at the moment, and this is the first time we’ve seen one that doesn’t manage to open the menu properly.
We’re also not entirely convinced by Timescape as anything more than a gimmick – while yes, it is handy to see all your friends in a big long row, each tile uses the profile picture from Twitter or Facebook to identify the user.
This results in a very grainy and blurry picture – making us wonder why on earth you’d use this system in the first place, as it makes the Xperia X10 look pretty lo-fi.
Also, when clicking on a tile to have a look at a Tweet, if you’re presented with a link in there that you’d like to have a look at (something very important in Twitter) then you have to click the tile, wait for mobile Twitter to load via the browser then click on the link from there.
This is far too convoluted for a phone that’s supposed to make things simple – the point of Android is supposed to be ‘zero clicks’ to get information, and with the likes of the HTC Desire and Motorola Milestone, there’s a lot more understanding about how these social networks should be integrated with the phone.
But on a more positive note, the large capacitive screen is bright and responsive, working quickly when registering a finger input and allowing you to scroll through things like Timescape with ease.
What’s more curious is that despite packing a 1GHz processor, the Xperia X10 doesn’t seem to always be able to use that raw power.
For instance, the menu issue – it takes ages to load it up and then when scrolling through it there’s jumping and lagging and all sorts of ugly things that we hoped we’d never see again on a phone with this kind of power.
It’s very much a minor issue, we must stress – most of the time the Xperia X10 whips through all functions as we’d expect it to, it’s just the times it drops the ball that niggles us.
However, there’s a larger issue at work – after around an hour’s use of the phone it will begin to slow down dramatically in general use, no matter what you’re doing.
The reason for this is the sheer amount of programs that end up running in the background – and Android doesn’t come with an in-built task manager.
If you download something like Advanced Task Killer it will solve the problem completely though, as long as you keep an eye on what’s running. But it’s a bit of a fault on the part of Sony Ericsson that the phone quickly gets to this troubled state.
The other problem is the fact it’s only running Android 1.6 – this is a pretty outdated version of the OS considering the HTC Desire, Legend and Samsung Galaxy Portal are already working the latest 2.1 version.
It’s not just stability that’s affected either, as Android 2.1 brings cool things like Exchange support, integrated social networking, camera improvements and the coolest of them all: Live wallpapers.
Admittedly the Xperia X10 does most of these already, but it would still be nice to know that this powerful phone was also up to date.
Sony Ericsson promises us the 2.1 update is coming in the second half of the year, but that’s at least three months away and probably more – something that makes the Xperia X10 a little less attractive until then.
With a handset this size, you can argue that it’s more internet tablet than mobile phone – but we’re always going to expect a mobile to make calls and send texts, otherwise our world could literally implode under the weight of change.
The Android OS has always been kind to contact management and calling, so we’re hoping that the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 would continue in that vein.
Sony Ericsson has overhauled the contact menu somewhat with the Xperia X10 – it’s all blue background and swishy animations when moving through functions, which is nice and sets the phone apart from the rest of the Android clan somewhat.
You can also whoosh through your list of friends with no problem at all thanks to the 1GHz processor underneath – either scroll through normally or use the alphabet list at the side of the screen to get to the right buddy.
Once in the contact profile, things get a little bit trickier, in another example of Sony Ericsson not quite getting the need to make everything as simple as possible for the user.
For instance, given there’s no physical call or terminate key on the phone, it’s actually very hard to give someone a ring through their contact.
While there’s a big button to begin a message conversation with them, you have to tap very accurately on their thin number to call your friend – would it have killed Sony Ericsson to make this bigger and much more finger friendly?
There’s also the issue of social network integration – although its very presence should be applauded as the right kind of forward thinking from Sony Ericsson.
It doesn’t allow you to achieve things like messaging via Facebook or Twitter, or comment on status updates – in fact all it does allow is the ability to see what’s been written by your buddies.
After the beautiful systems on offer from HTC with the Legend and Microsoft’s new Kin range, we were sad to see that Sony Ericsson hadn’t made an easy way to link up your contacts’ profiles with their social networking equivalents.
This means if you want to add Facebook details to somebody’s profile, you’re forced to scroll through all your FB buddies to find the right one, and you can’t even search to save some time.
Synchronising our entire phonebook took nearly four hours all in all – and we’re not that popular.
But once set up, the contact profile looked great – Facebook, call history, messaging and even the picture assigned all fitted together nicely.
The call quality on the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 was pretty abysmal in terms of volume – there were times when it was impossible to hear what the other person was saying if background noise was a little louder.
Pushing the phone into the ear didn’t really help either – if anything the angular shape of the chassis hurt a little bit.
Reception was fine though – while it did drop out a few times and the Xperia X10 did stay connected to GSM when 3G was available, it was nothing that we haven’t seen countless times on other smartphones on offer today.
We have to say that we’re impressed with the messaging options on the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 – there’s very little that can’t be achieved.
Email – both Exchange and POP webmail – is easily synchronised, with the former handled via Moxier Mail, the same seen on the LG Intouch Max GW620.
We expected to see Datasync to perform this task on the Xperia X10, given that’s what’s used on the Sony Ericsson Satio and Vivaz, but this option is perfectly acceptable.
You don’t even need to enter the full details, as once the phone has the email address and password it will auto-fill the rest in, something a lot of other phones struggle to do.
Yahoo Mail and other web-based accounts are also similarly easy to connect to, and the beauty of these is that the messages are shown in the Timescape as one of their own Splines.
SMS is similarly good, especially as it’s threaded in both the inbox and when looked at within a contact profile, with converting to an MMS a simple job of just attaching an object, which we always appreciate.
There’s even an option for instant messaging via Google Talk, which is pre-installed thanks to the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 running Android – it’s a swift and simple-to-use application, although you’re unlikely to have a lot of contacts online at any one time.
But we’ve got bad news – the on-screen keyboard is a disaster zone. Not only is it woefully, woefully inaccurate in portrait mode but it will also miss letters regularly.
That’s right: despite showing an accurate input, the Xperia X10 sometimes decides for you that a few words would be better without some of the letters in there. It’s so frustrating that we wanted to throw the phone down the toilet at times.
And the autocorrect is no sort of back up either – not only will it not automatically correct words, but the suggestions are generally not correct either. And even if they are, hitting the minute boxes they’re housed in isn’t very easy, meaning overall you have five ways to fail to type an accurate text message.
But here’s one bit of good news for social networkers: you can update your Twitter and Facebook status from the homescreen of Timescape, choosing where you want the update.
So you might spell it wrong, but at least it’s easy to tell your friends when you’re looking for advice on whether your thing is supposed to be that colour.
If you’ve read this review chronologically, you might have the impression that the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 is a terrible phone.
You couldn’t be more wrong, as despite having a few foibles the phone is excellent at a lot of things, and one of those is internet use.
The Webkit-based browser is brilliant and takes full advantage of the 1GHz Snapdragon processor on board, whipping through webpages with no hint of slowdown.
Admittedly, this is more to do with the decent onboard Android browser than it is about Sony Ericsson developing a top-notch browser, but if you back the Android horse this is one of the benefits you’re going to get.
Things like detailed bookmarks, which monitor your most visited sites to suggest bookmarks for you to add as well as presenting history in an easy to view layout all make interacting with the mobile internet that much easier on the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10.
Infinite text reflow is also offered as well, meaning you can zoom in as closely as you want to the text and it will always reformat itself to fit the screen.
You can either double tap the screen to increase the size, or use the zoom keys that appear when you tap the screen once.
Sadly there’s no multi-touch available here, although we’re hearing word that it might be added later in the year when Android 2.1 is unleashed.
Similarly, there’s no Flash video support, but we’re reassured that when Flash 10.1 is unleashed by Adobe for Android in the second half of 2010, it would be landing on the Xperia X10 and will offer great in-browser video support.
Accuracy on the web browser is also a little suspect at times too – trying to click on a link when zoomed out is pretty difficult to get right. That said, it’s a problem that besets a number of smartphones these days, it’s just we’ve seen some that manage to overcome it.
There’s also the option to share the web page you’re looking at with others – the default option out of the box is to do so over email or SMS, but when you begin downloading applications like Facebook and WordPress these will allow you to share the link as well.
The bookmarks you save can also be added to the home screen as thumbnail screengrabs, making it very easy to access the websites you want to look at the most.
If for some reason this web browser isn’t for you, then there are a number of other of options available on the Android Market to play with – if you’re after speed, check out the Opera browser, and if you want more options to play with check out the Dolphin Browser.
If you’re any kind of Sony Ericsson fan, you’ll know that it has a long history of making phones with incredibly good cameras.
We’ve been looking forward to seeing what the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 would be like in terms of photography, and it’s easily one of the best out there on the market, with an 8MP snapper with high-power LED flash.
Every shot comes out crisp and clear, with a very quick shutter speed for a phone running Android.
Sony Ericsson might not have piled on a huge amount of settings to play with, but there’s more than enough to be messing around with to get the perfect picture nine times out of 10.
Smile shot, multiple autofocus and touch-to-take options mean that it’s much easier to snap the photo you want, rather than watching your phone focus on things in the distance and blur up the foreground.
Another nice touch is that spinning the phone from landscape to portrait will change the UI accordingly, making it much easier to use the camera no matter which way you want to use it.
PLEASANT: This simply divine lake scene shows how the X10 captures all aspects of detail in bright light
FOREGROUND: Here the touch-capture is used – the foreground is highlighted
THE OTHER ONE: Focusing on the sky, you can see the light meter changes accordingly
TOO LIGHT: With the exposure set right up
TOO DARK: And you would never have guessed it: with the exposure right down
OBSERVE THE DUCKS: But it’s hard to see them from this distance
EXTREME CLOSE UP: The zoom merely crops the photo rather than adding a whole lot of detail when fully extended
Video is pretty darn good on the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 too, with the camera offering a number of modes to shoot with, ranging from the basic ‘good for web’ resolution to WVGA.
We believe it captures at 24fps, but the quality and smoothness of the footage is a little suspect at times. Overall, it’s a good video recorder, but not the best in the world by a long way for a mobile phone.
Sony Ericsson fans – this is where the Xperia X10 comes into its own – there’s so much that you can do with the media player that other handset manufacturers just wish they could mirror.
The first thing to note is that once again Sony Ericsson has developed a special area where video, music and photos are handled, called Mediascape.
While you might be worried that all your files will be offered up in Splines you need not fear – Mediascape is just a zone where all the entertainment elements are handled.
Divided up into Video, Music and Photo this is very icon-based. You can see which songs you’ve listened to the most, which videos have just been added, and, if enabled, the chance to see recommendations from Sony Ericsson’s PlayNow arena.
The music section is very well stocked – not only does the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 excel sonically, it also manages to offer a very intuitive UI that makes skipping through tracks a breeze.
Each artist and song is given the ‘Infinity’ button, which takes you through to the mobile browser to search for more information on them through Google.
You can also slide your finger along the bottom to find similar tracks from PlayNow, and also see videos from YouTube. And, if you’re feeling a little sneaky and use the Dolphin browser to open them, you can even download said videos to your handset.
There’s a slight issue in that it can sometimes be quite hard to hit the ‘skip tracks’ button on the music player, but apart from that there’s not a lot wrong with the music player and clearly it takes cues from the Walkman range by Sony Ericsson.
Things like being able to update the album artwork from the phone are a really nice touch, and help place the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 above other mobiles in terms of media playback – perhaps even ahead of its own range.
PlayNow was also on hand to let you buy songs instantly – they came in at £1 or £0.79 if you synchronised with PlayNow Arena. However, we have no idea how to do such a thing via the mobile, so we’re not even sure if you can bring the price down on the Xperia X10 or if you only get that discounted rate online.
If you’re thinking of buying this phone for a child, make sure you’ve got this element covered at the start – it’s a very simple process to just buy a song from your mobile bill. If only something like Nokia’s Comes with Music could be integrated – this UI is a brilliant way to get unlimited tracks.
Video is similarly excellent, with the WVGA-resolution screen. If you’re being picky, you could say the fact it’s a larger screen can make the pixels a little more obvious from time to time, but then again we’re pretty sure 99% of people won’t be bothered by that.
You can watch video in both portrait and landscape modes, with some pre-loaded stuff on the Xperia X10 being better than the usual in-the-box content.
Sony Ericsson must have decided that the X10 was going to be used for music videos a great deal, as the landing screen offers the chance to shuffle up your vids.
The best way to describe the photo section of the Xperia X10 is in-depth – you get to do an awful lot from the basic interface.
The pics are presented in categories, all visible at once: recently taken, recently viewed, favourites and there’s also an option to see your photos from Facebook and Picasa, with more online galleries to come in the future.
We’re particularly impressed with the latter option – it quickly updates your albums on the phone, and allows you to swipe through them at a decent pace.
We’re a little sad that the animation between each photo when swiping through isn’t there – it means that we’re forced to just wait as each snap loads.
But the main thing is there’s a lot of functionality here – you can view your photos by favourites, camera footage, memory card; in short pretty much every way.
You can also tag photos of your friends, although this takes a bit of time and in practice isn’t that easy. Unless you only have one friend, in which case it would be a veritable breeze.
Battery life is becoming ever more of an issue on today’s smartphones, and it seems never more so than on Android handsets – we’re starting to see a pattern of phones simply eating up their battery.
The Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 is in the same camp – despite having a 1500mAh battery, among the largest in the industry, the phone will run out of charge easily after a day’s use.
We’re not going to label this a downside – most people will pop their phone on charge when going to bed anyway, and the battery is replaceable so you can always carry around a spare.
One thing to note – the X10 will charge to full, then drop 5% before charging again. It’s not a big thing, but you might wonder why the phone seems to be losing charge faster than usual.
In an ideal world, these phones would last three days at least while managing push email, widget updating and all other manner of day-to-day use, but at the moment they’re heavily constrained by the available technology.
However, if you want to improve battery life on the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10, there are a few things you can do: turning down the frequency of Timescape updates is a major one.
Push email from Moxier mail eats the battery, as do many of the widgets and turning the screen up to full brightness. If you dial all or some of these features down then you’ll probably eke out around two days’ use if you don’t hammer the phone too much.
Again, it’s not ideal and we hope that future iterations of Android deal with this problem a little better but it’s not enough to be a deal breaker by any means.
There are two types of mapping applications on the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10, which is more relevant for UK users than their US counterparts.
Google Maps obviously offers the most familiar interface for most users and the new Android upgrade to 4.1.1 brings ever-greater functionality to the platform – Buzz, Latitude and more easily navigable information when searching for information on restaurants or attractions.
It’s also blindingly quick on the Xperia X10, with GPS picking us up pretty quickly too.
But downloading and scooting the maps was really quick, allowing us to find out where we are in super-fast time, which is what we’d be expecting with a phone of this calibre.
And the other sneaky extra with this version of Google Maps is that when the Android 2.1 update comes through, you should be able to use the live maps option to see where you are from the home screen at all times.
The other option on board the Xperia X10 is WisePilot, which is dedicated sat-nav software. It’s certainly a fully featured GPS platform, making it easy to navigate from A to B without a hitch – although we did find the odd problem connecting up the GPS on occasion.
However, we’re not sold on the idea of using a phone as a sat nav if we have to pay for the privilege, especially when we can get the same thing from Nokia with Ovi Maps for free.
Google has just announced Google Maps Navigation for the UK and in our eyes it’s a perfectly functional GPS system – and one that will only get better with future upgrades.
There are all the connections you’d hope for on the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 that you’d hope for and expect on the Android platform – Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP connectivity, aGPS, 7.2Mbps HSDPA connection – all present and correct.
We’re not sure the Wi-Fi is as powerful as it could be, as sometimes when we were two rooms away from the router we encountered issues holding the connection.
The GPS was also a little lacklustre at times as well, which we mentioned earlier, especially in the city. However, the Bluetooth was great and held the connection to our Jabra Clipper headphones without any drop in performance, unlike on the HTC Desire.
But the best item of connectivity was the way you could interact with the PC – not only is there the decent backup and repair software that’s bundled on the memory card, but also Media Go, which works in a very similar way to iTunes and will help you dump your music collection onto the phone.
As far as we could tell there was no mention of said software anywhere on or in the box for the Xperia X10 – if we hadn’t gone rooting round the memory card, we wouldn’t have found the install file, and we’re sure a number of people wouldn’t feel comfortable just installing something to see what it is.
But once up and running, it’s a great suite of products, especially for media, and we’re glad to see it’s not just the same drag and drop offer once again.
The bundled applications with the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 are pretty minimal – there’s the Quadrapop game and of course YouTube as standard, as well as Google Talk for instant messaging, but beyond that we were struggling to find anything that worthwhile.
It’s the latest version of YouTube on the Xperia X10, meaning you can comment, rate and view related video with ease – there’s also an option to watch things in higher quality, although over 3G this will struggle terribly.
With applications these days though, it’s all about the post-purchase experience, and the Application Market for Android is getting better every day.
There were 9,000 apps added in March alone to the portal, meaning it’s likely to be catching up to Apple’s 130,000 apps by the end of the year, making it a very compelling option for those trying to work out which operating system to back for their mobile phone.
The Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 – it’s a phone that we had such high hopes for when we first caught wind of it in the middle of last year.
A 1GHz processor, innovative overlay, the best Android has to offer with great media playback and a supersonic camera? Yes please.
And the good news is that most of what we expected has come to pass – the Xperia X10 is a great phone at its core, with some great use of the Android operating system to push this phone up into the stellar smartphone category at times.
However, there are some things we’re less impressed with, and can only hope that Sony Ericsson gets to work fixing them before too long.
The WVGA high resolution screen is just great – responsive, expansive, and capable of displaying a large amount of information with little hassle.
The 1GHz processor has again been used well – most action whipped along with very little hint of lag or judderiness to annoy us.
The Timescape overlay might be a little bit lightweight, but quickly becomes useful when you get the point of its function – to simply keep you updated. We’d have liked something a little more interactive – being able to click links in a tile would have been nice – but beyond that we enjoyed it.
Mediascape was also a powerful application for the entertainment side of things, offering far more than we’ve ever seen before from Android in terms of organising music, video and photos.
The camera, an 8MP effort with flash, was great too – we’ve not seen much to match it, although we would have liked to be able to fiddle with the settings a little bit more to craft our snaps better.
And of course, the Xperia X10 also made use of things like the excellent Android web browser, the easy-to-use menu system and accessing the Application Market to improve the functionality of the phone instantly – we’re glad to see Sony Ericsson is finally on board with the Google wagon.
Sony Ericsson built a few too many issues into the Xperia X10, something we’re growing too used to saying with its phones.
The main culprit is the on-screen keyboard – it’s awful. After a week’s use, we were becoming more adept at it, but it still required a great deal of focus and effort to stay accurate.
The lag on the menu system when using Timescape as your home screen was ridiculous, and the slowdown when not employing any kind of task killer was almost terminal at times – we think some people will have a real problem with this.
Battery life is a little on the suspect side too, with a day’s use the normal amount you can expect from the 1500mAh unit.
Audio quality on phone calls was also too quiet for our tastes, with people constantly being difficult to hear even in quieter situations.
But all the issues above can be fixed by Sony Ericsson, and we hope they will be. The Xperia X10 is a great, great phone at its heart, making use of all the goodies it has to offer.
Although the negative points seem substantial, we’re convinced that a number of them will be fixed come the Android 2.1 upgrade later in the year, and they’re all that stands between making this phone one of the stars of the year.