Android 1.6, 4.0in 480×854 display
The Xperia X10 is Sony Ericsson’s first Android handset, and it’s got all the features you’d expect from a potential iPhone rival: a 4in, 480×854 resolution screen, an 8.1-megapixel camera with an LED flash, auto-focus and facial recognition, and a customised interface with social aggregation software.
As you’d expect from Sony Ericsson, the design certainly aims to look upmarket, with an edge-to-edge screen and a glossy chrome strip around the edge. A practical matt finish on the rear helps improves grip. It feels solidly built, despite the plastic used throughout which helps to reduce weight.
It seems the X10 has been in development for a while, as Sony Ericsson’s modified Android interface is based on the older 1.6 version of the operating system rather than the latest 2.1 version. Android 2.1 includes many updates. Some of which Sony Ericsson has had to duplicate itself for the X10 to function correctly (including flash support for the camera).
Our only worry is that apps written specifically for Android 2.1 may have problems running on the X10. However, Sony Ericsson has promised to release a free over-the-air update at some point in the future. That should bring support for the full 16M colours to the screen – currently limited to Android 1.6’s 64K colours – but it won’t bring multi-touch support, which Sony Ericsson says is limited by the hardware. In any case, Sony Ericsson’s own interface is the main selling point for the X10, and consists of Mediascape and Timescape. These two apps cleverly distil everything into the two activities people use most: multimedia and communication.
Mediascape collects all your photos, videos and music together in a library format, replacing – and improving on – the separate Gallery and Music apps that ship with Android. Timescape is a social aggregation utility that brings together all your contacts from Google, Facebook and Twitter, and displays updates from these services, as well as texts, calls, emails and even music you’ve played recently, in a chronological flow represented by a vertical stack of cards. You can flick up and down to see previous or later updates, or flick side to side to filter updates by type.
You can’t easily read each individual card in the stack, so you have to flick through slowly to find anything specific, unlike HTC’s Friend Stream which simply lists updates. Timescape lets you merge Facebook contacts with your contacts, but this is a manual process as opposed to the clever automated linking in HTC’s People app.
We weren’t keen on the default blue colour scheme, which feels a bit washed out, and we found buttons looked flat and inactive. The cards in Timescape that announce updates use that person’s Facebook picture as a background by default, but these are so low-resolution as to be often unrecognisable. Moreover, even with a 1GHz processor, we found Timescape a bit laggy, especially the animation as you flick between filters.
Of course you can customise your background and interface as much as you want. However, unlike HTC’s Sense interface with its seven home screens, the X10 only gives you three home screens to play with. You can also set Timescape as the home screen, in which case it becomes a single home screen, albeit with up to nine tabs (one for each filter). However, setting Timescape as your home screen seems to have unintended consequences, such as hiding pop-up windows.
As well as the 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, there’s 384MB of RAM and 1GB of internal storage, plus a microSDHC card slot that can hold up to 32GB more, although the generous 8GB card that ships with the X10 should be sufficient for most users. A microUSB port handles data transfer and charging duties, and there’s a standard 3.5mm headphone socket. The X10’s battery lasted just shy of 20 hours in our light usage test, so you’ll be recharging it every night.