It’s been a long time coming, but at last the Sony Ericsson X10 has made it to our shores. The first Sony Ericsson smartphone running Google’s Android OS, the manufacturer is a little late to the Android party – so how will it stack up to the hefty competition out there?
What we like
The first thing that strikes you about the X10 is its huge 4-inch screen; the display is nice and bright, while the capacitive touchscreen is beautifully responsive.
The X10's 8.1-megapixel camera is also a winner. On-screen camera controls of the camera include zoom, white balance and focus controls are easily accessed, and the dedicated camera button mounted on the side of the handset presses easily. There's nothing more annoying than an arthritic camera key which requires so much force to take the photo that it shakes the phone and ruins the shot.
For a phone with a 4-inch screen the X10 is not as wide as you may think - although the handset is a little larger than we'd like. You'd be forgiven for thinking the handset would be verging on brickish, but it is surprisingly slim and lightweight and fits quite comfortably into the hand.
The Sony Ericsson X10 also features an all-in-one media app called Mediascape. Mediascape is basically a souped up folder which brings all of your photos, videos and music together - but not really, as you still have separate galleries for each within the app. The image gallery incorporates both the photos you take with the handset and those uploaded to Facebook, and there's an easy-uploader within the gallery so you can share your photos and videos to social networks or via email quickly and easily.
The sound quality of music tracks was pretty good using the Bass Reflex headphones which come with the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10, we did find them to be quite leaky - luckily the 3.5mm jack at the top of the handset means that we could swap them for whatever headphones we liked instead.
Although the internal storage is a paltry 1GB, the X10 comes bundled with an 8GB microSD card so you should have plenty of space for storing images, videos and the like.
What we don't like
Along with Mediascape, the Xperia X10 comes with a social networking aggregator called Timescape. We aren't massive fans - it's confusing and clunky, and while it's nice to be able to see all tweets, Facebook status updates and emails at a glance, it's difficult to search for individual contacts or respond to anyone. We tended to steer clear and use the dedicated apps for each rather than relying on the amalgamated TimeScape.
A major problem facing the X10 is that it slurps battery like nobody’s business and charging it up takes quite some time too. Turning off the 3G helps a little, but it’s not ideal – worse even than other battery guzzlers like the iPhone 3G or HTC Legend.
Despite the size of the touchscreen, typing on the Sony Ericsson X10 is no fun at all. Predictive text takes up half the screen with far too many suggestions that get in the way and, frankly, confuse matters instead of simplifying. Shame, really, because you could do with those suggestions since typing isn’t easy – particularly in portrait mode. There are a number of non-intuitive features, like the software’s insistence in adding a space after every edit to the text, whether you liked it or not.
We like the fact that an attempt has been made to not copy the default Android interface, but the homescreens weren’t as pleasant to customise or user-friendly as most other Android smartphones. The handset is also verging on too big - smaller hands might find it a bit unwieldy.
Sadly, the call quality wasn't great either, even at full signal and with the volume turned all the way up.
That the Sony Ericsson X10 runs Android 1.6 (aka Donut) is also disappointing. Whilst many of the apps available from the Android Market will work on handsets running 1.6 or higher this means you only get a maximum of three home screens to play with rather than the five offered by Android 2.0 and higher. Here's hoping the X10 is graced with an update to 2.0 or 2.1 soon.
We’d rather hoped that Sony Ericsson would have nailed the basics by now, but text messaging and calling on the X10 left a lot to be desired. It’s a bit of a let down, especially after the long wait we’ve had for the handset to make an appearance – it was first announced almost six months ago.
It’s great that Sony Ericsson is experimenting with Android OS though, and it really feels like it’s trying to do something new and exciting – it just doesn’t quite deliver with the X10. The camera and Mediascape functions did a good job, and that lovely large screen was great for media playback – but as a smartphone, the Sony Ericsson X10 just doesn’t meet the benchmark set by other Android handsets available.