AT&T Sony Ericsson Xperia X10: A Review

Posted by Marilyn Torres on Oct 10, 2010

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Even though the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 runs Android 1.6, features like the 1 GHz Snapdragon processor, 1 GB on-board storage, storage expandable to 32 GB via card slot, and 8.1 megapixel camera still make this phone a formidable smartphone contender across all American carriers.

Hardware

At a glance, the Xperia X10 has a beautiful, scratch-resistant 480-by-854 pixel display with three hard buttons directly below the screen for quick access to application settings, on-screen keyboard, home, and back function. The screen also respectably repels fingerprints, but I immediately put a screen protector over it to avoid any accidents.

There are no hard Start or End Call buttons, which takes some getting used to, but I love the fact that the volume rocker doubles as a Zoom button when in camera mode. A long press of the Camera button activates the camera, but there is a noticeable lag before the camera turns on. The quickest way to activate the camera is to use a Camera shortcut on the home screen. The phone also features an LED camera light; I say “light” and not “flash” because this light has to be manually turned on and off through the camera settings. I’m hoping Sony includes an automatic LED flash setting in a future software upgrade.

The Xperia X10 also includes the all-hallowed 3.5 mm audio jack at the top of the phone beside the Power button. The phone includes Sony Ericsson earbuds, but any 3.5 mm jack earbuds work just fine. Since I still plan to use my iPod Classic for music and podcasts, I’ll have those familiar white earbuds nearby for when I feel the need to stream music. Still, the Xperia does include a 2 GB microSD card in the box, and the phone is expandable to 32 GB of storage via the microSD card slot. Making the Xperia my new MP3 player is entirely possible, although the battery life will suffer.

A standard Li-Po 1500 mAh battery is included with the phone, which has the same pitfalls as any other smartphone battery. Turn off Background Data and the battery lasts from dawn to dusk on one charge with approximately a 30-percent charge to spare. If Background Data is on with streaming music, the battery life meets a quick end like any other smartphone.

Interface

The highlight of this category is the the Xperia X10’s sleek Timescape interface. Instead of traditional text lists for SMS, emails, Twitter, Facebook, missed calls, and photos, Sony has integrated all that online content into dynamic, vertically floating tiles. All photos and avatars are visible in Timescape mode. When a tile is selected, it expands to show a full message or post from that source. On the upper right of the tile there is an infinity symbol, which when pressed will list all connected contact, photos, or posts throughout the phone.

I’m shocked that Google and Facebook contacts don’t automatically associate themselves like on the HTC Hero. Even though the initial setup pulls information from Gmail, I had to manually enable syncing with Google Calendar and Contacts through the phone’s general settings. Otherwise, I’ve had to connect Facebook and Twitter friends one-by-one from within Contacts.

The lower right of an expanded Timescape tile shows an icon that classifies a file type. For example, a quick click on a lower right symbol for a Twitter post will open my Twitter client, twicca. A click on a photo symbol will open the full photo, where swiping left or right will scroll through other photos on the Camera Roll. Mediascape beautifully handles browsing through photos and videos. I would love a Mediascape widget similar to the Timescape widget so I can just see recent photos on my home screen instead of all of my friends’ online content.

Despite how demanding Timescape can be, the Xperia’s 1 GHz processor handles swiping through different feeds and stacking tiles very well. There is a slight lag when going into the photo submenu, which may be dependent on photo resolution settings. The bigger the photos, the longer the load time.

I’m a huge fan of all the touchscreen camera options! Capturing Mode, Resolution, Scenes, Focus Mode, Exposure, Video Mode, and access to the Camera Roll are all available on-screen. Combined with the volume rocker button doubling as a zoom rocker button, the Xperia’s camera is versatile and extremely responsive even when switching from portrait to landscape mode.

The on-screen keyboard has gotten a bad reputation since this phone’s release. I will say that the keyboard is very responsive but accuracy suffers while in portrait mode. That may be partly my fault, but since I’ve been using a touchscreen phone for over a year now I don’t think there should be much of a difference. There are no issues with the keyboard while in landscape mode. If anything, typing accuracy is everything it should be.

Applications

AT&T trial versions of apps dominate preloaded applications. AT&T FamilyMap, AT&T Hot Spots, AT&T Maps, AT&T Navigator, AT&T Radio, and YP Mobile are the obvious apps. Where™ will fly under the radar until it’s opened, which is when the gobsmackingly large subscription screen appear. I appreciate the up-front message regarding the risks of data usage and additional fees. The funny fact is that the most useful AT&T application available, AT&T myWireless Mobile, was not preloaded. Mobile Video, MobiTV, OfficeSuite, and Work Email for business users are also included. I was also thankful to see Google apps like Maps, Talk, Navigation, and Places available out-of-the box. The top three apps I feel should come preloaded on all smartphones are a respectable file manager, photo editor, and mobile billing account manager. The inability to delete multiple photos through Mediascape is annoying. I’m sure I must be missing something here.  I also have to remember that deleting a photo through Timescape does not delete it from my device.

For more experienced smartphone users, there’s no problem with replacing preloaded apps with better options from the Android Market. Some general users new to smartphones may get the Xperia X10, be alienated by Timescape and Mediascape, and ask for the accessibility of an iPhone. Timescape is optional and can be set as the default home screen option for the Home button, but I prefer to get my detailed weather updates, date, and time through LevelUp Studio’s Beautiful Home.

Phone Calls

The lack of hard Start and End Call buttons forces me to take up space on the home screen by adding a Dialer shortcut. The lack of a settings submenu accessible from the Dialer is weird, and even more unconventional is the ability to post Twitter or Facebook updates from the top of the Contacts list. Yes, the contacts search bar also doubles as a status updater, although I don’t know why someone would want to feed status updates through a dialer over their preferred Facebook or Twitter widgets. I love the easily accessible New Contact button at the top of the contact list.  The letters along the right side of the contact list are nice for finding certain people fast, but I wish the letters were bigger than a nine or ten-point sans serif font.

Verdict

I am in love with the Xperia X10’s sleek and light-weight form factor, but I do acknowledge the slow responsiveness of the camera button and the annoyance of having to manually activate the LED light. Plus, the lack of Start and End Call buttons are not my personal preference.

The beautiful large screen, powerful 1 GHz Snapdragon processor, 8.1 megapixel camera with LED light, and ability to expand storage to 32 GB makes the X10 the top smartphone offering among AT&T’s current Android handsets. I also love the ability to connect my phone contacts with their Facebook and Twitter accounts via Timescape. Mediascape is also a beautiful way of handling photos and videos both on my phone and on Facebook, but I would love to add other accounts like TwitPic, yFrog, or Photoshop Mobile instead of just Facebook and Picasa.

There is also the possibility of an HD video option via later software updates. Not being able to install third-party software and the old Android 1.6 OS are annoying, but are neither are deal-breakers. Plus, Sony is committed to later software upgrades, so I’m optimistic about getting the latest Android OS in the near future. I can also live with the preloaded AT&T apps even though I won’t use them.

While I will keep my rooted HTC Magic as a back-up handset, the Xperia X10 is a fabulous day-to-day phone to keep up with online life, and a wonderful alternative to a point-and-shoot camera for any smartphone enthusiast.

Source: Sony Ericsson

Marilyn Torres (64 Posts) - Website | Twitter | Facebook


Marilyn Torres is a contributing blogger for Mobility Site. She also blogs about movies, books, comics, Disneyana, and recipes at her personal blog at Posterous. Marilyn has a Bachelor of Arts in English and currently lives in Central Florida.

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