With the kinks ironed out of early versions of its latest smartphone and custom Android skin, Sony Ericsson’s Xperia X10 finally reveals itself to be a contender in the blood-soaked gladiator floor of the smartphone world. And this model should have substantial appeal for a younger, socially focused demographic.
Primary among those fixes are massive improvements in performance and battery life that turn the X10 from a clunky brick into a surprisingly capable handset.
The X10 marks Sony Ericsson’s big push into Android, skinned with two features called Mediascape (for managing your music collection) and Timescape (for managing your social network updates and more). Mediascape is just an overblown music manager, but Timescape is more ambitious, a bit reminiscent of what Microsoft tried to do with the KIN. Basically it puts everything you do into a chronological stack, whether that’s photos you’ve snapped, Twitter updates or phone calls. It takes a little getting used to, but it quickly becomes an enjoyable way to skim through your recent past, provided you’re not a compulsive update junkie.
Other features on the phone are compelling. The X10’s 8.1-megapixel camera is as good as any you’re likely to find on a mobile phone (and the selectable “photo light” — don’t call it a flash! — is useful when you’re up close to your subject), call quality and audio playback are both quite good, and the display is exceptionally bright.
The tall screen (big at 4 inches diagonally) is great for wide-screen content, but Sony Ericsson does nothing with the format when it comes to input. Data entry is certainly this phone’s greatest weakness: Touch typing is erratic and almost impossible to get right without going embarrassingly slow despite the available space. Your iPhone-touting friends will be giggling as you try to tap out a text only to end up with something illegible for your trouble. (Hint: It’s actually easier to type in portrait, even with the narrow, baby-tooth sized keys.)
All told, the fun and promise of Timescape mostly outweigh the problems with the phone’s interface. And with upgraded battery life that now tops 6 ½ hours, the X10 now at least has enough power to enter the realm of usability for a full day of work. Or play, more likely.