Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini

I've long been a Nokia fan, but over the last few years they seem to have lost the plot. Ever since the original iPhone was launched back in 2007, Nokia have steadily lost market share in the smartphone market. Nokia's loss has been Android's gain; in less than 2 years the Google developed mobile operating system has gained substantial footing in this competitive market.

As a self-proclaimed Google fanboy, the attractions for any Android phone are numerous. Above all, the auto sync with gmail, calendars and contacts. After years of wrestling with Mail for Exchange and apps like Emoze, I couldn't wait to get my hands on the real deal!

My chance came this week in the form of a Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini. I have this phone on a short term loan from my girlfriend, but I already dread the day I have to go back to my old Nokia 5800. Anyway, back to the phone: this is the smallest Android phone available, and comes in at a very competitive price. It offers the convenience of a touchscreen smartphone, without too much complexity or any of the bulk, weighing in at a featherweight 88g. An ideal handbag phone. The interchangeable coloured backcovers should also appeal to the style conscious. But that's not to say it lacks oomph, I've been very impressed with how smoothly the phone has handled everything I've thrown at it. The 2.55" capacitive screen doesn't offer the highest resolution either; at 240 x 320 pixels don't expect the "retina" display.

The biggest problem with the X10 Mini is shared with its big brother, the X10. Both phones are still running Android 1.6 (Donut), and the update to 2.1 (Eclair) has been pushed back to the end of October. Judging by the reaction on the various forums, everyone is desperate to get their hands on the upgrade. However, its still not clear if or when the Mini will get 2.2 (Froyo). We can only hope...

My other problem has been the battery capacity. At first I couldn't go a whole day without recharging. However, after a weeks use, and several charge/discharge cycles, performance has improved slightly. On the advice of several forums members, I installed the JuiceDefender app. The free version doesn't offer many features, but by reducing the length of time the phone accesses data in the background, the battery life is extended substantially.

Another useful free app is Timeriffic. This allows you to set various 'profiles' for different times of the day. For example, an essential one is to switch off the notification at night. Getting woken up every time I receive an email is not an option!

The X10 Mini has a number of homescreens that can be set up with widgets, one for each page. Flicking through these will give you instant access to your calendar, weather reports, Google Search, etc. Set these up as you like. A vertical flick across the screen reveal the icons for any apps you have loaded. Again, a horizontal flick takes you from page to page, with 9 icons per page. This system works very well, and makes good use of the limited screen space.

The one feature I haven't mentioned is Timescape. This Sony Ecicsson app combines your Twitter and Facebook stream with your text (SMS) messages, MMS and missed calls, into tiles that flow chronologically on the screen. The effect is awesome, but due to concerns about excessive data usage I disabled it almost immediately!

So, as my introduction to Android, what do I think? Did it live up to my expectations? Definitely! Android highlights how dated Symbian has become. I love that almost everything can be modified or adjusted, if not natively, then by using one of the thousands of available apps. As of right now, us South Africans do not have access to the paid apps in the Android Market (although that will apparently change shortly), so it was a nice surprise that almost every app I wanted has been available for free. The Market itself could use some work, especially on discovery, but compared to the Ovi Store it's been fantastic! Looking ahead, I'm thinking about what phones will be available when my current contract comes up for renewal in the new year. One thing I know for sure: it'll be an Android!

Thanks for reading!