Interface:

You have probably heard already that the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 will not hit the shelves with the latest Android edition. It is based on version 1.6, while a lot of cell phones are to get updated to edition 2.1 anytime now and get the same software that powers the Google Nexus One. So, is this a big deal really? What would you be missing out on?

Perhaps the most important drawbacks are you will not be able to synchronize your phone with multiple accounts (a feature brought by version 2.0) and you won´t be getting Microsoft Exchange support either. Moreover, eye-candies like Live Wallpapers and a spectacular main menu are rather conspicuous in their absence, especially alongside of the visual delight you are treated to when using the Nexus One. Oddly enough, the voice search in the dedicated Google pane is missing and this happens to be a distinguishing feature of Android 1.6. Finally, the home screens are just... three.



Calm down! Sony Ericsson has fallen over backwards to personalize the interface (called UX that stands for User eXperience). The lack of several accounts might prove to be a sore spot for a lot of people, but everyone using Exchange would be happy to know the Moxier application pack is available (Calendar, Contacts, Mail, Sync, Tasks) and it also allows for push alerts. There wasn’t even a single occasion when we felt we needed more space on the home screen and the credit goes to the pair of multifunctional applications developed by Sony Ericsson especially for the Xperia X10. We are talking about Timescape and Mediascape. Let’s take a closer look at them, since they happen to be the most important aspects of the interface.



Timescape:

Timescape gives you information about what´s going on around you and enables you to take a look at the last things you did using the device. It´s a cross breed between a social networking client and personal diary. We guess this sounds somewhat confusing, so let us explain in detail.

Timescape allows you to see latest information about your Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and VZnet buddies in the form of cards called Splines. The concept is not new and we have already seen it in action in the Happenings widget of MOTOBLUR and the Friend Stream tab available with the latest HTC Sense interface. Moreover, Timescape shows the latest conversations, messages, emails, pictures and audio tracks you´ve carried/received/viewed/listened to. You are allowed to filter content and focus on a single element or remove some of them in overview mode and, for an instance, disable all of them but Facebook and Twitter. The application permits you to simultaneously update your status in all available social networks, which is a nice feature.



When you choose a certain card in Timescape, it gets larger and you are prompted to take one of the following actions:

11)    Press once gain to open the relevant service. If you pick a phone contact, you will get to the dialling screen, choose the card of a received message and you will be able to reply, the Spline of a social service takes you to the corresponding webpage, etc.


2)    Press the Infinity button (yep, the one with the infinity symbol on it) and you will get all the available information about the selected object. Take a look at the two examples below:
-    Choose an audio track (in Timescape) and press Infinity. A screen showing all albums of the band available on the expansion card will pop up. The pages below it enable you to download more music via Sony Ericsson PlayNow or watch videos of the performer uploaded on YouTube. You also have the option to search the Internet via Google on pressing the Web search button.


-    Choose a Twitter or Facebook post and you can link it to a phone contact. In this way you get a screen that unifies all relevant posts the person has published on the social network. If already linked to a contact, the above mentioned screen will show up instead.



All told, the concept behind Timescape is really nice and the application saves you the trouble of handling multiple home screen widgets in order to keep in touch with the latest whereabouts of your online buddies. Moreover, the program is the actual point of access for many functions and provides a wealth of information. You can enter Timescape via a widget that shows the latest event or set the application as a home screen. We don´t really like the latter option, since you are left with only four application shortcuts and they cannot be personalized.


Yes, we do like the whole idea, but it´s not all coming up roses either. We would have liked Timescape better if it allowed for RSS feeds to follow websites. Moreover, a social networking Spline opens the internet page of the corresponding service, even if you happen to have a dedicated application for it. This is acceptable in the particular case of Facebook, because the touch-screen version of the web site is convenient to use, but there are some really great Twitter clients out there. The other issue with Timescape is that it does not provide information on comments and messages you get on the social networks you are registered with, but status updates only. In other words, the application simply does not have the necessary functionality to fully replace dedicated social networking clients.

Mediascape:

This is where you get access to all available multimedia files... and something else as well. The concept is not brand new and exists on Sony Ericsson devices in the form of the famous Flash Menu. It has been developed further and now features extra internet-based services.

A list of recently played files is visualized at the top of the Mediascape screen, while its counterpart at the bottom shows information about the particular media type, i.e. audio, video, pictures, etc. PlayNow gives more details on audio tracks, provided the service is supported in your country. No such option is available for videos, but you can watch them (in shuffle mode as well). The picture gallery enables you to browse your online albums on Facebook and Picasa.


The button “More” provides extra filtering options. Say, you can sort tracks by recently played or added content, favourite songs, relevant genre/artist/playlist/podcast/audio books, etc. Once you select an image or audio track, you gain access to the Infinity button that we have already told you about.



As a whole, we do not have any major complaints relating to Mediascape – this is user-friendly, spectacular unification of the picture gallery, audio and video players. The internet services tend to load the requested information slowly at times, but not to the point of being annoyingly sluggish.

However, we do happen to have a gripe or two regarding the UX interface as a whole. First off, most of the icons and buttons are tiny and therefore, not very easy to press with your finger. And we have to say the 4-inch screen provides ample space indeed. Second, it´s the lagging issue. The handset can get sluggish rather unexpectedly, no matter which part of the interface you are in. For an instance, the software can be running smoothly in Timescape, and it can freeze, while you are in the main menu. Quite strange. This does not happen all the time, but more often than to go unnoticed. The device gets more and more sluggish as you overtax it with various programs and can even freeze in certain applications, which is inexcusable. After all, we are talking about a 1GHz Snapdragon handset here. Third, all the animated transitions are cool, but annoyingly slow. We did enjoy them at first, but in time all we wanted was... just to get to the relevant menu/information as fast as we can instead of having to wait, watching animated images spin around. The problem can get especially irksome in Timescape.

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