Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 mini Review
The Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 mini starts you off from the beginning with a setup screen that guides through the basics such as importing contacts from the SIM card or checking one of the tens of locales that ship with the firmware. We even tried the Asian ones out of curiosity how deeply integrated the translation is, and it turned out it goes into every nook and cranny of the UI to display the words in your own language. In addition, the phone takes just seconds to swap locales.
The Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 mini does ask for a Google login in the initial setup, and even if you skip it, it pops back at the end of the process and you have to deal with it somehow if you want to see the homescreen for the first time.
You probably remember that Sony Ericsson has created a personalized Android interface, called UX, which we examined in our review of the Xperia X10. Well, it is also used in the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 mini, but has been tweaked in order to be easy to use on the 2.55-inch screen.
Because of the small display, each page of the home screen can have only one widget. Our unit came with 10 of those and counting (some newly installed programs were still adding themselves to the list), so you can have home screens galore if so inclined. In addition, you have four shortcuts to apps in the corners of the home screen, which can be customized.
The idea of the UX interface is to deliver better (U)ser e(X)perience by tweaking Android’s appearance and adding media and social integration through the Timescape and Mediascape applications. Mediascape is missing on the X10 mini, but Timescape is still here, although with somewhat limited functionality. What it does is to show you an aggregate chronological view of the latest Facebook and Twitter updates, along with your messages and missed calls (its most frequent automatic refresh period is 15 minutes). You can, of course, filter the content so that you see only tweets, for example. From Timescape, you can link online profiles to your contacts, which will then allow you to see status updates in the phonebook – a feature we are beginning to see more and more frequently. Timescape is also available as a widget, so the latest social correspondence is just a tap away.
The main menu can be pulled up from the bottom of each home screen. It, of course, contains all your apps, and those can also be freely rearranged or dispersed to the four screen corners to your likings.
We personally think that Sony Ericsson has hit the jackpot with the UX interface. Everything is scrolly, touchy, swipy, animated and easy to find. Oh, and did we mention how FAST everything works on the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 mini? It's so snappy we have to capitalize the words. There is no lag present out of the box, unlike the big screen brethren Xperia X10, where the processor has to render much more pixels. Here the tiny low res screen draws little power from a weaker than in the Xperia X10 CPU. Transitions are tastefully done and the only negligible slowdown we noticed was when we added all widgets to home screens and tried to quickly swipe through the dozen or so resulting screens.
As afficionados of HTC's Sense UI, which was the first major Android overlay we have to admit it feels crowded compared to this transparent simplicity. Honestly, we were skeptical about the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 mini's ability to feel like a true smartphone because of its screen size, but all we need to use it as such is already delivered. The UI has been so customized that we wouldn't cry if the handset can not be upgraded to a later Android version - the fact of the matter is you rarely realize you are running Android and not some proprietary Sony Ericsson OS. It is tailored to the small screen in a way that allows even male fingers do a tap dance on the menus. Nevertheless Sony Ericsson announced that the X10 mini will get Android 2.1 later in the year along with the rest of the X10 stable.
Messaging and Connectivity:
The email app is another instance of nice little details adding to the positive experience - it shows the messages in full HTML by default. In the dedicated Gmail app you always have to take one more step to read messages in their full bloom, similarly to the desktop version..
Now, not all is puppies and flowers with such a limited view, of course. For example, scrolling through content in the browser is only good for a quick reference, let alone filling in forms and passwords with the on-screen numpad. YouTube videos can be played from the browser thanks to the dedicated player, but other sites' Flash content is a no-go. Other than that, however, the browser is speedy, minimalist and easy to navigate.
An obvious drawback of the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 mini's screen is typing speed. With the default text input it all feels like what it is - writing a text message old school with a glorified numpad, despite the good predictive text option. You can install a full QWERTY from Android Market, but it is barely useful only in landscape mode since you can't use sharpened fingernails on a capacitive screen, and that's exactly what you'd need to accurately pinpoint the micro letters. As time passes, writing becomes quicker, but nowhere near fast enough for lengthy conversations threading which the phone is otherwise capable of. We sincerely hope that the addition of a physical QWERTY keyboard to the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 mini pro would improve that aspect.
The Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 mini gets under your skin with how easy to use it is out of the box, and the synchronization options the company is shipping all its phones with recently only contribute to the all around feeling of completeness. Sony Ericsson, as most manufacturers already, has made it seemless to back up the phone content to the clouds by registering on its website with the Sync option, much like with Apple's MobileMe or Microsoft's My Phone services.
You can also communicate with the phone and update the firmware via the PC Companion application (it’s on the memory card together with the user manual). An additional download from Sony Ericsson's site is a flashy multimedia manager and converter hub called Media Go or its Mac equivalent Media Sync, which works with iTunes. Sony Ericsson is also offering the PlayNow app and music store, which, however, still leaves a lot to be desired in terms of choice; at least it is translated to your locale and has songs on tap.