updated 02:25 am EST, Sun January 10, 2010
Sony Ericsson Android phone a redeemer?
Tucked in amidst the large Sony booth at CES was Sony Ericsson, which had its yet-to-be-released XPERIA X10 available to try. Electronista had an opportunity to try the now near-final Android smartphone and came away fairly impressed with the progress on the company's first Google-based smartphone. Read after the story jump for the full take and implications.
The X10 like some Android phones is a mixture of customization and absolute reference design, though as with phones like the HTC Hero, that's not necessarily a drawback. Our example was running Android 2.0, but like HTC, Sony Ericsson customizes the front end experience somewhat. More important are the customizations: everything from the contacts to the media player (dubbed Mediascape) is much more visual. We get the impression the highly stylized contact view may irk those who want a more direct look, but Mediascape is much more advanced than what Google supplies; it provides a fairly elegant, visual look at your music, movies and videos as well as a better interface for actually controlling it.
There are also a handful of productivity apps from Moxier, though these would have needed account setups that we clearly weren't ready to implement on a demo unit. An Office-supporting document editor was onboard, however.
Android 2.0 is on the phone at present and has all the features you'd expect, including the new browser and Google Maps. We'd heard of performance issues with early demo versions of the X10, but the example at CES appeared to be more polished and ran quickly -- which it needs to do, as it uses a 1GHz Snapdragon processor. It's not certain if Sony Ericsson will push Android 2.1 on to the phone, though that's a logical conclusion given that the Nexus One already uses the newer OS.
Design-wise, the phone is comfortable to hold, stylish and simple. We do wish its creator found a way to justify an oleophobic touchscreen, however, as it was prone to showing many visible fingerprints.
Regardless of the updates, we're looking forward to the new XPERIA arriving soon; it should officially reach North America through Canada's Rogers in the spring. It's the first Sony Ericsson phone that we've been genuinely interested in for a long time and quite possibly its first smartphone to truly catch on where the XPERIA X1 and Satio have been given lukewarm treatment at best.
The company needs the success as it has lost half its market share in the space of a year, owing in no small part to its lack of a "halo" device like Apple's iPhone or even Motorola's Droid. We're not certain Sony Ericsson can even reach Droid levels yet, but it doesn't need to. It just needs to draw attention and mend the firm's tattered reputation, which has been hurt both by the lack of smartphones and an often too-similar mix of mid-range feature phones.