Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 Mini smartphone
A fully featured smartphone in an incredibly tiny package, the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 Mini is an Android phone with an impressive design.
- Fully featured Android smartphone, stylish design, good performance, customisable home screens with widgets, excellent custom UI
- Tiny display limits certain functions, mediocre text entry, not great for mobile browsing
Sony Ericsson deserves kudos for managing to produce an Android handset that's so tiny but still fully featured. However, we feel the XPERIA X10 Mini is a little too tiny to be considered a practical, everyday mobile phone.
Price$ 399.00 (AUD)
In a day and age of touchscreen smartphones with extra-large displays designed for multimedia playback and Web browsing, a mobile phone smaller than a credit card seems so 1999. Sony Ericsson doesn't think so though: its latest Android phone, the tiny XPERIA X10 Mini, is a fully featured smartphone in an incredible tiny package. At face value the XPERIA X10 Mini seems impressive, but its size means it has too many limitations.
The Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 Mini smartphone looks like a prop out of the movie Honey, I Shrunk the Kids! — it's absolutely tiny. Though it is a little thick, it feels short and stubby in your hand and the rounded back it shares with the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 means that it is comfortable to hold. Although the tiny size and quirky design are appealing, we think the XPERIA X10 Mini would be easy to misplace.
Despite its tiny dimensions, the XPERIA X10 Mini isn't poorly constructed, especially considering its inexpensive asking price. The rear battery cover is replaceable and Sony Ericsson includes three different colours out of an available seven in the sales package.
The main drawback to the small size of the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 Mini is the display. To be fair, it does a reasonable job considering the limited real estate, but the 2.5in screen lacks the clarity, colour and sharpness of larger screens and often feels cramped. This makes it ill suited to text messaging, as there is no option for a QWERTY keyboard layout on screen. The on-screen keyboard is best reserved for the odd, short text; its small keys and tiny feel easily frustrate.
Like its big brother, the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 Mini has a custom interface overlay called Timescape: a central timeline of events on both your phone and social-networking sites. In a similar manner to the Motoblur UI seen on the Motorola DEXT smartphone, Timescape keeps a timeline of status updates on Facebook and Twitter. However, it goes one step further than Motorola by also including communications on your phone — missed calls and SMS and MMS messages. These events form 3D tiles that appear to be stacked on top of one another — the idea is that you simply flick your finger up and down the "spine" to scroll through everything. Despite the appealing look and feel, we feel Timescape is of limited usefulness, as it doesn't show enough content on each tile. Although you can update your Facebook and Twitter status from Timescape itself, tapping a Facebook update takes you to the mobile browser version of Facebook, rather than the Android Facebook app installed. There is also no way to automatically link your Facebook contacts with those in your address book — you need to link contacts individually and this is a time consuming process. Timescape also lacks some advanced features, such as support for multiple Twitter accounts and URL shortening when tweeting.
Fortunately, Sony Ericsson has done a superb job with the rest of the XPERIA X10 Mini's user interface. Unique to this handset are four customisable shortcuts at each corner of the home screen for quick access, and an unlimited number of home screens you can add widgets to. Though you can't add shortcuts or folders and can only add a single widget per screen, the screens can be rearranged as you please, so Android's scope for customisation is still evident here. Throughout the interface you'll find tweaks that perfectly suit the small screen — from a single swipe up the screen to access the main menu, to re-designed, custom menus and command boxes that make ease of use a real highlight.
The Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 Mini's size hasn't impacted on its features, with most of Android's regular functions available including the Android Market for third-party apps, an excellent notifications taskbar and automatic and seamless synchronisation with Google services. The Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 Mini also possesses good performance, with no sign of lag or slowdown during general use. The smartphone currently runs the older 1.6 firmware of Android, but Sony Ericsson has promised an upgrade to version 2.1 at the end of Q3 this year. An update to Sony Ericsson's custom user experience platform (UXP) will also be provided at the same time, adding new features and improving the performance of the Timescape application and custom user interface.
The included browser does a reasonable job considering the tiny display, but text looks blurred unless it's zoomed in very close and clicking links can be frustrating due to the size of the screen. Like the XPERIA X10, the XPERIA X10 Mini doesn't support Flash or multitouch technologies, but on such a small display, multitouch isn't practical and is therefore no real loss.
Other features of the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 Mini include a 5-megapixel camera with autofocus and flash, a built-in accelerometer, a digital compass and a GPS receiver. The X10 Mini also has a microSD card slot for extra storage, located behind the rear battery cover.
The Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 Mini is available through Optus in Australia, but can also be purchased outright and unlocked from online mobile phone store MobiCity.
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