Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Sony Ericsson XPERIA X8 smartphone
The Sony Ericsson XPERIA X8 has a higher resolution screen than the XPERIA X10 Mini and XPERIA X10 Mini Pro smartphones
- Rounded design is comfortable to hold, reasonably attractive matte finish, decent screen resolution, custom UI works well
- Slightly cramped for messaging, Timescape is limited, runs Android 1.6, no multitouch
The Sony Ericsson XPERIA X8 offers a similar user experience to the smaller XPERIA X10 Mini and X10 Mini Pro handsets, and like those phones it ships with an outdated version of the Android operating system.
Price$ 249.00 (AUD)
Sony Ericsson's XPERIA X8 sits between the high-end XPERIA X10 and the entry-level XPERIA X10 Mini and XPERIA X10 Mini Pro smartphones. It's a mid-range Android smartphone with a relatively compact design. The XPERIA X8 has a better screen resolution than both the X10 Mini and X10 Mini Pro, but we were disappointed that it ships with an outdated version of Google's Android operating system.
The Sony Ericsson XPERIA X8 looks like a slightly larger version of the XPERIA X10 Mini. It still feels short and stubby, and it is relatively thick despite its compact size. Like the flagship Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 it has a slightly rounded back and is comfortable to hold. The XPERIA X8 has a smooth, matte finish; we find this more attractive than a gloss finish, and it does an excellent job of hiding fingerprints. The XPERIA X8 feels relatively well constructed, with no rattles or creaks when the casing is pressed.
The Sony Ericsson XPERIA X8 comes with a 3in capacitive touchscreen. The native 320x480 resolution means the handset delivers a much more polished user experience than Android phones with lower resolution screens, such as the HTC Wildfire, which has a 320x240 pixel display. We wouldn't recommend an Android phone with a resolution lower than what the XPERIA X8 offers if you want the best multimedia experience possible.
The Sony Ericsson XPERIA X8 feels slightly cramped for text messaging, especially when using the standard Android keyboard in portrait orientation. Sony Ericsson's keyboard only offers a 9-key numeric layout with predictive text input; you only get a full QWERTY keyboard if you use the phone in landscape mode.
Like other Sony Ericsson XPERIA Android phones, the X8 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. There is also no way to automatically link your Facebook contacts to people 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 X8's user interface. Like the XPERIA X10 Mini and X10 Mini Pro handsets, the X8 has 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. 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-skinned custom menus and command boxes that make ease of use a real highlight.
Being an Android smartphone the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X8 offers access to the Android Market for third-party apps, an excellent notifications taskbar and automatic and seamless synchronisation with Google services. The Sony Ericsson XPERIA X8 also possesses reasonable performance, with minimal lag or slowdown during general use. The smartphone currently runs the 1.6 version of Android, but Sony Ericsson has promised an upgrade to version 2.1 by the end of year. An update to Sony Ericsson's custom user experience platform (UXP) should also be provided at the same time, adding new features and improving the performance of the Timescape application and custom user interface.
Disappointingly, the XPERIA X8's browser doesn't support multitouch, so you can't pinch the screen to zoom in and out of web pages. On the tiny display of the X10 Mini and Mini Pro, the lack of multitouch is excusable, but the X8's 3in screen would greatly benefit from it.
Other features of the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X8 include a 3.2-megapixel camera with autofocus, a built-in accelerometer, TrackID music recognition, a digital compass and a GPS receiver. The X8 also has a microSD card slot for extra storage, located behind the rear battery cover.
The Sony Ericsson XPERIA X8 has not yet officially released in Australia, but can be purchased outright and unlocked from online mobile phone store MobiCity.
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