The SonyEricsson Xperia X1: First impressions

It’s been some time since SonyEricsson had this sort of media presence and coverage due to a product release. Needless to say, at the mind boggling rate they’re releasing new mobile phone products, it’s easy to get the impression that the wheels are spinning at bit too fast at times. SonyEricsson’s latest flagship product, the Xperia X1, does warrant some extended coverage; partially since it’s the first product from the company that is based on the Windows Mobile platform.

Opening the box unveils the standard stuff; a charger, headphone/handsfree, a battery, some product documentation, and obviously the Xperia X1 phone. Inserting the SIM card, and the battery is easy. Replacing the external memory card (MicroSD) with the 8GB add-on I purchased is a little bit tricky, mainly due to the size of MicroSD cards, but after a few seconds I find a paper clip to help me in my task. The one thing that I’m missing at a first glance is a screen protector. I keep my phone in a pocket, usually in my pants or possibly my jacket. I can’t possibly fit a “carrying case” into either of those places. For a phone of this type, and at this price, I’d expect a suitable screen protector to be included in the box.

Holding the Xperia X1 in my hand, it feels solid, and it looks good. It’s not an Iphone, nor do I think it wants to be one, but it feels like a solid piece of hardware. Sliding out the keyboard feels “just right”.

Setting up the phone to a level of “usable” doesn’t take long. Using the various “panels” that the Xperia X1 has, makes navigating between the most common functions a breeze. Most panels that come with the phone give your fingers a big(ger) area on the screen at which you can tap your fingertip to go to where you want to go.

The phone isn’t by any definition “fast”, but on the other hand, it’s using Windows Mobile, so I’m not surprised. Even the previous flagship product, the SonyEricsson P1i was sluggish, and it’s using UIQ. One thing that annoys me is the detailed configuration options. This may be partially due to the fact that it is Windows Mobile, but I think SonyEricsson could have had a “Configuration Panel” where most configuration options were placed for faster access.

As for functionality, think Microsoft Windows, but smaller 🙂 The Xperia X1:s screen is a 800×480 65,536-colour TFT; read: it’s high quality. Even with small screen fonts, you get a clear and crisp feeling.

Input

Depending on what kind of person you are, you’ll either favor using your fingertips and pointing at the screen, or you’ll be using the stylus. When you “synchronize the screen” (i.e. tell the Xperia X1 how you behave when you point and tap at something on the screen), it seems like the difference between finger tapping and stylus tapping is too great to allow for both input methods. I opted for the finger method, and then when I want to type I slide out the keyboard. The very nice QWERTY-keyboard.

I find the available buttons, sliders and keyboard to be nice and easy to use. The “joystick” button doubles as a mousepad, where you can move things by sliding your fingertip up, down, left and right. Pushing the button down is how you select things, and this is where it gets a bit annoying at times since it’s easy to slide your fingertip somewhat off-center before you push it down. This, of course, means you may select an option you were not intending to select 🙂 A visible mouse cursor/pointer would be a welcome addition in a future update. If for nothing else but to show you where the phone thinks you’re currently pointing.

Moving files/data around on the Xperia isn’t entirely obvious when using the Windows Explorer application. Drag and drop doesn’t really make sense in a small screen environment, so it’s down to good old “select, cut, paste”. This method works, but it’s rather slow and inefficient.

Connectivity

Internet connectivity is simple to configure and functional. There’s a choice of using Internet Explorer or Opera for web browsing. Outlook Express is the mail client. Connecting with a WiFi network is also a no-brainer. I haven’t figured out how to make it favor my WiFi connection over 3G/UMTS when the WiFi connection is in range. I did manage to configure the WiFi connection at home and at work, and the Xperia X1 switches to use either of them when in range.

On the accompanying CD, there’s software for ActiveSync support (Windows). It works well under Windows XP (and probably Vista, but I refuse to use such an overbloated operating system). If you connect the phone to a computer running Linux, you’re limited to browsing the contents of the external memory card.

Since it’s a Windows Mobile phone, it’s obvious that Microsoft’s “LIVE” stuff will be present. So Messenger is available by default. Installing Skype took less than a minute and works nicely. Skype for mobiles also has a cool feature where you can tell it to only do its thing when connected by means of WiFi, which is useful unless you have a flat rate 3G/data plan on your subscription.

Moving data between phones still sucks!

Now, for one really annoying issue, which I’ve written about before.

The Xperia X1 is a HTC at heart, and it may be that the first issue is an HTC issue (or Windows Mobile issue), but it’s pathetic that SonyEricsson cannot do better in regards to moving data from its previous flagship product, the P1i, to its new neato-whizzbang-gadget. I don’t want to use a go-between like Outlook or ActiveSync or my computer to move data between two phones. Bluetooth works, or should work, very well for this purpose.

So I go to Contacts on my P1i, select all contacts and choose to send them to my Xperia. The connection goes fine, as does the transmission of the 200+ contacts. And then the Xperia goes tits-up and says it can’t read the file that it just received. So the Contacts application on the Xperia cannot handle vCards with more than one entry! After having spent some serious time sending each contact as a separate item, I see that not all the data is displayed on the Xperia. On some contacts, I have multiple mobile phone numbers. When I look at them on the Xperia, there’s only one number. Here too, SonyEricsson could have fixed it so that the P1i would write the alternative parts to more commonly used vCard fields.

I don’t care who’s at fault, just fix it!!! I can punch a number on my phone and send text, graphics, video or speech all the way around the globe, I damn well expect two phones to be able to fully exchange data without compatibility issues.

The Jotter (notes) application of the P1i is another issue where moving data to another phone is a problem. You can only send one Jotter entry at a time; and it’s always sent as “Jotter.txt” (or something similar) if you choose to send it as text. The Xperia X1 does not see these as anything but text files, so you’ll have to convert them to notes manually.

Semi-summary

Overall, I’m quite happy with the phone, as far as first impressions go. There are things that annoy me, and there are things I really like. It’s an expensive gadget, but it’s quite a fun gadget. I’ll leave the religious and fanatical techno-wars to people that think it matters. If you need a “smartphone”, the SonyEricsson Xperia X1 is definitely an alternative.

SonyEricsson Xperia X1 on Wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xperia
SonyEricsson Xperia X1 on SonyEricsson.com: SonyEricsson.com

Previous JoHo scribblings about mobile phones: Mobile phones

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