The Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 mini was announced in February at the Barcelona-based Mobile World Congress. It may be two generations behind with Android 1.6, but the pint-sized package sheds the heavy features of theand gets back to basics along with a snappy processor.
The mini has the smallest footprint in the Xperia X10 family. It's so small we could palm the entire phone in our hand, and with space left over. The mini's tiny footprint is suited for those who like to hang their phone around their neck on a lanyard.
The plastic back has a convex shape and can be swapped out with six snap-on covers in different colours. The shiny plastic on the front picks up fingerprint smudges easily, but the same could also be said for phones with a touchscreen that's almost the size of the entire front area. The display measures 2.55 inches and screen sensitivity was excellent in our tests.
On button placements, there are three hardware slits for the contextual Menu, Home and Back below the screen. These are raised significantly from the chassis and have decent tactile feedback. On the right are the volume buttons and camera shutter, which are styled in a similar fashion as the main control strip. The main power button and key lock are at the top and nearly flush with the surface. We suspect this was intentional to minimise accidental presses. The 3.5mm audio jack and micro-USB port are along the bottom. Removing the battery cover at the back reveals the SIM and microSD card slots. Note that the battery on the X10 mini isn't replaceable.
As the release cycles of Android shorten, devices are undoubtedly going to be launched with older versions of Google's OS. Hence, one of the most frequently asked questions is whether there will be a firmware upgrade and when. For the X10 mini, Sony Ericsson has said it will provide an update to version 2.1 in Q4 this year. The mini pro and original X10 will also get the software upgrade during that time. Sure, the mini may be left out of the upgrade for now, but this Sony Ericsson nails it for someone seeking to buy a basic, compact Android smartphone.
Sony Ericsson's custom interface for Android features four customisable quadrants for placing applications at each corner of the home screen. There's space for only one widget per home screen due to the limited screen estate. We noticed that the mini started to lag as we added more widgets (we had a total of 12) and eventually gave up at one point with a force quit pop-up message. The home screens don't loop, so when you get to the last one, you'll have to make several swipes in the opposite direction to go back.
One of the issues we encountered with the small display on the mini was that we had to jump in and out of the alphanumeric keypad when filling in text fields. For forms or menus that have only one or two boxes, we could memorise what we needed to key in and use the Next option to get to the following field. But if it was anything more than that, we had to click Back to exit the keypad and know which field we were filling in. It's a minor inconvenience, but could be frustrating for some people.
The application icons and text don't look particularly sharp given the QVGA resolution and there aren't many fancy graphics transitions, but 320x240 pixels are adequate for a screen this size. It also helps that many of these labels are enlarged for better legibility on the small display. Screen legibility under sunlight is passable. We could make out on-screen text, but the reflections did take a few points off the overall experience.
We like the text input method, though. To get to the number and symbol pads, we simply drag out the columns on either side of the display and push them away once we're done. This is where both thumbs come in very handy with switching panels. We also like the font size, which is easy on the eyes, and we rarely had to squint to see what's on the screen. The mini doesn't have an on-screen QWERTY keyboard, which is fine since the limited panel size wouldn't be able to accommodate for one, either.