The Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini has a name that's longer than the Nile, but it's actually the smallest smart phone we've ever seen. It's so tiny that it makes us chortle whenever we pick it up, but it's just on the right side of usable, and Sony Ericsson has made some smart tweaks to the user interface.
The Mini is available for free on a £15-a-month, 24-month contract. You can also buy it SIM-free and unlocked, so you can use it on any network, for around £230.
The Mini is the follow-up to Sony Ericsson's first Android phone, the Xperia X10. The Mini feels like the X10 snapped in half, but it has many of the same features, as it also runs version 1.6 of the Android operating system.
Sony Ericsson has tweaked the user interface to suit the 64mm (2.5-inch) screen. For example, the on-screen Qwerty keyboard has been ditched in favour of an alphanumeric keypad. That means you'll never be able to text as quickly on the Mini as you will on most other smart phones. But, considering the size of the phone, the keypad is well designed.
The keypad buttons are large and finger-friendly, and it's easy to swipe between different keypads that feature letters, numbers and symbols while you're typing -- an innovation that we'd like to see on more touchscreen phones. Unfortunately, the keypad doesn't work in landscape mode, so it can't take advantage of the full height of the screen.
The home-screen area is equally well suited to the small display. You're able to swipe between a selection of home screens that you can load with one widget each, and four shortcuts sit in each corner of the screen too. It's too bad that the widgets don't fill more of the screen -- most of them sit in the middle -- but it's handy to have access to live info without having to open a separate app, like your calendar, for example.
Escape the Timescape
We're not as impressed with the Timescape feature, which is one of Sony Ericsson's flagship apps. Timescape brings together your Twitter and Facebook updates, as well as missed calls and texts, into a zippy timeline that you flick through with a finger. It's not as jazzy-looking as the version on the larger X10, and suffers from the same flaw -- you can only see the first few words of an update. Then you have to tap it and open the relevant Web site to see the whole message or reply, even if you have an app installed that could handle it. We recommend you try downloading one of the great Facebook or Twitter clients from the Android Market instead.