The Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 has a body that makes a thousand promises, with a big 102mm (4-inch) screen and an 8.1-megapixel camera backed by a curvaceous booty. Unfortunately, it doesn't follow through on the flirting, due to its slightly older version of the Android operating system and user interface tweaks that need more polish.
It's available now online SIM-free for the thick end of £500, for £430 on pay as you go or free on contracts from £25 a month.
Escape the landscape
Sony Ericsson has jazzed up the bog-standard version of Google's Android operating system, and in theory we're right behind it. Android can be uninspiring and complex in places, so a little sparkle can really improve an OS that's otherwise powerful and fun. Son Eric's efforts are a mixed bag, however.
The X10 sports two headline features -- Timescape and Mediascape. Timescape brings together everything from texts, email and tweets to recent photos and songs into a zippy timeline, which you flick through with a finger. It's cool-looking, and we like the idea, but it's not as useful as it could be.
It's great to see all your tweets and updates in one stream, but you have to tap each message to see more than the first few words, and then tap again to open a separate application to reply, follow a link, or anything else. For our tweets, that meant re-opening the Twitter Web site every time we wanted to do anything other than read -- click a link, for example -- and then hitting the back button several times to get back to Timescape. Social media is all about interaction, so until you can interact seamlessly, Timescape needs work.
Mediascape, on the other hand, is a useful treat. It shows the music, video and photos on your phone, and also displays your online photo albums from services such as Picasa and Facebook. In our tests, online photos sometimes took a moment to load, even over Wi-Fi, but we loved having them available on our phone.
Mediascape doesn't have some of the slick user interface actions of Timescape -- for example, you can slide your finger to filter the items in Timescape when you want to just see text messages, for example. In Mediascape, you have to tap the on-screen buttons rather than swipe with a finger to move between categories. We'd rather have function over form though, so we wish Son Eric had spent more time focusing on what's useful rather than whizzy transitions.
Android on board
Because Sony Ericsson has taken the time to tweak Android with its fancy footnotes, the X10 has fallen behind. It runs version 1.6 of Android, rather than the latest version, 2.1, seen on the and others. If you haven't used Android before, you probably won't notice the difference -- you can still download and install apps, use Google Maps, and lots of other fun stuff.
There are one or two features you'll miss out on though -- the later version can support more than one Google account, for example, so if you have a Gmail account and a Google Apps account you can't use them both. But this won't affect many people, and most of the other holes have been plugged by Sony Ericsson. It's added support for Microsoft Exchange email, which many people use at work, since that feature wasn't added to Android until version 2.1.
Sony Ericsson has promised the X10 will get frequent updates, which is admirable -- especially since most people will be forking out for a two-year contract for this phone. That means later versions of Android and refreshes to the custom features, unlocking bits of the hardware that aren't yet supported by the OS, such as an even higher colour resolution for the screen. We expect the company will live up to this promise, so if you fall in love with the X10, we don't think you should stay away just because of the slightly older version of Android.