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Unlocked Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc now on sale, but do we care?

Six months after its debut, the Sony Ericsson handset comes to the United States. Does it matter any longer to U.S. consumers? More importantly, does Sony Ericsson mind?

The Xperia Arc at CES 2011 Kent German/CNET

Telling no one but its Web site, Sony Ericsson has begun offering the Xperia arc to U.S. consumers with an unlocked, no-contract $599 price tag.

Listed as having support for AT&T's 3G bands (850MHz/1900MHz/2100MHz), it's very possible that it may arrive later at at the carrier. T-Mobile subscribers can pick up an unlocked Arc as well, though it won't support T-Mobile's 3G network.

Sony Ericsson started off the year with a bang, announcing the Android 2.3-powered Xperia Arc at CES 2011. As one of the first Gingerbread-powered phones after the Nexus S, hopes were high and things looked good. Here was a super thin, gorgeous handset with the latest version of Android.

Hardware was impressive as well, with a 1GHz processor, 4.2-inch display, 1GB internal storage, an 8.1-megapixel camera, GPS, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth support.

So at the time, it appeared as if Sony Ericsson had learned from past mistakes and could rise to Android greatness. Six months later, however, I'm not so confident.

The success of the company's first Android effort, the Xperia X10, was hindered because outdated software was coupled with superior hardware. The Xperia Arc succeeded on both fronts, but that was back in January and now I fear that the handset's hardware may do it in.

As more and more devices see Gingerbread updates, I fear that the Xperia arc will get lost in the shuffle. The internals will look increasingly outdated as the year drags on and the spec envelope pushes forward. In an era of 4G support, qHD displays, and dual-core processors, the Xperia Arc will lose its appeal among tech heavy enthusiasts.

Don't get me wrong here, the Xperia Arc is one of the sharpest handsets on the market and would still be more than enough for most users. And as Apple has shown us time and again, it's not necessarily the hardware that sells people on a device, it's the experience.

The Xperia brand has done very well for Sony Ericsson outside of the United States and I suspect that's where the company places the focus. Initially I wondered whether the release of the Xperia arc even mattered to U.S. consumers, but now I wonder if the United States even matters all that much to Sony Ericsson.