The Sony Ericsson Xperia Mini is adorably tiny, but promises to be packed with smart-phone features, thanks to its Android operating system. Its 3-inch touchscreen also means this compact phone looks thoroughly usable.
The Mini will arrive in shops this autumn. We don't know how much it will cost yet but, based on the tiny price of its predecessor, the Xperia X10 Mini, we expect it to be cheaper than average.
The Mini has a slightly larger case than last year's X10 Mini. It measures 52 by 88 by 16mm, which means there's room for a 3-inch screen. The screen is half an inch bigger than that of the X10 Mini, and the same size as the one on the larger Xperia X8. The upshot is that the Mini feels like a tiny phone, but has enough screen real estate to be very usable.
The 320x480-pixel display also uses Bravia video-smoothing technology, named after Sony's line of televisions. In our early hands-on tests, video looked very impressive on the Mini's screen, especially given it's such a tiny phone.
That's good news when it comes to watching the 720p high-definition videos that you can shoot on the Mini's camera. The camera also offers a 5-megapixel resolution for still photos. Stay tuned for our full review to see how the Mini's camera stacks up.
The Mini may be small but, inside, it's a fully-fledged smart phone. Email, maps and more are all present and correct. Sony Ericsson tells us the phone will launch with the latest version of Android, 2.3 Gingerbread.
Sony Ericsson has customised the user interface to suit the small screen. We thought the changes were worthwhile on the original X10 Mini, but Sony Ericsson has toned down its tweaks for the new Mini, which is a move we agree with, since it has a larger screen. You now get a full Qwerty keyboard in portrait mode, rather than an alphanumeric one, and there's room for multiple Android widgets on each home screen, instead of just one.
There are also shortcut menus that sit in the corners of the screen. In each corner, you can add up to four shortcuts to your favourite apps. The corner menus pleased us on the previous Mini, but we'll have to take the new Mini for a full test drive before we agree that it's still a good idea on the larger screen.
The Mini has a few custom apps, like the Timescape app, which shows an animated stream of your Twitter and Facebook feeds.
Thankfully, Sony Ericsson has resisted making too many changes to Android, and most of its tweaks can be ignored if you don't like them -- for example, the Timescape app. But you are stuck with the dark blue and black colour scheme that Sony Ericsson has imposed on all the menus.
On such a small phone, usability is everything, so we're happy to see that the Mini has a large, finger-friendly home button, flanked by touch-sensitive menu and back buttons.
We haven't had a chance to push the Mini to its limit yet, but, during our brief tests, it felt smooth and responsive. We're not too surprised, since there's a muscular single-core 1GHz Snapdragon processor inside. That should provide plenty of oomph for playing games and apps downloaded from the Android Market.
The Mini also has room for a microSD card, so you can store your photos and apps. You'll probably get a 2GB card in the box, and you could bump that up to a maximum of 32GB.
The Sony Ericsson Xperia Mini could be tempting if you're considering upgrading to a smart phone, but don't want one of the massive, sun-blocking slabs that are all the rage at the moment. Its screen is surprisingly spacious, given the phone's amazingly small case, and it even shoots HD video. If it turns out to be as usable as we expect, it could be a winner.
Edited by Charles Kloet