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Sony Ericsson raises the bar on Android phones

The upcoming Sony Ericsson Xperia x3 looks to be the most powerful Android phone to date.

The Xperia X3 comes with a 4" touch screen.

More details are beginning to leak surrounding Sony Ericsson's upcoming Xperia X3 smartphone. Sony Ericsson joined the Open Handset Alliance (OHA) in 2008 but has yet to make any official announcement on upcoming Android phones. Looking at the initial specs of the X3, it appears it has decided to aim for the high end with its first Google Android device.

A recent pre-order listing posted by UK online retailer Expansys has confirmed rumored specs that appeared last month. The Xperia X3, which is built around the Snapdragon platform, contains a 4-inch display and snaps photos with a 8-megapixel camera. All of these features would be best of class for any announced Android phone.

Arguably, the most exciting feature of the phone is Qualcomm's new Snapdragon QSD8250 chipset. Its 1GHz CPU is almost double the clock speed of current Android phones, which run a Qualcomm CPU of 528 MHz. The additional horsepower will be used for decoding high-definition video (720p) and high-performance 3D graphics.

Sony Ericsson's new Rachael UI should also benefit from the powerful processor. The advanced animations and effects shown in the widgets wouldn't be possible on current Android hardware.

The increased speed should help Android better compete with the iPhone 3GS and Palm Pre. When a Snapdragon-based device hits the U.S. market, it should be the fastest smartphone available. Toshiba, another member of the OHA, also has upcoming devices based on Snapdragon.

Yet, American consumers shouldn't hold their breath until we hear an announcement from Sony Ericsson. Even if the specs are confirmed, there is no promise that the phone will even launch in the United States. After all, no U.S. carrier has picked up the first Sony Ericsson Xperia X1. I hope that the appeal of Android might persuade T-Mobile or AT&T to offer this GSM based phone.

Hopefully, this is just the beginning of some amazing Android devices from Sony Ericsson. Rikko Sakaguchi, corporate VP and head of Creation and Development at Sony Ericsson, said in a statement that the company is a strong supporter of open operating systems and it hopes to bring a new and unique user experience to Android. "We believe Sony Ericsson can bring a wealth of experience in making consumer focused multimedia handsets with new user experience to the Alliance drawing on the successes of the Walkman and Cyber-shot sub-brands," he said.

But it remains to be seen how committed Sony Ericsson actually is to the Android platform. Its new Saito flagship phone with a 12.1 MP camera is running on the Symbian OS, which Sony Ericsson was a former partial owner. With so many different operating systems being supported by Sony Ericsson, it is not clear which will be their focus for the future.