There’s no doubt that the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 was somewhat of a letdown considering it was pegged as the mobile giant’s multimedia powerhouse. On paper, it looked great, but the reality was the likes of HTC’s Sense UI made Sony Ericsson’s Android skin feel more like a beta than a final release. The Sony Ericsson Xperia arc therefore represents a reboot, curvaceously hot n sexy, endowed with a new screen technology and a revised UI, Sony Ericsson hopes it can mend some perceptions the X10 created and from the offset, the odds are already looking more favorable for Sony Ericsson’s new flagship smartphone. Have a look at the comparison between Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc and LG Optimus 2X.
The Xperia Arc’s physical design is very clearly targeted at fashion-conscious buyers. It’s not ergonomically broken by it, but form has clearly led the way ahead of function, but you know what, we don’t really mind that. It’s about time we admitted to ourselves that we buy phones as much for what they look like as for what they do, and we laud Sony Ericsson for having the audacity to pursue its target demographic with a highly distinctive design. Few things curb our enthusiasm as much as overly generic phones that try to be all things to all people and the Arc is commendably distant from that group.
The Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc is fantastic in its design. The namesake Arc sees the phone slim down to 8.7mm at the thinnest point, but it’s not fat at any point. It measures 125 x 63 x 8.7mm according to Sony Ericsson, packing a 4.2-inch display into this frame. The bezel to the sides is kept to the minimum, but if anything, the Xperia Arc appears a little long.
Below the screen are the three buttons we commonly find on Sony Ericsson’s Android handsets – back, home, menu that sit in a thin arced line. Above the screen things look a little messy, the speaker and surrounding sensors, look a little hastily placed. Just look at the slick lines of the HTC Desire S and you’ll see why we say this.
It’s CPU boasts on a 1GHz Scorpion processor, Adreno 205 GPU, Qualcomm MSM8255 Snapdragon along with 512 MB of RAM. It’s available in two colors, Midnight Blue, Misty Silver. It has an internal memory of 320 MB and can have a micro SD up to 32GB.
The top of the phone features an HDMI output hidden behind a little dust stopper, plus a tiny power button. The power button is recessed to stop accidental presses but so tiny it can be a little hard to find. It’s a fingernail job and a bit of a pain. There’s also a proximity sensor, which shuts off the screen when it’s pressed to your ear.
The back of the Xperia Arc is very simple and elegant, with its curved case lending it quite an air of style. We’ve been using this one for over a week, and still keep picking it up to marvel at how thin it is.
The first thing we’ll notice about the Arc’s screen, before we’ve turned it on, is just how black it is. There’s a dark border framing the LCD, but as you can see above, there’s almost no telling the two apart. This compares extremely favorably with most other handsets on the market presently, whose screens tend to be a dark shade of grey rather than properly noir, and gives the inactive Arc a thoroughly gorgeous and futuristic appearance. Sadly, that doesn’t carry over once you switch the handset on, as the Xperia Arc can’t maintain such black levels in operation — it isn’t, after all, an AMOLED panel — and also suffers from narrow viewing angles, meaning you’ll be seeing colors wash out relatively quickly as you move off-center. When viewed head-on, the Arc’s display is actually above average in terms of contrast and color saturation, but we found ourselves getting annoyed with its dull appearance while looking at it lying on our desk. Viewing comfort at oblique angles hasn’t tended to be a pain point for smartphones so far, but as they grow increasingly larger and fancier, it’s becoming more important.
The screen is an LED-backlit LCD, with 480×854 pixels measuring in at 4.2″. In turn, while the resolution isn’t going to set the Sony Ericsson arc apart, the fact that it’s graced with Sony’s BRAVIA engine that the company uses in its award-winning flat screen TVs does. We can attest that there is a difference as photo and video playback is truly bright and vivid, though we nevertheless prefer Super AMOLED, as it enables these vibrant colors anywhere throughout the interface. The display is comfortable to use in the bright outdoors which is great, though viewing angles aren’t what we’d hope from a premium screen. Nevertheless, when looked at head-on, the screen delivers a distinctly premium viewing experience.
Xperia Arc comes with Android 2.3 Gingerbread, with Sony Ericsson’s mostly successful aesthetic tweaks, animated icons, large media widgets and a clever folder-creation system added to the mobile OS. Moreover, the Timescape widget can be a real spoiler with all its resource consumption, forcing the occasional stutter in UI navigation, however given that it’s merely an optional extra you can remove within seconds of turning the phone on, we can’t bemoan it too much. The onscreen keyboard, particularly in portrait mode, would’ve been better left in its stock Gingerbread form, though we really like Sony Ericsson’s changes in the messaging, contacts, and applications subsections. All three work spectacularly, with nary a hint of lag, and look splendid. Additional, though entirely superficial, marks are earned for the neat ghosting animation you’re treated to when tapping the unlock or mute sliders on the lock screen.
Camera and Multimedia
The Xperia Arc’s 8 megapixel Exmor R sensor captures still images at a maximum resolution of 3264 x 2448, with photos saved in JPEG format and emerging between 1MB and 1.5MB. Though actual performance gives a little cause for concern, Sony Ericsson’s custom camera software is more of a hit and miss affair. The hits are a pair of neat slideout menus, which are accessed in much the same way as Android’s window-shade. Looking at the phone in landscape mode, you have one on your right, containing a gallery of the photographs you’ve taken, and one on your left filled out with camera options and adjustments you can make. The latter displeased us a little with its scant array of available tweaks, which curiously enough doesn’t even allow you to toggle the Arc’s Macro mode on and off. You have to set the camera to automatic scene recognition and it throws the macro on when it decides it’s needed. This isn’t unheard of, as other handsets such as Motorola’s Droid X do the same, and is arguably not a huge deal for a consumer-centric phone; we’d certainly prefer to have auto-macro than none at all. There’s a bit of a physical problem when taking photos. The camera button is incredibly stiff which results in blurry shots quite often. You can also touch the screen to take photos, but again, you end up shaking the camera a little when doing so. Or pressing the menu area by accident and getting very confused. However, a digital image stabilization option is on offer to help wobbles and does the job without sacrificing any picture resolution.
The Xperia Arc records its video in a selection of resolutions all the way up to the 720p HD size, with clips emerging from the camera in MP4 format. A 30-second clip recorded at this maximum resolution takes up around 23MB. The big bonus here is in having continuous autofocus while recording videos, which is rather a rarity on a mobile phone camera. It also does a good job illuminating night video scenes, especially in Night Scene mode. Video is smooth at 30 fps, and the same good looking colors and fine detail are observed as in the stills.
The music player is the same as in the other iterations of this UI, with flashy, but minimalistic interface, ten equalizers, the song recognition service Track ID, and the option to show related YouTube videos. The loudspeaker is outstanding. Strong, with deep base sounds and very clean and pure output, even at the highest volume.
The video player and the gallery are stock Android and the handset doesn’t support DivX/Xvid, so we had to download a free player from Android Market to watch our ripped TV shows with subtitles. The Mobile BRAVIA Engine can be turned on and off manually from the Display settings, but we can’t imagine a reason for it to be off, as it adds color and sharpness to the pictures and videos on the handset.
Internet and Connectivity
Browser performance is a little unconvincing, as neither scrolling nor zooming is on the same level as what the finest Android, Windows phone 7 or iOS devices can do. That said, the Arc can chew through web-based Flash video like a champ, which is likely to be a lot more important to users than the amount of butter their scrollwheel’s been greased up with. Beyond those Sony Ericsson peculiarities, you’re really looking at your standard Android user experience. You get access to a truly vast array of applications, games and content, backed by the knowledge that the insatiable growth of the platform will only attract further development efforts. Amazon has just delivered an Appstore and a music cloud storage service tailored specifically to Android, while RIM has made its PlayBook tablet compatible with Android apps, it’s an OS with a truly bright future ahead of it. Having version 2.3 preloaded on the Arc also means you’re starting at the highest possible entry point and won’t have to fret about upgrades for a good few months at least.
As far as connectivity goes, you’ve got quad-band GSM and tri-band 3G along with Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP as well as an FM radio.
Other features and Apps
We get the very latest suite of Google apps on the phone straight out of the box which includes Gmail, YouTube, Maps, Talk and the quaint News & Weather widget. Aside from the Google apps, Sony Ericsson has resisted temptation to fill the Arc up with third-party software. There’s not much on here at all. The BBC iPlayer app is installed, with the Arc managing to play the highest bitrate streaming video perfectly through Wi-Fi after an initial choppy bit of buffering.
A new twist is the LiveWare app which allows you to start an application of your choosing when something is connected to the phone, be it a headset, headphones or a charger. Thus you can start the music or video player each time headphones are connected, or automatically go into the desktop clock mode in Android, while the handset is charging.
- 2G Network GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
- 3G Network HSDPA 900 / 2100
- HSDPA 850 / 1900 / 2100 / 800
- SIZE 125 x 63 x 8.7 mm
- Weight 117 g
- DISPLAY LED-backlit LCD, capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors, 480 x 854 pixels, 4.2 inches
- - Scratch-resistant surface
– Accelerometer sensor for auto-rotate
– Multi-touch input method
– Sony Mobile BRAVIA Engine
– Proximity sensor for auto turn-off
– Timescape UI
- Internal Memory 320 MB storage, 512 MB RAM
- Card slot microSD, up to 32GB, 8 GB included
- GPRS Up to 86 kbps
- EDGE Up to 237 kbps
- 3G HSDPA, 7.2 Mbps; HSUPA, 5.76 Mbps
- WLAN Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, DLNA, Wi-Fi hotspot
- Bluetooth Yes, v2.1 with A2DP
- Infrared port No
- USB v2.0 microUSB
- CAMERA 8 MP, 3264×2448 pixels, autofocus, LED flash, Touch focus, image stabilization, geo-tagging, face and smile detection
- Video 720p@30fps, continuous autofocus, video light
- Secondary No
- OS Android OS, v2.3 (Gingerbread)
- CPU 1GHz Scorpion processor, Adreno 205 GPU, Qualcomm MSM8255 Snapdragon
- Messaging SMS (threaded view), MMS, Email, Push email, IM
- Browser HTML
- Radio Stereo FM radio with RDS
- Colors Midnight Blue, Misty Silver
- GPS Yes, with A-GPS support
- Java Yes, via Java MIDP emulator
- Other Features
- - Digital compass
– HDMI port
– Active noise cancellation with dedicated mic
– MP4/H.263/H.264/WMV player
– MP3/eAAC+/WMA/WAV player
– TrackID music recognition
– NeoReader barcode scanner
– Google Search, Maps, Gmail,
YouTube, Calendar, Google Talk
– Facebook and Twitter integration
– Document viewer
– Adobe Flash 10.2
– Voice memo/dial/commands
– Predictive text input
- BATTERY Li-Po 1500 mAh
- Stand-by Up to 430 h (2G) / Up to 400 h (3G)
- Talk time Up to 7 h (2G) / Up to 7 h (3G)
- Music play Up to 31 h