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Review: Sony Ericsson Xperia X10

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Menus Calls/Contacts Messaging  

The X10 ships with Android 1.6 Donut and some heavy customization from Sony Ericsson. As far as I am concerned, shipping this phone with Android 1.6 is a real disservice to customers. Sony Ericsson wasn't adequately able to explain why it is stuck with 1.6 when 2.2 is already available. Sony Ericsson said that the X10 is "upgradable" but not necessarily that it will be upgraded. It's going to be a hard sell for Sony Ericsson, when devices such as the Samsung Captivate — which runs Android 2.1 and will be updated to 2.2 soon — are sitting right next to the X10 on the store shelf.

In order to make up for this, Sony Ericsson has gone overboard with customized software. Sony Ericsson hasn't named its Android skin, but it focuses on two portals called TimeScape and MediaScape.

TimeScape is an application that collects all your communications — email, SMS, MMS, Twitter DMs, Facebook updates, call logs — and streams it all in what Sony Ericsson calls "Splines." The best way I can define Splines is to say that they are vertical — rather than horizontal — carousels that resemble a human spine. Your content sits on cards and is displayed in a 3D backbone that stretches beyond the top and bottom edges of the screen. You can scroll through the Splines to access content, and also swipe sideways to parse the content. For example, when you swipe the TimeScape Spline sideways, it filters the messages to show only emails, only SMS, only Twitter updates, etc.

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Each card represents an individual message. Tap it once, and it will jump out of the Spline and show the first few lines of the message. Tap it again to go to the application associated with that message. There's a lot of animation and visual effects to opening and interacting with the Splines and cards/tiles. It takes some getting used to, but it is one of the fancier and more interactive skins I've seen on an Android handset. There is a definite learning curve to using TimeScape and MediaScape, but they are inventive and beat the pants off other skins such as Motoblur.

Once you move beyond the Splines, things appear more familiar. The main menu works the same as on any other Android handset. The application drawer is pulled up from the bottom. It's too bad it is stuffed with a lot of lame AT&T bloatware. The notification shade drops down from the top of the X10 as you expect. There are only three home screens, however, for users to populate with widgets, shortcuts and apps.

One thing I will thank Sony Ericsson for is adding some color to the settings menus. Rather than white text on a black background, Sony has given the menus a really nice blue background that makes a world of difference. It's silly that a simple background color would make the settings menu more enjoyable to work with, but it's the truth.

As for speed, the X10 runs fairly well. I remember the first time I tested it in October 2009, it was horribly slow. Sony Ericsson has done its best to optimize the MediaScape and TimeScape software for Android 1.6 and give it the best performance possible. Despite all the heavy animations and 3D effects, it runs with few hiccups and doesn't ever seem to get bogged down.


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