Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 for AT&T review

We've already published a pretty exhaustive review of Sony Ericsson's Xperia X10 some five months ago, but it's taken until this month for it to reach AT&T's network and retail chain. A lot's changed in the mobile phone market since then -- the iPhone 4, the EVO 4G, Dell Streak, numerous Verizon Droids, and so on. Does the X10 still compete? Read on to find out.

Same as it ever was

By and large, we're looking at identical hardware (and mostly identical software) as our review unit from back in March, so we'll be brief. The phone feels lighter than you might expect for a 4-inch smartphone, and while we like the matte backing, the glossy front has just as much of an affinity for fingerprints and smudges as we've (unfortunately) come to expect. There's a 3.5mm headphone jack next to the power button and micro-USB port, a dedicated camera button and volume rockers on the side, and just below the screen there's the familiar Android menu, home screen, and back buttons. For a split second, we forgot that the magnifying glass next to volume down actually means "zoom out," and as such we are still lacking a dedicated search button. And it's still annoying.

Going through the box, aside from various leaflets and informational papers, we find a Sony Ericsson-branded headset, a micro-USB cable, and an USB charging dongle for home power outlets. Our favorite part of the this bright orange-and-white package, though, has to be the screen film with "TXTNG & DRIVING... IT CAN WAIT" written on it. Words to live by, sure, but we've been known to leave the film on for a few days while we find an alternate screen protector, and ain't gonna cut it. %Gallery-100189%

The camera is still the X10's crowning achievement, and we're happy to say it still takes great still pictures even in low-light situations. Moving pictures, on the other hand, are limited to WVGA resolution at most. It's still a perplexing design issue.

Now for the software, and we're sad to say it's still Android 1.6. Sony Ericsson has provided what it says is a "nice bridge between Android 1.6 and Froyo." What that means here is Exchange Active Sync, remote wipe, calendar sync, contacts, calendar and tasks. There's also Timescape and Mediascape for you social networking and entertainment needs, respectively. That's great and all, but we've still got two major issues. The first is lack of multitouch anywhere, in any app. All this sleek hardware and large screen and we're still stuck tapping on-screen cues for zooming in and out. If SE really wanted to bridge a gap, mult-digit support should be high on the list of to-do's. Speaking of sleek hardware, despite a 1GHz processor, the skinned Android OS still suffers from jerkiness and strange lag -- especially Timescape, if you haven't checked it in awhile. And yep, like we said before, keyboard is still sluggish.

And now for something completely different

So what has changed? AT&T branding for starters, replacing the Xperia name on the back of the hardware. Call quality has been just about on par with our iPhone 4 and we haven't had an issue with dropped calls. The X10 comes preloaded with the carrier's suite of apps (Family Map, Hot Spots, Maps, Navigator, and Radio), none of which we really plan on using again. And because this is an AT&T phone, you won't be able to sideload apps. Android Market only, folks.


When we first reviewed the X10, it had a lot more going for it. But now we have to look at it from the context in which it was released: a smartphone arguably over the hill before it even set ground in Ma Bell, retailing for $150 on contract. For just $50 more you can get the Samsung Captivate, arguably an improved version of this form factor in almost every way (screen, Android OS version, hardware). For $50 less, there's the iPhone 3GS equipped with iOS 4 -- and that's all assuming you're committed to AT&T. The camera is its bright point, but even that gets knocks for surprisingly low-quality video capture. If that really matters, do yourself and pick up a point-and-shoot camera instead; save that upgrade discount for something you won't try to strangle before the two-year commitment is up. For all the things that make the X10 Mini Pro enjoyable -- size, snappiness, physical keyboard -- they're just not here, but the limitations seem to have stuck.