Mobile Tech

Sony Ericsson Starts Some Early Buzz for a Late Android

Handset maker Sony Ericsson on Tuesday announced the new Xperia X10 smartphone.

Sony Ericsson's Xperia X10 Android Smartphone

Sony Ericsson’s Xperia X10 Android Smartphone

It will run on the Android 1.6 mobile operating system, also known as “Donut.”

The Xperia X10 will begin shipping to select markets next year.

Bigger, Faster, Better?

In announcing the Xperia X10, Sony Ericsson named the handset as the flagship device of a family of phones coming to market during the first half of 2010. The device will have a new UX (user experience) platform that will let users organize everything on the smartphone with what the company calls the “most open, human and intuitive user experience yet.”

The Xperia X10 will have a four-inch thin-film transistor (TFT) LCD color screen. This is scratch-resistant and will offer 480 by 854 pixel WVGA resolution.

The device measures about 4.7 by 2.5 by 0.5 inches and weighs close to 5 ounces. It has up to 1 GB of memory and comes with an 8 GB microSD card. The phone has a 1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon QSD8250 processor.

That makes the Xperia a fairly powerful device, as far as smartphones go. “It leans towards a small Web tablet device in size, and the Snapdragon processor is more inline with a bit bigger device,” Allen Nogee, a principal analyst at In-Stat, pointed out. That could lead to a mixed reception. “Some may like the bigger device, but others may not,” Nogee told TechNewsWorld.

The Xperia X10’s Guts

The Xperia X10 supports UMTS HSPA and GPRS/Edge networks. It has a 3.5 mm audio jack, a micro USB connector and WiFi and Bluetooth capabilities.

Preloaded applications include Sony Ericsson’s TimeScape, MediaScape, Sync and Home with a clock widget. Other preloaded apps run the gamut of Google’s offerings, from Calendar to Media Uploader to Maps to Talk.

Timescape is a unified communications app. It manages all the user’s communications with contacts in one place. Mediascape lets users access music, photos and videos from anywhere — YouTube, PlayNow or stored on their phone. Both these apps can automatically recognize connections between contacts, content and media.

The Xperia X10 is equipped with A-GPS (assisted global positioning system) and a free trial version of the Wisepilot mobile navigation app, although this may not be available in all markets.

The phone has a built-in 8.1 megapixel camera with geotagging, image and video stabilizer, auto focus, smile detection, intelligent face recognition and 16x digital zoom. Other features include video streaming and viewing.

For communications, the Xperia X10 offers email, multimedia messaging service, text messaging, predictive text input and Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync.

An “infinite button” aggregates all interactions with any contact into one view. An intelligent face recognition feature recognizes up to five faces in any picture and automatically connects them with the user’s social phonebook and with all other communications between the user and those five.

“I think the place that Sony Ericsson is trying to break new ground is in trying to create a more media-centric consumer experience, similar to how Motorola’s Cliq tried to create a social-network-centric user experience,” Carl Howe, director of anywhere consumer research at the Yankee Group, told TechNewsWorld.

While that approach isn’t exactly unique, it might help the Xperia X10 stand out. “That approach is at least differentiation in a market soon to be crowded with different Android devices,” Howe said. About 50 Android smartphones will hit the market soon, according to the Wiseandroid blog.

Snapdragon Bites, Donut’s Sweet

Many of the Xperia X10’s capabilities come from the Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU powering it. Designed for mobile devices, Snapdragon offers power management, ubiquitous real-time connectivity; access to real-time, personalized and location-aware content; streaming and playback of locally stored high-definition videos; and access to social networks through instant messaging, video conferencing and chat.

Android 1.6, or “Donut,” offers other features that are par for the course in current smartphones. These include support for three different classes of screen sizes; gestures; text-to-speech; and a Quick Search Box that lets users quickly find what they are looking for.

Tell Me Something Good

Sony Ericsson needs something to recharge its business batteries — it has been losing ground steadily to other phone makers. “It’s not been good for Sony Ericsson,” In-Stat’s Nogee said. “In Q2 they shipped 13.8 million phones, and in Q3 14.1 million, but both quarters’ figures were very much down year over year.”

Latching on to Android might help. Android will be the second most widely used smartphone platform worldwide by the end of 2012, according to recent Gartner estimates. Android smartphones will have 14.5 percent of the worldwide market, after Symbian, which will have 39 percent.

However, Sony Ericsson may need to run even faster just to keep up. Motorola’s recently announced Droid, which will be available from Verizon next week, runs Android 2.0, also known as “Eclair.” That’s the successor to Android 1.6.

“Let’s hope that Sony Ericsson’s phone has the horsepower and flash memory available to upgrade to Android 2.0; otherwise, it will be perceived as being behind before it gets to market next year,” the Yankee Group’s Howe said.

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