Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sony Ericsson XPERIA X1

This is something we thought that we would never see - a Sony Ericsson smartphone running the Windows Mobile operating system. What's more, this first attempt at a Windows smartphone looks good enough to be a class leader.

This is a feature packed device, and it's a little hard to know where to start - so we will begin with the XPERIA X1's obvious physical characteristics first. The XPERIA X1 is dominated by a large 3 inch touchscreen, Sony Ericsson say that is has "wide VGA resolution" which is a little confusing, as it is actually a 480 x 800 pixel panel. 800 pixels is an ideal resolution for web surfing, pitching the XPERIA X1 directly against the Nokia E90.. but the XPERIA has the advantage of a touch sensitive display.
There's a slide-out QWERTY keyboard on the X1, but unlike many rival devices, this is an ergonomic "Arc slider". What this means is that the XPERIA curves when it opens, giving a better typing position than a "flat" slider. On the back is a 3.2 megapixel camera with autofocus and flash. Sony Ericsson do state that the XPERIA is capable of video calling too, although it is difficult to see where the secondary camera is hidden. The X1 can also capture VGA resolution video at up to 30 frames per second.

Inside, this is a quad-band GSM phone with tri-band UMTS (there are two variants), plus GPRS, EDGE, HSDPA, HSUPA and WiFi connectivity. In case you're not familiar with HSUPA, it is basically a variant of HSDPA with much faster upload speeds of up to 5.7 Mbps. And if you're not familiar with this alphabet soup at all.. don't worry: the XPERIA X1 has fast access to the internet, either through your cellular phone provider or a wireless hotspot. The X1 also support stereo Bluetooth.

Also bundled into the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X1 is aGPS (advanced GPS), so the handset can be used with a compatible satellite navigation application. It's not clear if any satnav application will come bundled with the XPERIA, but there are plenty of commercial applications that will work on Windows Mobile.
As we have already mentioned, this is a Windows Mobile device. But Sony Ericsson haven't just gone for the standard (and fairly unexciting) Windows look and feel, as the XPERIA has a customisable "panel" interface designed for fingertip navigation. Presumably this enhancement is designed to make the XPERIA more competitive with the Apple iPhone.
Windows Mobile comes with pretty good media support, and the XPERIA X1 also has an FM radio. Windows Mobile also has pocket versions of Word, Outlook, Excel and PowerPoint plus Internet Explorer for web browsing. In addition, it supports push email and has an RSS newsreader.

On paper there is very little missing from the XPERIA X1. If we're being picky, then we could mention that the camera is only 3.2 megapixels and not 5 megapixels, and the handset lacks an FM transmitter. But then those aren't very common in any case. The display is only 65,000 colours rather than the 262,000 colours or even 16 million colours that we tend to see, although we suspect that you would be hard pushed to tell much of a difference.
Another surprising feature is that the XPERIA takes microSD cards, in addition to the maximum 400MB of internal memory. Almost all Sony Ericsson phones use the proprietary Memory Stick format, so the fact that the XPERIA has a microSD slot instead raises an interesting question - who actually built the XPERIA?
The biggest problem is that you won't be able to buy one of these until the second half of 2008. We strongly suspect that the XPERIA won't be available until quite late in the year, and by that time there will be a number of competing products from other manufacturers. But one fact remains is that this is a Sony Ericsson phone, so it is quite likely that the XPERIA X1 will be picked up by several different carriers after launch.
You can find more information on the Sony Ericsson X1 microsite.

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