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Why do I even have a smart phone?
Phones are a pain in the backside. I always remember Stephen Fry saying something about phones that struck me as true to the core. A phone is intrusive and horrible, youíd not put up with a friend standing saying ĎSPEAK TO ME, SPEAK TO ME, SPEAK TO MEí till you dropped what you were doing, so why do we allow phones to get away with it? Iím pretty certain this feeling came about with the advent of mobile phones as before them, Iíd run to pick up the phone with a feeling of excitement. Now I see them as a curled wire around my neck, constantly with me. Throw in that my friends have a bad habit of only phoning me when they have something to bi**h about, I was all too happy not to have anything capable of more than texting.
Unfortunately, my ex DID want a phone (more than likely to contact other men behind my back) and I was a mug and it got put under my name. After my ex died (the first time; he came through it quite well as I found out when I called his employer distraught and got told it was all fake) I decided that the best thing to do would be to reclaim the phone that was in my name so as not to sully my credit rating any further. Six months later I got it back and was finally dragged kicking and screaming into the world of Android.
The first thing youíll need to know is the price. You can pick one of these handsets up for anywhere between £150 and £350 depending on how new or abused they are. You can also get them on contracts with most mobile phone providers and it in theory should cover your usage too. Mine is with Vodafone and I pay £31 a month over 24 months. This gives me my shiny handset, 300 minutes of calls, unlimited texts and ďunlimitedĒ data usage (which on this contract means 1GB, a full 500mb above what you can normally get now, I canít wait for that argument when I switch to a new contract!). Obviously your plan will differ depending on provider and what you want, but thatís an idea of whatís out there.
The phone looks great. Its front is black apart from a thin strip of three silver buttons along the bottom and the silver XPERIA and SONY ERRICSON labels, stylishly placed at the top and bottom of the screen. The sides are silver and the back is black again. Basically itís pretty. The only downside of it is the fact that itís so shiny, soon as you touch it, you get a big noticeable fingerprint or line on the phone. When the screen is sleeping the phone can look dirty unless you wipe it after every touch. Iím not the worldís biggest clean freak and it annoys me. You will notice your finger smears quite a lot when the phone is on its lowest and medium contrast settings too. You donít notice it much at all when itís on the high contrast setting however that can drain your battery quite a bit. There is also a tiny little LED in the top right corner of the screen that is used for notifications. You can even set the colour of the LED for different things.
Set up + Manual
The set up of the phone is fairly painless, it guides you through everything it needs to know such as your Facebook and Googlemail account details. If you donít have either then your use of this phone will be a bit limited, you should at least set up the latter as itís what most apps will use to log you in and store your information. Without Facebook you wonít be able to use some of the more handy functions of the phone, such as contact syncing. If, like my self, you have an old sim card with all your contacts on, however, Facebook syncing can lead to a lot of multiple contacts and time spent trying to match up your numbers with the Facebook information. The only handy part of the Facebook sync is that your contacts pictures will automatically be updated with their current Facebook profile picture. Great if you use Facebook, not so great if you donít.
There is a fully comprehensive manual that came with the phone though I didnít really find it much help. It was talking about stuff Iíd never even heard of before (being new to android, that was pretty much everything). Manuals for phones are interesting things, they are too tech-y for the people who need them and useless for people who are tech-y enough to understand them. Thankfully the phone is quite user friendly. Clocks, calendars, alarms, office suites and all the basics you really need come already installed on the phone as well as the android app market so you can choose to install whatever other apps/programmes you so wish!
Security Breached? Nah, just patents.
To unlock the phone, you simply slide your finger along the bottom of the screen (almost the same as an i-phone! Imagine that!) At this point you have a choice of security features where you can either draw a pattern to join up some dots or enter a code. To make it even more secure
you can choose whether the phone displays your pattern while you draw it or you can make it so that the phone vibrates when you hit one of the dots on the way round your pattern. Why would you want to get rid of your pattern? If you are in a cinema (for example), anyone behind you will be able to see your unlock code as proved by the fact I recently had to change mine because some really ugly guy in the cinema had the exact same pattern as me. I was distraught. The second option is much more secure as no one will see your unlock code but it does make it quite hard to get your code right.
Buttons, buttons, buttons.
Most things will be done via the touch screen facility. There are three buttons along the bottom of the phone. The first (left button) will bring up the menu options for whatever you are doing at that point. If you push it while on your internet it will bring up bookmarks, refresh, forward etc. The middle button is your desktop button. No matter what you have open, hit the middle button and you will instantly flip back to the desktop on your phone. The other programmes will still be running so it wonít make you lose your place on anything either. The third button (on the right) is your back button. You use this to go back one step at a time if you need to. It also makes your keyboard disappear when you are done typing.
On the right hand side of the phone at the bottom there is a camera button which acts as your shutter button when the camera function is on and also acts as a shortcut to your camera if you hold it down. If Iím being honest though, I find it quicker to have a camera shortcut on my desktop and access it that way as you need to hold the button for a couple of seconds for it to load. Compare that to the half a second it takes to tap the desktop shortcut, itís a bit redundant. I suppose if you like your phone screen to be uncluttered it would be a decent function.
The camera itself is 8.1 megapixels. The picture quality is alright if you have good lighting but can be a bit lacking if not. You do get the option to use the phoneís LED light which can lead to washing your picture out quite a bit. A lot of the photos can also be quite blurry if you donít have an incredibly steady hand. I also find using the phone as a camera to be a little difficult, as the phone is so thin, itís quite hard to grip it properly and I always feel like Iím going to drop it when I use it as a camera. The shutter button needs quite a forceful push too which makes it that little bit more worrying to hold awkwardly. Personally I stick to my digital camera as it feels more stable to hold and gives a much better quality picture. It isnít the worst camera in the world, but itís also not the best.
On the same side as the camera button at the top there is the volume button that controls 3 things. Ringer volume, Media volume and In-Call volume. If you are on your desktop or doing anything that doesnít involve watching a video or listening to music, the simple up and down buttons control the volume of the ringer. I usually keep mine on silent or vibrate as the ringer on this phone is very loud. This is a good thing if you are out somewhere noisy but can give you a bit of a scare if you are somewhere quiet.
If you open up a video on YouTube or a music file on your phone, once it starts playing you can use the same buttons to control the Media Volume. This is a bit annoying as you need to open the media before you can play with the volume setting which can occasionally lead to being caught playing with your phone when you shouldnít be. Lastly, Call volume is controlled when you start a call. Simple as that.
If you are one of those folks who like your media this phone is brilliant for it. Videos are nice and clear on the 4 inch screen and the sound is great too. You can use your phone to store your music if you want to use it as a makeshift walkman or i-thingie. The only downside is that, as with everything else you can do on this phone, it drains the battery something awful.
You can also use your music as a ringtone if you wish and there are loads of apps out there to help you lift out your favourite part of the song. You can assign as many different ringtones as you want to everyone in your contacts if you like. I tried it for a few people but I found I ended up ignoring the people who had a song against their name because I didnít realise it was my phone ringing. Now I just have one default piece of music for everyone: Zelda Dubstep, oh yes, Iím that geeky.
Stop telephoning me.
Being a mobile phone, you may have guessed you can actually make calls on this chunk of techno-wonder. I find the call volume to be great and the sound is very clear on it. Speaker-phone is also very clear and loud which is handy if you really want to make a call that everyone can hear. There are a couple of small issues I have with the phone function. Occasionally instead of hanging up, I accidentally hit a button at the bottom of the screen which puts me back to the main screen of the phone. The phone call, however, still continues till I navigate my way back into the phone call screen. This has lead to a few random answer phone messages being left by myself. That though is my own fault for hitting the wrong button.
If you are on a call that you need to select options through your keypad, you need to hit a button to display the keypad. The screen also goes blank when you hold it up to your ear so you need to give it a little shake to get the display to show again. I find this a little bit annoying as it totally throws me off my train of thought when Iím on a call and met with a blank screen. Not a huge issue, just a niggle.
My main issue with making phone calls is that the case for the back of the phone manages to catch my hair nearly every time I make a phone call which is not only a magical feat since I have a number one haircut (very short hair) but also ridiculously painful. Many a phone call has been halted while I try desperately to pull the phone off of my hair without swearing too loudly down the receiver.
The text message function is what I use the most. Like most other smart phones, rather than listing each message individually, it lists them by contact, presenting them more like a conversation box on any messenger programme. You canít really amend the way the text screens look as its all default blue and navy colours. You can, however, download apps that replace the basic text message function which can look a bit nicer on the eye such as Handcent. The only dilemma the text function has caused me is that I now feel a bit weird putting my three kisses at the end of every message as there doesnít seem to be an end to the conversations. Due to the fact that all my friends are used to getting three kisses, they all thought I was annoyed at them when I stopped and got a bit upset. Even now my little brother texts and asks where his kisses are if I forget. Thatís less an issue with my phone and more my friends and family being a little over sensitive.
There are two ways to connect to the internet on this phone; Wi-Fi or 3G. If you have your Wi-Fi on it will reduce your battery by searching for connections wherever you go. You can save numerous Wi-Fi signals to your phone so it connects automatically when you pop round to your friendís house for a cuppa if you wish. Having the Wi-Fi on doesnít use any of your monthly data allowance though, so itís a good idea to use it as often as you can. There is a handy little widget you can put on your desktop to turn Wi-Fi on and off at the tap of a button. Usually when the phone is connected via Wi-Fi it is very quick to load new pages, pictures and documents. Conversely, there are times when my phone has not liked Wi-Fi for some reason and refused to load anything while it was on.
Using the phones 3G is considerably slower. I find it rather frustrating when Iím out and about as it really is hit and miss if you will be able to access whatever it is you want to look at. It does take a lot longer to load at the best of times compared to when you are using Wi-Fi.
Another small annoyance is that some sites wonít let you view the full version from this phone. Facebook is a perfect example. I find the app terrible to use but because Iím using a phone it wonít allow me to view the same Facebook as Iíd see on my computer at home. Iíd have thought there should be an option to make normal browsing a default rather than an option. I know I would prefer it if there was.
Slow systems are something I only ever had to deal with at work. The x10 however has brought this problem into my phone-life too. Most of the time it is fine, but when it lags, boy does it lag. At least twice a day a program or app freezes when itís loading and has to be closed. Occasionally even my texts donít open up straight away and sometimes I find myself typing away and looking at the screen and it hasnít even caught up with the first word I typed. Iíd say it was a massive problem; it usually sorts itself within about 10 seconds but it does happen frequently enough for it to become noticeable and (depending on my mood) a nuisance. There was one instance where my alarm app froze and therefore my alarm didnít go off. As I wasnít awake to confirm it could re-load itself I managed to sleep in and be a whole 30 minutes late for work. When it isnít crashing all over the place, the keys are generally very responsive and mostly quite accurate.
The charger at first glance is a neat little thing. It consists of two
Pictures of Sony Ericsson Xperia X10
parts, a plug head with a USB slot in the back and a USB wire. This means that you can double up your charger as a connection to a computer too. This is handy for transferring files to and from your phone quickly and painlessly and in theory you can charge your phone wherever there is a USB slot kicking about (you know, every computer on the planet that was made in the last 12ish years?). Theory doesnít always work in practice though. Iíve found issues with the charger the phone came with and on every other one Iíve tried. Not only does it take the phone a lot longer to charge when itís plugged into a computer, sometimes it gets picky about charging at all. Many a time in the last year and a half have I had to sit for ten minutes getting the wire into an exact position with an intricate system of pulleys and blue tac (ok not quite) before it will give me a stable-ish connection. This can be even more frustrating if you have to update your phones operating system and you canít keep a connection long enough for it to work as you then have to restart the whole process again.
The LED on the front of the phone will light up when you plug it in to charge and will give you an indicator of how charged your phone is by showing Red Amber or Green. Always handy for a quick glance to tell if the phone is connected, charging and/ or ready.
The Big Bad Battery Life
Battery life is something I never, ever, ever had an issue with before android. Now it is the bane of my existence. It takes anywhere between 1 and 3 hours for my phone to charge depending on where I am charging it. Directly from the plug socket is the quickest; the computer at work is the slowest (all using the same usb cable, might I add). When your phone is unplugged, depending on your usage I have found it frustrating to say the least. Hereís a run down of how long it lasts.
8 hours Ė If I send two or three texts and check my emails once.
5 hours Ė Two or three texts, a five minute phone call, and some light online browsing
2 hours - Forty texts, browsing online, and a ten minute phone call
45 minutes to an Hour Ė Playing Angry Birds (because sometimes you just have to)
Not exactly fantastic, especially if youíd like to use your phone throughout the day. Iíve found myself having to ration its use and turn the contrast to the lowest setting at all times. Higher settings (as mentioned earlier) can take hours off your battery time.
The LED on the front will constantly blink red when you get to about 15% remaining. Itís almost as if the phone is trying to waste its remaining battery power. Itís also quite annoying if your phone is in your line of sight and you canít charge it yet.
Go on, Make my day.
The other unfortunate issue Iíve came across (and from what Iíve read might be a common fault with the phone) when you are charging your phone, a lot of the time if you use it to browse the internet or use any apps that touch your data allowance the phone decides it just canít handle it and shuts down. It then restarts and continues a loop of shutting down and restarting until you unplug the charger. This obviously means that even if you are smart enough to bring your charger with you, you still might not get full use of the phone while itís charging if you are lucky enough to have your phone pull a fleepy on you.
Any other random stuff?
Yes, as I touched on in the camera section, the phone is sometimes quite hard to keep a grip of as itís so thin. Due to this there have been many mornings while lying in bed that have begun with my phone slipping from my hands and face-planting me. Itís not very painful as the handset is rather light but Iíll be considering a phone with a bit better grip on the sides next time.
I have noticed that rather than making every attempt to catch my phone when it goes flying out of my hand, my body has given up. I literally just throw my hands up above my head and clench myself for the clatter now. Itís bizarre. Itís almost like I know I am not going to be able to catch it. That being said, from all the times I have basically thrown my phone at something by accidental emphatic gestures while texting and talking at the same time, the phone hardly has a mark on it. Just two tiny marks that are hardly that noticeable at all unless you look for them.
There are two larger scratches on the screen now thanks to forgetting I had my keys in my pocket, but even they are fairly faint. It definitely holds up to being battered about. Maybe try not to let it meet your keys though.
So, to recap: The phone has all the functions of any other smart phone. Itís fairly user friendly even if it does like to beat me up and pull my hair. The buttons are quite responsive and accurate most times, but it does have a nasty habit of lagging behind occasionally. Itís not the best phone on the planet for internet browsing without Wi-Fi but it eventually gets the job done. Battery life is possibly the worst feature on this phone and you pretty much need to take any chance you can to charge it and it will become a complete pain in the backside. Throw in some really bad restarting and connection issues when charging as well as the frequent crashing and I wouldnít really recommend the phone if you are remotely tech-savvy. If you are simply looking for something to send texts and make phone calls then this is a decent enough model but probably way over-qualified and priced for the job. As an introduction to Android it has served me well, but I will be avoiding getting another when I come to the end of my contract in August. A measly 2 stars from me: one for looking pretty and one for being decent for calls and texts.