The Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc replaces the Xperia X10 as the flagship model of Sony Ericsson's Xperia line-up of Android smartphones. Updated, 22 June 2011.
At first glance it certainly looks like the Arc has the potential and meets all criteria to rise straight to the top of the Android smartphones pecking order. Let's look at whether the Arc lives up to its potential.
Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc: Features
The most visible feature of the Xperia Arc is its massive 4.2in LED display with a colour output of 16m colours. The display is packed with pixels and has a resolution of 480x854.
The Arc is also quite powerful and uses a 1GHz Qualcomm processor with an Adreno 205 processor. The Arc offers 512MB of RAM and a piddly 320MB of internal storage, although that can be expanded to 32GB with a microSD card.
The Xperia uses an 8Mp auto-focus camera with an LED flash that can also record 720p videos at 30fps. The Xperia Arc supports Wi-Fi, GPS and 3G (HSDPA 7.2 Mbps, HSUPA 5.76 Mbps).
The Xperia Arc comes with Android 2.3 (Gingerbread), the UI of which has been skinned by Sony Ericsson with their Timescape interface. Sony Ericsson has also included new widgets (which you can place on the multiple homescreens) and some pre-installed applications as well.
The Arc uses a microUSB port to connect to the PC and charge and also includes a miniHDMI port to output content to your HDTV or HD monitor. Unfortunately, even at this price, the Arc doesn't come with a secondary front-facing camera, which is disappointing.
Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc: Design & Usability
The Xperia Arc is definitely the best-looking smartphone I've seen all year. The Arc is a prime example of how smartphones need not always look like slabs of glass, plastic and metal. The Arc is super-slim, measuring 8.7mm in thickness; its slender, curved profile is the embodiment of sexy design. Furthermore, the Arc's looks are complemented by its shockingly light frame, weighing in at a mere 117g.
Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc: Display
The Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc has a great-looking LED display. The display offers balanced colours and sharpness, which is a relief, since I've seen a bunch of phone manufacturers going overboard with saturation. The display maintains visibility under sunlight too.
Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc: Interface & Hardware Buttons
The Arc may run Android 2.3 but Sony Ericsson has made sure that the look (and to some extent, the feel) is different from what the default Android UI offers. The UI looks different in terms of colours used, look of icons and so on.
The interface itself is quite easy to use and follows Android standards such as a pull-down notifications bar and multiple homescreens. However, the interface wasn't as breezy as I would have liked, and there is a pause when switching between menus and homescreens (mainly because of the Timescape widget). The touchscreen accuracy was also a cause for concern, and at times a single tap wasn't enough to launch an app or end a call.
The iffy accuracy also affects the virtual keyboard, and typing in the portrait mode was far from satisfactory.
The Arc has all the necessary hardware buttons that you'd want. However, the camera button is too small and hard to press. Also, the front buttons should have had better back-lighting that the tiny two lights that are there.
Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc: Battery & Stability
The poor performance of the Arc's battery surprised me. Although I don't really expect great battery life from Android smartphones (or in fact from any smartphone with Wi-Fi and 3G), the Xperia Arc's battery-life was quite pathetic, requiring a charge almost every eight to ten hours.
Another issue with the Arc that really left a bad taste in my mouth was its system stability. Every so often when the phone was left alone, it would reboot automatically. At first I thought it was an issue confined to the test model but then on checking online I found other users complaining of the same. Yes, maybe an update would probably fix the issue (BTW the Sony Ericsson update service just refused to work crashing with an error in spite of multiple downloads on multiple machines), but it's not exactly something that should have been happening in the first place.
Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc: Browsing & Multimedia
The Arc's large screen gives it huge potential to provide an excellent browsing experience and fortunately the browser helps it live up to that potential. The Android browser is not only packed with features but also has very good usability. The browser not only renders Flash content on the page but also doesn't take a performance hit when the video is playing. All in all, the Arc offers an exceptional browsing experience.
Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc: Camera
I was impressed by the Arc's 8Mp camera and it is one of the better cameras I've seen on a smartphone. While it may not be as good as the superb camera on the Nokia N8, the Arc manages to take good-looking, vibrant pictures. The outdoor shots especially look great. Indoor images tend to look a little washed out, but not to such an extent that it ruins photos.
Also, while the camera is great at capturing colours, it doesn't capture details all that well. Again, it's not really that big an issue. The Arc can also shoot 720p videos, which look good and play fine, too.
Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc: Audio & Video
The Xperia Arc offers exceptional audio quality and even audiophiles will be hard-pressed to find any issues with it. The audio player interface also looks good and is simple to use. The Arc's external speaker may not be the loudest in the market but it certainly is loud enough and has good clarity. The bundled earphones are also decent and will suit casual listeners.
The Arc's beautiful big screen ensures that watching videos on it will be a great experience. By default, though, the limited video format support on the Arc is disappointing. Also, the video player is the basic Android one without many extra options.
Next page: Our original preview of the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc, by PC World's Ginny Mies, from January 2011 >>