Despite being dropped from Vodafone's lineup, the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X2 smartphone is available SIM-free in the UK for around £499.
A follow-up to the highly anticipated XPERIA X1, Sony Ericsson's XPERIA X2 smartphone has been met with much less fanfare. That is a good thing, since the XPERIA X2 suffers from just as many frustrating software issues as its bug-riddled predecessor.
Two of the best things about the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X1 were the construction and design; it genuinely felt like a premium handset. Unfortunately the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X2 is not as polished - it uses far more plastic than its predecessor and doesn't look or feel like a premium smartphone. The front, in particular, feels cheap and is a fingerprint magnet. We did like the etched pattern on the top and bottom of the phone though, and the rear battery cover feels sturdy thanks to a small sliding lock.
The Sony Ericsson XPERIA X2 retains the "arc" slider first seen in its predecessor, but the plastic build means the slider doesn't feel as solid. When opened, the screen wiggles slightly from side to side, while the plastic keys provide little tactility or travel. We like the navigational touchpad; you can slide your finger across it to swipe through menus and lists. It's similar to using the BlackBerry Bold 9700 and BlackBerry Curve 8520.
Despite using plastic rather than metal, the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X2's keyboard is excellent. Though the keys are a little flat, they are well spaced, click reassuringly when pressed and are responsive. The soft blue backlight on each key looks superb in dim lighting.
The Sony Ericsson XPERIA X2's display is slightly larger than its predecessor and is no longer recessed, but the glossy surface means it's hard to see in direct sunlight. The phone uses a resistive touch screen. This means it isn't as responsive or smooth as the capacitive touch screens used on phones such as the iPhone and Google Nexus One, and it requires excessive use of the stylus. In fact, using the XPERIA X2 is like taking a step back in time; employing a stylus to tap often small keys isn't what we expect given the slick user experience offered by the iPhone, Android and even HTC's latest Windows-based smartphones.
The Sony Ericsson XPERIA X2 uses the standard Windows Mobile 6.5 interface, with the only exceptions being the XPERIA panels system, the camera app and a shortcut menu. The shortcut menu offers access to call history, messages, calendar, media, Play Now, sync and panels. However, it is fairly limited; for example, it displays texts and e-mails, but throws you back to the standard Windows Mobile interface when you type a new message.
The standard Windows UI isn't overly intuitive and requires you to use the stylus more often than not. Compared to the smartphones like the iPhone, and HTC's HD2 the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X2 is slower and harder to use and its touch screen is less user-friendly and responsive. Put simply, Sony Ericsson hasn't done a good enough job of "skinning" the standard Windows interface.
The XPERIA panels are effectively home screen layers that have been designed to make the device more efficient to use. There are nine XPERIA panels preinstalled on the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X2, with more available to download. The best of these remains the SBP Mobile Shell, which provides one-touch access to most features, including weather and calendar details, call and message notifications, phone book entries and settings.
The idea of the panel system has its merits, and anything that covers the standard Windows Mobile UI is a positive in our books. However, the range of panels is small and not all of them are entirely useful. The panel system (like the rest of the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X2) is also slow.
The Sony Ericsson XPERIA X2's 8-megapixel camera is a definite highlight. It only has an LED flash, but image stabilisation, face detection and a redesigned interface boost its appeal. Colour reproduction is particularly impressive and detail levels are great for a mobile phone camera.
A 3.5mm headphone jack makes the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X2 a reasonable multimedia device, though the music application lacks advanced features - there is no equaliser or advanced audio options. A nice touch is the Sony Ericsson-designed gallery and video player, which are far more intuitive and responsive than the standard Windows ones. The XPERIA X2 can also handle DivX and Xvid video files. The phone only has 110MB of internal memory, but a microSD card slot allows extra storage and a standard micro-USB port is used for charging and synchronising.
The Sony Ericsson XPERIA X2 is a 7.2Mbps HSDPA-capable device and has Wi-Fi, GPS and Bluetooth with the A2DP profile. Internet Explorer is included as the default browser, but Opera Mobile can easily be downloaded for a better mobile web experience.
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