Sony Ericsson Xperia ray preview: First look
Xperia-nced user interface
The Sony Ericsson Xperia ray makes no changes to the software borrowed from the Arc and the Neo. What it means is you get Android 2.3.3 Gingerbread with a very polished custom skin and a nice package of apps.
We have a video of the user interface in action, which is a good starting point.
The Xperia ray has a five pane homescreen (you can't add or delete panes), with four docked shortcuts (two on either side of the launcher shortcut). Those are visible on all five homescreen panes and are user configurable: they can be either single icons or folders with multiple items in them.
The homescreen also does a neat trick called Overview mode. You pinch zoom out of any of the 5 homescreen panes and a new screen opens up with a cool transition. All your widgets gather there and you can click the one you want and go to its screen.
In terms of functionality, it’s similar to the HTC Leap view or what Samsung do in TouchWiz. However widgets here are not crammed in small hard-to-read screens. They’re all shuffled instead on a single screen, so they can use the space more efficiently and remain as big as possible and thus more thumbable.
The Xperia ray has some custom-made Sony Ericsson widgets in addition to the standard set. Those include the Timescape widget (there's a dedicated app too) and a Mediascape-like widget for photos and videos (the app is no more however, the standard gallery is back).
More of the Xperia Neo UI
The app launcher puts shortcuts in the bottom corners. They let you sort your icons within the grid. You can either go for the automatic options (alphabetical, most used or recently installed) or you can manually move the icons.
Creating folders is simple, using the logic (and the visual layout) of iOS devices. You drag one icon over another and a pop-up appears, prompting you to select an icon and a name for the folder you’re about to set up.
The standard notification area and task switcher are of course present and accounted for.
We were expecting the home key backlight to have some function beyond charging - maybe turn a different color in different types of menus or maybe change its color when you change the skin of the interface, so that it matches the wallpaper. Well, it didn’t do any of those things - not with this version of the software anyway.
The Snapdragon chipset has been around for a while and we know what to expect from it in terms of performance. Sony Ericsson already used this setup in several of their phones and unsurprisingly, the Xperia ray performed on par with the Arc and the Neo. The results are virtually identical, within the margin of error of the benchmarks. Looking back at some of our other benchmarks, the Xperia ray even manages to outperform old high-enders like the Samsung Galaxy S.