Sony Ericsson XPERIA X8 preview: First look
Small user interface on a bigger screen
The Sony Ericsson XPERIA X8 runs version 1.6 of the Android platform with Sony Ericsson’s own touches. The X10 bunch are up for update to 2.1 Eclair soon – so, maybe the X8 will get a piece of that too.
We did a lengthy hands-on video of the XPERIA X8 for our blog yesterday, so we'll list it here as well. If you've already watched it, you can skip it this time. If not, you really should. It would give you a general feel for the snappiness of the phone and the organization of the custom UI.
The XPERIA X8 uses the same homescreen as its smaller sibling, the X10 mini. However this time the screen has HVGA resolution, which is still the most popular screen res on Android, and with its 3 inches, it’s a lot roomier.
You’re still limited to one widget per screen. And no shortcuts or folders either. And those widgets leave a lot of unused space – Sony Ericsson could have easily fit two widgets per screen. At least, you get as many homescreen panes as you want (as many widgets as you have, that is) and they are easy to rearrange.
The handy corner shortcuts from the X10 mini make an appearance here as well. By default, they lead to the message composer, music player, phonebook and dial pad/call log. You could switch them with any four shortcuts you like though.
Android’s notification area, which is one of our favorite features, is as always at the top of the screen. It's a thin bar with status info about battery, signal strength and others such as Bluetooth or missed events. Sliding it down however reveals the whole story - you get a list of all recent notifications.
The XPERIA X8 packs the Timescape UI plug-in but lacks the Mediascape. In fact, Timescape is available as a separate application and its job is to bring all your communications together.
It always displays an aggregated view of your SMS, MMS, email, missed calls, Facebook and Twitter updates all on one screen. It also has a large number of tabs to filter the content by type.
To bring up the task switcher on the X8 you press and hold the Home key just like on any other Android phone. It gives you access to the six most recently used apps. Due to the logic of the operating system, some of them might be hibernating rather than actually running in the background.
The Sony Ericsson XPERIA X8 uses the same CPU as pint-sized X10 mini and despite having twice as much pixels to update on-screen, the whole interface is very fast. As far the UI is concerned, it doesn’t take a Snapdragon – everything works fine, without hiccups.
Messaging enjoys the virtual QWERTY
The SMS and MMS messaging section is quite straightforward and simple. There’s the new message button on top and a list of all your messages organized into threads beneath.
When you add multimedia content to the message, it is automatically turned into an MMS.
Moving onto email, the Gmail app supports batch operations, which allow multiple emails to be archived, labeled or deleted. There is also a generic email app for all your other email accounts and it can handle multiple POP or IMAP inboxes. The standard email app doesn’t do threaded email – this is enabled in Gmail only.
The default Instant Messaging app that comes with Android is Google Talk – and it’s very good. The G-Talk network is compatible with a variety of popular clients like Pidgin, Kopete, iChat and Ovi Contacts.
The bigger screen on the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X8 makes a virtual QWERTY feasible. In portrait mode, the keys are quite small, but once you turn it to landscape mode things get a lot more comfortable. The virtual keyboard won’t please heavy texters perhaps but it’s good enough for occasional use.