Sony Ericsson X8 review: XPERIA in the middle
No surprise, the X8 comes with Google Maps out of the box. Multi-touch doesn't work so you’re stuck with the traditional zoom keys or double tapping.
A tap-and-hold on the screen activates a popup menu which ,among other things, can launch Street view. As usual, you can enjoy the 3D view of the area, which is controlled by sweep gestures with impressive fluidity. They can also make use of the built-in compass for an even better experience – just hold the phone in your hand and turn around and Street view will follow you.
If you’re in one of the supported countries you could try Google Maps Navigation – it should work on Android 1.6 Donut, even if some of the features from the Eclair version aren’t available (e.g. voice commands). Google Maps Navigation is the voice-prompt enabled version of Google Maps.
The other preinstalled map application is Wisepilot, which is found on other platforms. The thing about Wisepilot is that it requires a license for voice guided navigation and it downloads data over the Internet. That makes it unsuitable (or at least really expensive) for using abroad.
There are already several ways around that of course. The Android Market offers a dozen of applications (both free and paid) so it’s up to you to pick one that best suits you. The problem is that the screen and the phone itself seem too small to use for navigation but we guess everyone should judge that for themselves.
Shopping at the Android Market
The Android Market has grown a lot. It offers over 100,000 apps, the majority of which are free.
Some apps (like the official Twitter client) require Android 2.1, which leaves the XPERIA X8 out. For now, that is – the Eclair update for the XPERIA family is coming up.
The Market organizes apps and games into two separate tabs, and each tab shows the best in the relevant category. The third tab keeps track of what you’ve already downloaded.
Searching is very easy – just tap the search button, type what you’re looking for (e.g. “navigation”). From then on, it’s pretty easy to choose – each app has a rating, a short description by the author, user comments and screenshots.
Applications vary from pretty basic tools (such as the one that turns the display into a flashlight) to real must-have's (including file managers, navigation software and more), but that’s true for every other app store.
The Sony Ericsson XPERIA X8 has just made it to the market but parts of it still seem stuck in last year. At the same time though it is more than decently equipped for its 170 euro price tag. It has its downsides and those are easy to notice but there are a bunch of plusses too, especially if you are new to Android.
The Timescape app is one of the good things about the XPERIA X8. Another one is the Four corner UI which is user-friendly and makes good use of the screen estate. There is a great set of connectivity options too and, last but not least, the X8 screen is standard-issue 320 x 480 pixels. If you’ve been paying attention you’d know we’re not too fond of QVGA droids. The XPERIA X10 minis have a legitimate excuse.
And while we’re at it: the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 mini and X10 mini pro have a 2.55” QVGA display each. That’s small and low-res but we’re talking some of the smallest smartphones ever. The important point is whether and how the X8 benefits from the added size and pixel density.
The X8 gives the user interface a lot more room to work with and handling is more user-friendly. Standard resolution lets the phone make better use of the Android market. On the bigger screen web browsing is now a different story.
On the other hand, there’s still no multi-touch and banding is perhaps more annoying than on the minis. In the end though, the X8 makes more sense for routine everyday tasks. The X10 minis are in a different league. They’re so small they’re special. And obviously still more expensive – both cost over 200 euro each.
Another option is the LG GT540 Optimus (priced at less than 150 euro) or maybe its recently announced successor, the upcoming Optimus One P500. The Optimus comes with a resistive touchscreen and the same limited storage for apps but its camera has autofocus and its Android 2.1 update has already been released. But while the Optimus One seems like a more viable alternative, it’s expected to cost around 235 euro.
Last but not least, there’s the HTC Wildfire. With a multi-touch-enabled 3.2” screen, a 5MP autofocus snapper, HTC Sense and premium finish, it is all but ready to blow the X8 apart. However, the QVGA touchscreen ruins it all – it’s just too low to let the Wildfire deliver a proper Android user experience. The HTC Wildfire costs around 30 euro more than the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X8 but we won’t fuss it.
If we have to name one phone that we’ll choose over the X8 any day, no questions asked, it would be the HTC Aria (or its just announced twin, the HTC Gratia). But – and it’s a big one – the price tag is a big part of the equation. The X8 is hard to beat really if budget is your first concern.
Let’s face it: the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X8 misses the wow factor. It has something else instead – a fair price and a well balanced set of features. Can’t be so bad now, can it? Unfortunately, it can. And while the competition isn’t too hard at least for a while, Sony Ericsson are damaging their own prospects by taking too long with the Android upgrades.