The Sony Ericsson XPERIA Neo takes its cue from the XPERIA Arc. There are two important changes to note: Android 2.3 Gingerbread is in and the Mediascape UI was is out. Perhaps Sony Ericsson decided the vanilla gallery is less confusing or maybe it was a performance-driven decision. The Timescape app is still there.
We've prepared a short video demo of the XPERIA Neo user interface to get us started.
At first glance, it’s not that easy to see the changes brought by Android 2.3 Gingerbread and those by the custom Sony Ericsson UI. The new edition brought lots of new APIs and extended the platform’s gaming capabilities, but the interface elements haven’t been dramatically changed, just polished.
The Overview mode, which debuted on the XPERIA Arc, is available on the Neo too. You pinch zoom out of any of the 5 homescreen panes and a new screen opens up with a cool transition effect. 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 have on the Galaxy S. However here widgets are not ordered in mini screens so you cannot see what’s on each of them. Instead all widgets are shuffled so they can utilize the space more efficiently and remain as big as possible and thus more thumbable.
The next thing worth mentioning are the four docked shortcuts (two either side of the launcher key) on the homescreen. Those are visible on all five homescreen panes and are editable: they can be either single icons or folders with multiple items in them.
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.
There are new animations when moving items around the homescreen, sorting them in folders or deleting them. There are no new wallpapers included in Gingerbread, but you can get as many as you want at the Android Market anyway. Sony Ericsson have included 24 static wallpapers and there are 11 live wallpapers too (available in every other droid), you can also set a picture from your gallery.
Upon entering the launcher you will see 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.
Text selection is a major change in the user interface. Gingerbread really takes things to a whole new level by placing two large pointers either side of the marked text. You can then drag each of those easily to make the selection you need. It really doesn’t get much simpler than that.
As far as general speed is concerned, the Sony Ericsson XPERIA Neo does as well as we expected. It’s based on the same Qualcomm MSM8255 Snapdragon platform as the Arc featuring a 1 GHz Scorpion CPU and the Adreno 205 GPU. Gingerbread optimizations help it do a bit better than some high-end Froyo powered phones.
The actual performance is almost as good on the Arc - almost because we did notice occasional brief lags. Maybe it’s the fact that ours is a pre-release unit and we should wait and see what a market-ready Neo is really capable of.