Sony Ericsson X10 Mini Pro: Great hardware, but…

x10miniproI was expecting my abhorrence for the X10 to carry over to the Mini Pro, but the plucky little brother gives a good showing. Nowhere near perfect, but better.

Perhaps it’s the restricted screen size, but the Mini Pro seems to run Android 1.6 a bit quicker than its big brother. I could get around the phone rapidly, making calls and taking photos with some delays, but nothing horrific. All the normal features of a smartphone are there: browser, calendar, contacts, apps and sync.

It certainly is a charming little phone. Something that you’d be happy with as a feature phone, but somehow they’ve stuffed the guts of a full blow smartphone in there. The build quality is flawless – the sliding keyboard is built like a Glock, sliding in and out with a snick-snack that would make Rambo proud. The 5MP camera with flash gives gorgeous photo.

Pity about the software

But this solid hardware is let down – like the X10, but in new and interesting ways – by Android 1.6. The overall inconsistency is there, with Sony’s custom apps like warty appendages on the mottled skin of Android. Then there’s the hundreds of apps in the Android Market that are built for phones with large screens and no landscape keyboard. Some work, some work partially, and some just utterly fail.

And then there’s sync. You might want to cover your ears before you read what I wrote on Twitter after a clash between GMail sync and Roadsync for Exchange deleted half my contacts in Outlook:
[quote]Fucking Roadsync is a bullshit piece of trash assfest. And Android is the shit-tastic horse it rode in on. Fuck you both.[/quote]
Harsh? Maybe. But I had tried hard for most of a day to set up the X10 Mini Pro as a phone I would like to use. This means syncing with both Exchange and GMail. Android 1.6 doesn’t do this well, and when you disable GMail sync, the Roadsync app diligently deletes those same contacts from Exchange. Useless.

Now Android fanboys will be grumbling into their keyboards that multi-source sync is much improved in Android 2.1, and other hardware vendors (HTC notably) provide better software for Exchange sync. This is true. But Sony Ericsson sell the X10 and the X10 Mini Pro as their flagship smartphone devices – devices that power users like myself are expected to buy and love.

Keep up!

The Android release timeline doesn’t make wonderful reading if you’re an OEM – 2.0 was released little more than a month after 1.6, and seven months later we’re up to 2.2. But even at this pace, Sony Ericsson is lagging massively behind competitors HTC and Motorola in their ability to get these significantly improved releases to their end users. And why? Hubris.

Look at the crap Sony has layered on top of Android. Take Timescape for example – a pointless piece of eye-candy that displays recent events from contacts (partial tweets, email headers, phone calls). It’s unneeded and unnecessary. But this is one more thing that Sony Ericsson has to update, test, and rebuild with each new release of Android.

My advice? Get over yourselves Sony Ericsson. Your hardware is mostly gorgeous, but if you keep putting crapware on your phones and delaying OS updates, people will use some other platform that keeps them more up to date.

13 Replies to “Sony Ericsson X10 Mini Pro: Great hardware, but…”

  1. Wow bummer about the contacts dude!

    I hope you were able to get your contacts back fom an offline cached copy.

    If not on your work laptop, then (assuming you guys use cached mode with outlook at work) you could probably still try logging onto a machine you haven’t used in a while, then yanking the network cable and starting Outlook ofline. Export the contacts out, go back online and import them back in.

    I have to admit this totally bamboozled me, as I’ve used Roadsync for years, from back when it was the only game in town for activesync on the SE P900 with Symbian UIQ.

    I stuck with it on my HTC Magic because it was familiar, and it only cost a third the price of competition.

    I was worried that the same thing might happen to me, so I flashed my Magic back to a standard Vodfaone 1.6 build (I’ve been running Cyanogen 5.0.8 custom 2.1 build) to try and duplicate the problem (after backing up my contacts)

    To be honest, I don’t use google contacts much, so I had to populate them first.

    Anyway, after syncing both into the standard Android contact App, I tried removing Google sync and then re-syncing.

    No issue.

    Deleting the Google Account from sync however did come up with a big warning that it would delete all email and contacts.

    With Roadsync (or presumably any other application that syncs to/from the built-in Contacts App) syncing local deletions, I guess what happens next is pretty obvious.

    I reset everthing and flashed the phone back to 2.1 and tried again.

    Interestingly, 2.1 basically said “Nope! This Google account is needed by various Apps and systems so you can’t delete it!” (Actually, you can clear it with a factory reset, but you need to set up a new one after that anyway)

    So, if you have 1.6, don’t remove the Google account! Not sure why you’d want to, anyway, since everthing to do with Market, Google apps, Checkout account etc is tied up with your Gmail account, but there it is.

    And, if you are going to delete your Contacts manually, be aware that there is only one Contacts folder and what you do for one app will affect others that also share it.

    What you can do on 1.6, if you don’t want to see contacts from a particular source is simply filter them under the display options.

    The whole thing indicates a big flaw with the whole consolidated contact app idea though.

    Once source of the truth is just that. Bit of a two-edged sword.

    Each piece of software worked as designed, but the outcome wasn’t something that would be immediately obvious except in hindsight.

    Ouch!

  2. BTW, what were the conflicts you experienced between Gmail and Roadsync?

    The two use different inbox and calendar, the only point of contact being the ‘Contacts’.

    Even then, within the built in Android Contacts app, you can choose what you want to display, including which Gmail contacts system group you want. Or none at all.

    Deleting a Gmail contact doesn’t delete a Roadsync exchange contact, or vice versa.

    Nor does disabling Gmail sync remove anything.

    It’s only deleting the Google account from the sync that trashes the entire contact list as far as I can see.

    1. Yep that’s pretty much it. I had Gmail sync set up, then added Roadsync. I immediately noticed duplicates all through my contact list (I have a lot of the same contacts in Gmail and Exchange).

      As an Android newbie, I figured “ok, I’ll get rid of all the Gmail/Google account stuff and just run from Exchange”. Probably something similar to what I would have done with Symbian or WinMo. So I deleted the Google account. Boom.

      I’ve got it all back now – deleted items recovery in Exchange saved the day.

      I’m positive there’s a way to make it work well, and in fact it would be a great way to keep Exchange and Gmail contacts in sync. BUT: it’s not simple in the way that the iPhone (and Android 2.1?) is. With 1.6 this is not a great device.

  3. Oh yeah, and in your review you and other posters refer to ‘inconsistencies’ in the Android UI.

    I’d be interested to know what you mean by this. Can you give some examples?

    1. – Sometimes the return key entered on the last field of a form dismisses the keyboard, sometimes it doesn’t.
      – Sometimes the “back” key takes you out of an app, sometimes it takes you back a page in the app.
      – Sometimes scrolling is fluid, sometimes it stops and starts.
      – Apps in general take a very different approach to layout. There’s no consistent metaphor for tabbed pages or button/toolbars.

  4. Ok,

    The first one seems to be a peculiarity of the Sony keyboard.

    Behavior is much more consistent with the std Android keyboard, the htc keyboard or Smart Keyboard (app from market).

    Sometimes the “back” key takes you out of an app, sometimes it takes you back a page in the app.

    True… depends on context. Generally, if you are in the top level of an app, it takes you out of the app. If you are down a level or two it takes you up a level. Or acts like a browser back button in the web browser app.

    I see what you are saying, but there is a logic to it.

    – Sometimes scrolling is fluid, sometimes it stops and starts.

    Yeah, in 1.6 scrolling long lists is kind of jumpy. It seems to be much smoother in eclair, and in some apps.

    It’s like they bought out a new list control around the 1.6 SDK, but it’s taken a while for people to use it.

    Apps in general take a very different approach to layout. There’s no consistent metaphor for tabbed pages or button/toolbars.

    True, particularly ported apps. CoPilot nav is particularly alien.

    Getting better though.

  5. Then there’s the hundreds of apps in the Android Market that are built for phones with large screens and no landscape keyboard. Some work, some work partially, and some just utterly fail.

    This is pretty lazy on the part of the devs concerned. The android 1.6 SDK introduced the abilty for devs to test their app in three different res (low, med, high) in the emulator and compile and publish for each with a very simple process.

    All they need to do is recompile and re-publish

    Generally though, a lower res will work on a higher res phone without tweaking (but look pretty fugly!) but not vice versa.

    So maybe it’s easier not to bother, just crank out med res apps and you’ll get most of the market?

    Slack!

  6. It’s entirely up to Sony Ericsson.

    There is no physical reason why not, I just upgraded my HTC Magic to a custom 2.2 ROM.

    Can’t do that on the Xperias yet, as the modders over at XDA Devs haven’t quite figured out how to unlock the boot loader but they’ve managed to get Root so far.

  7. Agreed. Looked over the phones and saw that X10 mini that is unlocked in Aust could get the 2.1 update on SE site. Bought the phone and expected to do a simple upgrade to 2.1 from 1.6 which handset shipped with. NO . SE has a “staged upgrade” policy so Vodafone in OZ is still on 1.6 (8 Nov 2010). Seriously considered returning phone but then got XDA godness and flashed with Nordic firmware. Will be stripping all the bloatware out via their instructions as well.

  8. @Micheal

    Does 2.1 make much difference on the X10 mini?

    Can’t remember if Compcache is in the standard 2.1 ROM; I know JIT isn’t, so wouldn’t expect major performance gains.

    Can you get the Quadrant app and run a benchmark or two?

  9. I totally agree with what Ben is saying here about the updates, and I’d consider myself one of their lost customers. I was seriously looking at the X10 (Sony do good cameras) but the fact it was 1.6 and no indication of when 2.2 might happen, that was a showstopper. The fact that there was no official info from Sony and dozens of upset X10 owners asking on forums about how to hack their roms etc, suggests that this isn’t a priority to Sony.

    So I got a Nexus One and the first thing it did when I switched it on was upgrade to Froyo – awesome.

    Who in their right mind would trade the speed enhancements, wifi hotspot and other good stuff that Froyo has in exchange for some crappy proprietary software that does… sorry, what does it do?

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