I 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.
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.