Sonntag, 24. April 2011

Sony Xperia Arc Quick Check

 Looking for an Android phone with a better camera, I bought the brand new SonyEricsson Xperia Arc. It has an overall interesting specification, but mostly I wanted it for the following reasons:
  • A high quality camera with f/2,4 aperture, BSI-CMOS sensor LED-Flash and a dedicated camera button
  • A tranreflective Screen with Sony's Bravia Engine.
  • Hardware Buttons for the typical Android functions
  • A well designed body
Unfortunately, the Xperia Arc has one major flaw, so I sent it back after a few days. So this is not my usual in depth review, where I used the phone for several weeks as my main phone. That does not mean, that the Arc is a bad choice for anyone, but it does not fit into my usage schema.
For this quick check, I compared the Arc to the iPhone 3GS and the Samsung Galaxy S, which remained my main phone after I sent the Arc back
I start with the Arc's main flaw, so you can decide to read on about the Arc's qualities or whether you also consider this as a showstopper like I do. The Arc's problem is it's available memory. It comes with 1 GB of internal memory, but only a about 320 MB is free after boot. This is significant less than on my Galaxy S, which comes with an internal SD of 8 GB, using 2 GB additional software installations.
As not all Android apps support app2sd, many apps still have to be installed into the small internal memory of the Arc. And not all of the 320 MB can be used. When the free internal memory is falling below about 100 MB, the Arc gets slow and starts to lag. With enough free memory, the Arc is a fast and very responsive phone, but with my usual set of applications it is no fun to use it. 
So is this a showstopper for you? The easiest way to answer this question is if you already have an Android smartphone. Look if you need more than 220 MB of internal memory. If not, then you should read on, because the Arc has some unique and great features.

SonyEricsson Arc vs. Samsung Galaxy S i9000 vs. iPhone 3GS
One the Xperia Arc's main advantages is it's great camera. Compared to good old Nokia N-Series, or some SonyEricsson with CyberShot modules, like my wifes K800i, the cameras of the android phones are between crappy and average in best case. So it is really about time for an Android phone with a really good camera. The Arc's camera is the best one in the Android world, period. Unfortunately, the Arc's camera software is a little overacting. The colors sometimes look wrong and the images are sharpened too much. A software update to turn down this 'image-enhancements' would make the Arc an even better camera phone. The Arc also has a separate camera button, a feature I always wish for my phones. When I don't carry a real camera with me, my phone has to be my camera. And ideally, I don't want to fiddle with the software just to take a shot. With the Arc, you just can pull it out of the your pocket, long press the camera button which opens the camera app and take the shot. This is how it should be, though the Arc's camera app took a bit longer to start than I like.
Another important feature of the Arc is it's great Bravia Display. Though it does not offer the extreme contrast and black value like the Galaxy's SuperAMOLED, you won't ever complain about the Arc's display. And in bright sunlight it beats the SuperAMOLED by an order of magnitude. Weighting the pro's and con's, I would say that the Arc's Display is the best one I have seen for now.

The Arc has three hardware buttons below the screen. I always want at least a hardware menu button on a smartphone, because a hardware menu key can also be used to switch the phone on. This works great on phones like the Galaxy S or the iPhone. But the Arc also has hardware buttons for menu and back keys, and this does not work that well. On an Android phone the menu and back buttons are constantly used, so they have to operate fast. But the Arc's hardware buttons are a lot slower than the Galaxy's capacitive touch buttons. Of course, this is a matter of taste, but I personally prefer the Galaxy's combination of a hardware menu key and capacitive menu and back buttons is perfect for me.

displays compared under different lightning conditions

The Arc offers a good battery life, definitely about average for a smartphone. On moderate usage, it will last two days and even on heavy usage it will last a whole work day. And it charges really quick,  30 minutes in the car's charger on my way to the office will charge it for the whole day.

What else is to say about the Arc? Luckily, SonyEricsson did not too much changes to the stock Android UI, and those they did are mostly usefull. The TimeScape UI, which slowed down former Xperia phones, now only a widget which can be removed.
I personally disliked the overall blue look of most parts of the Arc's UI, but this is a matter of taste and one can always install an alternate launcher with more customizable color schemes.

I had another problem with the Arc and my T-mobile SIM. On the Arc, I had no 3G networking with this SIM card, though it worked with other smarthones on the same locations. This card is already a few years old, so exchanging it for a newer card would probably solve this problem.

So in general, the Arc is quite a good Android smartphone, and the one with the best camera for now. But the limitated memory is a showstopper for me and also the hardware menu and back back buttons are too slow to use for me (though I won't miss the hardware home button). This is a shame, because SonyEricsson putted many good things into the Arc and the Android market definitely needs some phones with extra mojo like a well done design and a good camera. But on the good side, the Arc is only one release away from a really great phone. If SonyEricsson can fix the Arc's issues for it's successor, it might be my next smartphone.