It’s a weird feeling using IGor, my iPad, to write this review of a competitive product to the iPad. I was fortunate to be loaned the latest portable tablet from Dell – the Streak. Delivered boxed, it reminded me of how Apple and HTC packaged their offerings except that Apple boxes and white and almost utilitarian.

The box contains the Streak, a pouch, charger and starter guide. 

The first time you power up the Streak, it will ask you to insert a SIM card as part of its boot up and setup sequence. This process suggests this new tablet is a mobile phone. If it were I can’t imagine seeing myself holding a (152.9 x 79.1 x 10mm) slab of electronics close to my cheek. Years ago I used to laugh when I see people using the NOKIA n-Gage to make calls. I often commented that it was having a burrito in your ear. If the n-Gage was a burrito, the Streak is a thin paperback. It took me a few moments to get around this requirement and force the Streak to connect to the Wi-Fi to continue the device initialization sequence.

As a handheld it’s impossibly thin at 10mm. It’s not really feather light at 220 GM. For its size (152.9 x 79.1mm), it’s surprisingly light. For people with small hands it would be cumbersome to hold comfortably and safely. It looks fragile because of the glass top but the feel is solid for the device itself.

The Streak ships with Android 1.6 so it doesn’t multi-task at all. No different from the iPad. But I read in forums that Streak owners have the option to upgrade to 2.2 by end of 2010. Brave souls who have tried upgrading report problems after the upgrade.

The small screen makes it a little difficult, but not impossible, to read documents. Despite the handicap of the OS, the overall performance is very good; it is fast and as fluid flicking and pinching as using the iPad. If there is any serious complaint it is the user interface needs tweaking to make it easier to navigate or access applications.

I did a full charge of the device and it took about two days before I charged it. The default setting means the device powers down too quickly (1 minute) making it annoying at times if you got side tracked for a minute to do something quickly leaving the device unattended.

Facebook and other social networking platform users will find the experience welcoming provided you have the App customized for the size of the screen. Yehey for Facebook!

Overall first impression is that it is a solid device to hold. Small enough to fit in a small bag and convenient to carry around wherever you go. If you have a Bluetooth headset and installed a SIM Card in it, you can use it as a cell phone without looking like one of those characters from Third Rock from the Sun. People might think of Sheldon of The Big Bang Theory if they see you talking using the Streak but who cares.

Just for the heck of it, I did install my 2G SIM on the Streak and made calls as well as received them. It was easy enough to make the voice connections, and even sending SMS messages was not at all that difficult. The menu system does take getting used to but I find it less taxing then searching for specific functions on any Symbian-based phone. (more…)

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Mention ‘Smartphone’ and the products that come to mind are hand-sized devices about the size of your hand. Most weigh in excess of 180 grams. Most will show a bulge when placed inside your front jeans pocket, and I’d be very concerned about putting them on the back pocket.

The Sony Ericsson (SE) breaks this Smartphone tradition by coming in at a miniscule 83 x 50 x 16 mm. In fact the closest Smartphone rival of comparable capability is the larger and HTC Wildfire (106.8 x 60.4 x 12 mm).

Using the X10 mini can take getting used to. The UXP interface is an acquired taste (but don’t let my hesitation fool you, it doesn’t really take that much time to learn how to use the phone and most of its features).

Sony Ericsson X10 mini home page

Sony Ericsson X10 mini home page

Sony Ericsson X10 mini timescape

Sony Ericsson X10 mini timescape

Sony Ericsson X10 mini size relative to palm

Sony Ericsson X10 mini size relative to palm

 

WHAT I LIKE
In my view, four things combined to make this worth buying: (1) Android + UXP; (2) battery life in a small package; (3) reasonably good camera; and (4) size.

If you are a little overwhelmed by HTC Sense, you will likely appreciate the simplicity and capability of the UXP (UX platform). On the HTC Sense you can add widgets on each of seven home screens. But this is only possible because the phone’s display (say HTC Wildfire) is large enough to hold more than one widget. On the SE x10 mini, this is impossible given the 2.5″ (diagonal) display. But SE conceded this limitation by allowing you to post one widget on any of the 20 home pages. The one app per page actually minimizes the clutter I often find distressing as you start using the phone more frequently.

A phone of this size that supports 3G, GSM and Wi-Fi would surely conk out the battery even before eight hours is gone. SE continues its traditional of good battery life per charge with the X10 mini. I get about two days worth of calls, SMSes, emails via Wi-Fi, a few hours of music and one episode of a favorite TV series. The screen may look ridiculously small at 2.5″ but mind you I managed to comfortably watch a movie on the phone whilst I traverse the MTR stations in Hong Kong. No, I didn’t stay in the MTR station for the entire length of the movie. Instead I continue what I was watching each time I ride the train. All the HTC Android phones I tested don’t remember where I stopped the movie before stepping out of the train. As I result, I avoided using the phone. Yey, SE!

The SE X10 mini comes with a 5MP camera. I’ve tested the cameras on the HTC Desire, HTC Wildfire, and BlackBerry 8900, and I can tell you the X10 mini’s 5MP is a great little camera for taking shots outdoors. The photos are nice and crisp. You can’t this kind of quality from the other phones equipped with similar camera configs. SE also added a video light feature when you want to take videos with the phone.

Sony Ericsson x10 mini - outdoor shot of building

Sony Ericsson x10 mini - outdoor shot of building

Sony Ericsson x10 mini - outdoor shot of park

Sony Ericsson x10 mini - outdoor shot of park

Sony Ericsson x10 mini - outdoor shot of space-museum

Sony Ericsson x10 mini - outdoor shot of space-museum

Sony Ericsson x10 mini - outdoor shot of garden at  night

Sony Ericsson x10 mini - outdoor shot of garden at night

While I carry a backpack everyday to work, I usually keep my phone in the front pocket of my jeans (left or right). With my trusty old BlackBerry 8900, its almost impossible to get the phone in, much less out of my jeans (I usually hold my breath and tuck my tummy in as I attempt to pull out the phone out of my pocket). The HTC Desire was just as tight. The HTC Wildfire was a little kinder to my pocket. The X10 mini fits in there and I can still cram a headset or a pack of tissue.
 

WHAT I DON’T LIKE
If there is anything to be learned from the Apple iPhone series is that simplicity of use is very important. Owners of Windows-based PCs, digital video cameras, digital cameras and DVD recorders don’t read the user manual that comes with their device. So it was for me that when I got the X10 mini to try out, I discovered that this is a complicated product to use. In fact I had to download the user manual from the Sony Ericsson website in order to learn enough about the phone to make practical use of it, like navigating using the UXP. Of course, once you get past the nuisances of the interface, everything else becomes simple.

Google Nexus One owners have likely upgraded to Android 2.1 or 2.2 by now. Some HTC phones are shipping with Android 2.1 with a few already earmarked for a 2.2 upgrade. Unfortunately for the X10 and X10 mini series, upgrade to 2.1 won’t come until the last quarter of 2010 (and likely it will be in the December timeframe). http://blogs.sonyericsson.com/products/2010/05/05/sony-ericsson-xperia%E2%84%A2-x10-to-get-uxp-upgrade-in-q4-2010/

I am not altogether sure why but after a week’s use I started to notice a lag when using the X10 mini. Whether its trying to switch on the phone to make a call, or send an SMS, or read my email, I notice a lag of a couple of seconds before the phone switches to the app I want to use. This is particularly annoying because Sony Ericsson has added a sensor that detects if the phone is next to your face, indicating that you making a call. What happens is the phone screen blanks out. I understand this is to make sure that you don’t accidentally press a button while on the phone. But if you need to quickly press a button (say if you are on an IVR call), the time it takes for the screen to come back up is very annoying).

MY FINAL THOUGHTS

I’m a long time SE handset customer for many years from my favorite T91 to my P810 and P900. I loved those phones. They worked as advertised and almost all cases I only have to take out the charger twice a week. This is a big difference compared to my wife’s experience with her Nokia phone. She’s a die hard Nokia customer despite the fact that (1) the Symbian interface lacks intelligence; and (2) the phones simply leak battery power big time.

Would I trade my BlackBerry 8900 for an X10 mini? Probably not! Why? I text a lot. I also read and respond to my emails on my BB. Nothing beats a physical keyboard for this kind of job.

I will be testing the X10 mini pro after this. Who knows? I just might change my mind.

Other reviews:
TechRadar
Pocket-Lint.com

Engadget
ITPro
Metro

Technical Spec
Sony Ericsson
Network: quad band GSM, 3G
Data: GPRS, EDGE, 3G, WLAN, Bluetooth, USB
Dimension: 83 x 50 x 16 mm
Weight: 88 g
Display: 240 x 320 pixel, 2.55 inch capacitative screen
Internal storage: 128MB
Camera: 5MP with VGA video @30 fps, video light and geo-tagging
OS: Android 1.6
CPU: Qualcomm MSM7227 600 MHz
External storage: microSD up to 16GB
Completer spec here: http://www.gsmarena.com/sony_ericsson_xperia_x10_mini-3125.php

My earlier brief experience with the HTC Desire and HTC Legend tell me that HTC is maturing as a manufacturer of high end smartphones. The days when HTC rolls out cheesy, toy-looking, cheap phones are coming to an end. I think HTC is discovering what Apple has learned, you can make good margins with quality phones. Market researcher iSuppli estimates that the bill of materials for the latest Apple iPhone comes comes to US$187.51. At US$699 for a 32GB no contract phone, that is a whopping 274% market. Of course this percentage profit is wrong as it doesn’t include the software cost of the device as well as whatever Apple estimates is the cost of keeping iTunes up and running to make the iPhone the much sought after platform by developers and customers alike (ok I exaggerate on that last part).

Stay focus on the review

HTC Wildfire

HTC Wildfire

The HTC Wildfire (Wildfire) looks like a slightly smaller version of the HTC Desire. It is  12.2mm shorter (by length). The form factor is pocket friend for both sexes. The devices feels as solid as the Desire.

HTC Desire

HTC Desire

Where you start to see the difference is when you turn on the screen. The Desire uses an AMOLED display compared to a standard TFT screen for the Desire. AMOLED gives you better colors and sharper contrasts. Ove the two weeks I used the HTC Wildfire though I can’t really complain much about the reduced contrast or less vibrant color compared to my earlier experience on the Desire (even when I was watching Star Trek on Wildfire). But for those who like to compare spec, the Wildfire has a resolution of 320×240 pixels versus the Desire’s 480×800 pixels.

HTC Sense is the only reason why you’d ever keep using an HTC phone powered by Windows mobile operating system. Can HTC smartphones running Android OS run without Sense? I understand this is possible and hackers are using this to bypass the official approach to upgrading the HTC phone. But for the average user, HTC Sense just makes it easier to use the phone – irrespective of whether you got Android or Windows Mobile as the operating environment.
WHAT I LIKE
Android 2.1 is a saving grace for this phone. Despite a less powerful proecssor compared to its bigger sibling – the HTC Desire, the Qualcomm MSM7225 528 MHz gives the Wildfire just enough uummph to run your favorite apps like video, music, browsing the Internet or any one of those free games available on Andrioid market (Google’s answer to Apple‘s priorietary appstore). But set your expectations, the slower processor will mean that launching apps will take a few milliseconds slower than on the Desire. If you want to bitch about it, you can always say that the WIldfire comes with only 384MB RAM compared to 512MB on the Desire (but does it really matter? I can’t be certain).

A common occurance in my line of business is people waving their iPhones in my face swearing by the ease of use, the thousands of apps available online, and the great experience they have browsing the Internet. Most of them get stump though when I ask them to go to Wall Street Journal website, and play one of the video interviews for me. Fortunately this is not a problem on phones running Android or Windows Mobile – just devices made by Apple (everything from computers to mobile devices). (more…)

Both phones were released and quite a bit of reviews are available in the market. So as always I will provide you with links to some of the best reviews I’ve read on both devices.

This write-up is more about my experience using the two phones.

Much to Desire

The HTC Desire is billed by some as the top of the Android line for the phone maker. It resembles the Google Nexus One phone, and why not? Google commissioned HTC to build the Nexus One.

Physically the Nexus One is smoother and looks a little sleeker than the Desire. The sharp edges on the Desire are not good for your pocket if, like me, you have a tendency to slip your phone into your front pocket. Both phones have the same processor and battery rating.

As a communications device, Google got it right to include built-in noise reduction technology on the Nexus. This is very important since most mobile phone mics pick up literally everything around you, making it often hard to listen to the person speaking. So I wonder why HTC would want to drop this one technology so many other phone makers seem to ignore but is a common concern across all mobile phone users (Nokia, Sony Ericsson, LG, Samsung, Apple, HTC – are you guys listening?).

Anyway, let me go back to the HTC Desire. I observed that the back of the HTC Desire gets very warm very fast if the screen is on. So if you are surfing the Internet on the Desire or watching a movie, chances are you will need to buy a case to wrap the Desire in… Otherwise be prepared to get first degree burns if you hold the phone long enough. The only other phone I’ve ever handled that does this even worst is the Samsung Omnia i800 – in my view one of the worst phones I’ve ever had. I did speculate that the use of a plastic backing meant the Desire had no way to dissipate heat. You really must like what you are doing to keep holding the phone when it’s scorching your hand.

The second and only other, real gripe I have with the Desire is the lack of option to upgrade the OS. Apple may not listen to its customers when developing new products but once you’ve invested in one, Apple lets you upgrade the operating system as and when it becomes available, as long as the hardware supports it. In practical terms this means that you don’t necessarily have to upgrade to the next iteration of the same series unless you have a very compelling reason to – like you got money to burn. In contrast, with HTC to experience Android 2.2, I will have to buy a new phone. And when Android 2.3 (or whatever next iteration after Froyo), I will have to throw away my just recently bought phone to get an OS upgrade.

How stupid is that?

I understand that with the Nexus One, you can upgrade to the next OS. (more…)