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…)

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

I’ve observed that people’s choice of mobile phones is largely associated with what they intend to use it for. My wife, for example, prefers the simple Nokia phones – she has four of them over the years. For her, its the ability to make calls and send SMS or text messages. My daughter is into SMS herself but wants the option to have a camera nearby. So she tends to favor her BlackBerry Curve.

However, the nature of consumer electronics is such that we don’t necessarily know what we are getting until we’ve made the purchase. Take my brother who bought a Samsung Omnia i800 last year. Today he uses it mostly to play Solitaire (an expensive toy if you ask me). As for me, I want a device that can (1) make reasonably good calls; (2) keep all my 2,300+ contacts on Outlook; (3) send SMS; (4) I don’t have to charge every day; (5) easily syncs with my Google calendar; and (6) browse the web (for those occasions when I want to check something quickly.

Arguably, Taiwan’s greatest contribution to the world is its engineering prowess. One company that exemplifies this is HTC. In my opinion, HTC has managed to successfully corner the OEM market for windows-based smartphones. In this review I will give my impression of the HTC Hero – one of HTC’s first ventures into the Android operating system. The Hero is not a new phone. It was first reviewed way back in October 2009. I’ve posted the comments of other reviewers at the end of this blog should you desire to read other people’s thoughts.

The Hero is not my first HTC phone. I bought a HTC Touch years ago and have tried my hand on the HTC Diamond as well. The Touch is my first failure in identifying a good phone for my personal use. Its best attribute was being slim. Its worst attributes were everything else.

Likewise I wasn’t too happy with the HTC Diamond. In fact I was pleased that when Diamond 2 came out, HTC did away with the uneven back plate of the previous model. It was just way too uncomfortable to hold and also annoying when stored in your pant pocket. While both phones were endowed with TouchFlo as a way of introducing us to an iPhone like experience, I found TouchFlo to be a pain in the neck to use. Together with the Windows mobile operating system TouchFlo simply made navigating the phone cumbersome. I attributed this to the choice of underpowered processors used in both models.

To say that the Hero comes from the same family as the Touch and Diamond is a sign that HTC is maturing as a manufacturer. Despite what I think is its mistake of using a less then powerful processor, the combination of  Android 1.5 and HTC Sense gives consumers a near iPhone-like experience without the proprietary technology and design that is the hallmark of most Apple produced devices. (more…)

There is an escalating war going on. It started in 2002 with Apple running their now famous Switch advertisements featuring what they call “Real People” who “moved out” of the Windows platform to the Mac. While the switch ad was later replaced by “Get a Mac” in 2006 (and still runs today). In recent years Microsoft has tried a similar tactic but focusing on freedom of choice as its primary value proposition.

I am a Windows user myself both at work and home. I also have a venerable iMAC running OSX 10.4 at home. When I first bought my iMAC I was surprised at how quickly my kids adapted to the new platform even though they bought used Windows PCs at school (they still do). But then again my kids used the iMAC mostly for Net surfing and checking out emails. My wife remains a Windows user although occasionally she powers on the iMAC when she wants a quick check on the web.

I continue to be amazed at the intense Windows versus MAC battles. Apple continues to run these ads enticing people to switch over. But really people, do you honestly think that switching over from XP to Mac OS X just because you hear the horror stories about the early days of Vista is going to be easy. For those who see the hassle of moving from XP to 7 as being difficult, you will face the same hassle of migrating from any Windows platform to Apple Mac.

The reality kicked me very early on when I bought my first Mac. I very quickly realized that I don’t have a plethora of choice in terms of software for the Mac platform. In fact software choice was limited especially during the days of the “G” series processors that powered the Macs of yester-years. Windows emulators back then were notoriously bad. The shift to Intel processors is certainly a welcome boost to most PC users as the Windows software emulators that followed were more stable. The mere presence of Windows emulators suggests that people are not totally out of the Windows world even when they shift to the Mac.

The Windows 7 platform appears (during my tests anyway on a very old – unsupported HP tablet TC1100) stable. It runs most of the XP applications I am familiar with. There is a bit of a learning curve as you learn to grapply with widgets. But the overall experience is pleasant and not as nerve wracking as when I moved to OS X the first time.

I love Apple for continuing to offer OS X upgrades at frequent interval. Likewise I deplore Microsoft’s slow and cumbersome strategy to OS platform upgrades. I can only guess that they are living by the truism “why fix something that ain’t broken?”

Today we live in an “experience” society where product success or failure can be measured by the experience of the individual. Enough individual experience can amass together to destroy (or make it difficult for) a product. The coverse is true. Just look at the mobile platform. For years the dominant OS was Symbian that powered Nokia. Then along came Windows that tried but failed to get sufficient traction because the PC experience is clearly not very conducive for mobile users. When Apple launched the iPhone, users quickly fell in love with the touch experience. Windows has tried to emulate this as it partners with device manufacturers to come up with better user interface but the experience isn’t quite up there as that of the iPhone/iPod Touch.

What I’m getting at here is that anyone who thinks that migrating from Windows XP to Mac OSX is going to be pain free will be in for a rude awakening, particularly for those who are heavy into Windows-based applications. Checkout whether the programs you have been using, and for which you have lots of data resting in archives – say your accounting program or your spreadsheets or your data files. Before you decide to switch to the “cool” MMac factor, find out if there are equivalent programs on the Mac platform that will take your data and allow you to move forward seamlessly. If this is not possible, your choice is clear, stay with Windows. The new Windows 7 platform is an amazing leap forward by Microsoft. I just hope that Microsoft moves a lot faster with its succession of OS updates.

PS: To Microsoft – notice how Apple’s OS is priced way, way cheaper than Microsoft’s? Apple has learned that the fastest way to get into people’s heart is through great experience. The fastest way of shifting hardliners is through their wallets.