Tag Archives: “Sony Ericsson”

Sony Xperia Arc (s) ICS 4.0.3 initial impressions


[UPDATE: I have replaced the Arc S 4.0.3 firmware with the official 4.0.4 update for the Sony Arc, the difference between the two versions are immense, please see my new post on that to get the real ICS impressions for the Sony Arc]

Sony Ericsson, who are now simply Sony once again have worked very hard to rebuild their bad reputation over software updates issues they had with their 2009/2010 phones.  With the Sony Arc and the new models they have done a job that has been even better than Samsung, which has reflected well in the higher sales of they very cool looking mobile devices.

Sony for some reason has always been one step behind on the hardware side compared to leading competitors like Samsung, HTC, etc but have managed to counter with excellent design, great multimedia and most importantly well optimized software that ensured you did not feel the hardware was lacking.

However with ICS, they seem to have faced the challenge and they had to delay the original roll out plan.  The much awaited ICS updated for the Arc and newer phones were due in April was delayed, and now only the newer Arc S and the Neo V and Ray got the update, while the older models only getting June or later.

However the Arc and the Arc S are from a hardware point pretty much identical, with the key difference being the higher clock processor (overclocked possibly, since the processor definitely can be pushed beyond the 1Ghz speed) on the Arc S.  Even the battery is the same which is why the Arc S has less standby time than the Arc.

I did not want try a custom ROM on my phone, since i like my main phone to be “available” and hence experiments were controlled.  However I was keen to see if ICS would improve things , and thanks to Xperiablog.net (http://www.xperiablog.net/2012/04/15/install-official-android-4-0-ics-update-to-your-xperia-arc-guide/) i went and flashed it with the nordic ICS firmware for the Arc S which they had found works perfectly fine with the Arc 🙂

Tips when flashing

Word of warning if you look at that article in Xperiablog.net you will see a lot of people have bricked their phones, so follow the instructions carefully.

1. Backup your device using App Backup & Restore, do not that this App does not back all apps, so as a secondary option also use the Google backup option for apps.

2.  The update went smoothly but i had faced one twist when trying get the phone recognized.  This is what i did,

  • The flashtool continued to report that drivers were missing, though i had updated the PC companion to the latest and tested that the phone was being detected.
  • I then installed the drivers from the flash tool, and faced the same issue, but then found that you also have to check “Flashmode drivers” when installing the drivers in addition to the arc drivers.  Once i did this the detection when smooth and the update completed

Once i had flashed the application the only issue was i had a free upgrade.  In my about the device is now listed as an LT18i :), no sadly the processor does not get  overclocked to 1.4Ghz like the Arc for that you need to root and see how much you can push your CPU.  I am not trying that on my everyday phone!  I can live with that until the Arc specific firmware will come, by which time i am sure Sony would have optimized the ICS build further and fixed any defects.

I have now been using the phone for over a week, and these were some observations, some I believe will also be applicable for Arc S users since ICS is a bit of resource hog and seems to have been designed with higher memory, graphics and multi-core capabilities in mind.

  1. Interface is smooth, but can get laggy, the reason i found is that the memory usage is higher on ICS, so you have to keep an eye and close apps to ensure you have enough to keep the phone going smooth.  I have just 1-2 small widgets running, and just having these and the email, FB and gmail apps brings the memory down to just 36MB remaining.  Below is the memory usage with most apps closed and just the OS, and standard apps running.
  2. I sometime get the error saying the desktop (explorer) has stopped, or some app as stop, but if you select the wait option usually things get back into control.  I feel that the memory getting low also maybe a cause for this.
  3. Fluffy (angry) birds (what i just tested was Rio) game does not work, though it gets launched i can’t touch and select any options, not sure how many other games and apps will have this problem.  Since Rio worked fine on my MediaPad and Acer A500 devices, this is definitely an issue with the Sony ICS build.
  4. The camera takes ages to load compared to how it was with Gingerbread.  I have resorted to using CameraFX due to this, which works fine
  5. Overall app launch is a tad slower than what it was on gingerbread
  6. Benchmarks indicate no significant change in performance, though i was expecting much better performance :(
  7. Make sure the face book app is closed when not needed, as that can hog your system.
  8. Media Go sync seems to have problems and seems to freeze when sync’ing your photos and videos
  9. The standard Music app crashes

Key areas i saw improvements

1. The overall touch and swipe actions are lot smoother

2. The standard keyboard for the first time is actually pretty decent, even though its not as intelligent as SwiftKey X.

3. Browser seems more nippy

4. Video playback seems more smoother

5. The ICS feature on how you can close the app (swipe right after selecting the home button) is cool and easy (wish Windows 8 consumer edition had this feature)

I saw on a recent blog that a more newer firmware was already provided some regions, so will wait and see if these fix these issues.   One thing that has changed is that Sony has now removed the custom screen capture feature they had when you pressed the power button and now use the ICS screen capture feature.  This is done by pressing the power and volume down button for around 10+ secs which takes a screen shot, takes a while to get used to but once you do its fairly effective.

Benchmarks

Did not notice any great improvements, and overall its here and there on the overall “benchmarks”.  If i recall correct performances seems to have gone down!

Here are some screen shots, immediately noticeable is the new font which makes things look a bit nicer.  I have included things that have changed in ICS or look different.

         

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Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 hands on review


Decided that it would be unfair to comment on features that are more phone oriented in the Android 2.1 review article, so here are some in relevant to the Sony Ericsson X10 phone.  How relevant they are to other Android phones needs to be based on the phone you have 🙂

Camera and multimedia

  • 8MP camera, good on mega pixel but with a weak flash indoor photographs are crap to worthless.  However the daylight photos are very good and have a lot of detail, with the only issue being in very bright light where the photos are heavily exposed and can end up with very little detail and lots of light.
  • Some overly intelligent engineer at Sony Ericsson decided not to have an option for the flash in the menu and hide it as the “Photo Flash” in the Advanced Menu.  Super intelligent and totally non-user friendly.  So if you want the flash at your fingertips, this is not the phone.  Also third party Camera software such as eCamera do not detect the flash, so some issue with the SE implementation of the camera.  The Nokia phones may overuse the flash but they at least give you blur free pics, not so with this phone, got to be lucky to get blur free indoors.  However the LED light is more a camera light / torch light, so its practically useless for shooting still photos.
  • The touch focus works super fast, but is rather slow and inaccurate for precise work, however the touch focus works beautifully for landscapes and is ideal since the hardware camera focus button is so hard to press that when you press it you get blurred photos (UPDATE: Seems the blurry photo issue is associated with Android 2.1, so not a Sony Ericsson issue but i still think the hardware button is too firm).  Forget the build in image stabilization, its pure software and crap, not seen any use for it.
  • Smile recognition is another feature, but unlike a digital camera implementation it takes a long time to lock and shoot, so only ideal with adults who will remain smiling until you tell them not too.
  • The camera features have several combinations, and Sony Ericsson developers have made life very hard that you need to work out these combinations. E.g. With smile recognition enabled the hardware button won’t work, and for macro you need to make sure you have the correct mode enabled.  Would be great if these automations were worked out by the software, rather than making the user do it.   From a software perspective we have gone back several steps compared to what we had in phones, and this coming from camera experts Sony is very dissapointing.
  • The autofocus is there alright, but its so slow, that it borders uselessness.  However eCamera focuses much faster, so its a problem with the Sony Ericsson software.
  • The video quality is pretty decent and performs decently under low light as well, much better than the still photos in low light which is very strange.

Keyboard

  • The SE default keyboard simply stated is CRAP.  The sensitivity is not great, and the error rate high compared to using with the N97.  For the people who want to text, just get a full QWERTY hardware keyboard phone in the likes of a E-series nokia or blackberry or a full keyboard Android if you want an Android based phone.  However i tried out the SwiftKey keyboard which was a marked improvement over the default keyboard, so clearly another areas where SE can just buy a third keyboard than wasting their time writing one.

Photo Gallery

Some pictures taken from the camera using the standard camera app, and other camera apps such as eCamera, FXCamera.

Taken during the day, the quality of pictures is pretty good and the metering quite decent, though the skies seems a bit overexposed.

Taken indoor in some testing light condition, flash photo light switched off. Quite surprised that the output has been good.  However this only applies only to fixed landscapes, any moving objects come out blurred and smudged.

Again when the light conditions are favorable the pictures turn out pretty good for a phone camera.

Taken indoors under weak florescent lighting.  Flash / Photo light was not activated (though doubt if that would have done any difference).  Look decent but you can see the picture is very noisy.

Syncing up your contacts from a Nokia phone to an Android


Unless your phones PC connectivity solution comes with this capability (Sony Ericsson’s software does not as as Jan 2011), you have a long and rather complex option. However the Android Market has software that can do this, but they are not free.

  1. Save the outlook contacts as a CSV.  Problem, outlook cannot do that, and I had to track down a tool that worked as an outlook add-on but was very low on usability (You have to select each field you need).
  2. You then need to go to gmail and import the contacts
  3. Then you need sync the contacts from gmail to your phone
  4. However there is a bug, that some of the contacts have wrong phone no’s.  However the CSV file has the correct no’s, so problems with the google import process 🙂

UPDATE: Not a bug but google mail contact importer does not support all fields in outlook, and also expects the names of the columns to match its. The best way is to create a sample contact in google and export it to get the format!   Read http://mail.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?answer=12119andhttp://mail.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?answer=14024&hl=en to get more context.

From Symbian to Android – my experiences


Afters years of Nokia Symbian ownership decided i need to try out one of the more popular smartphone platforms.  If the Nokia N8 did not have the hardware failure, I was also set in purchasing it, since the legacy feel of Symbian3, weak app market (ovi) were not big issues, though the lower resolution screen was a bit of bummer.  The C7 is a decent lower model, but the full-focusing camera makes it not good since the ability for a camera in the phone to take picture of a whiteboard or a receipt is vital. Full focus while doing a good job with normal pics, can only focus beyond 50cm, so that means no macro at all.

While the IPhone 4 is a very appealing proposition, specially with the rich app store, the bordering arrogance (putting it mildly) of Apple on how they handle their sales put me off.   I also found from the official local agent for Apple that Apple has prohibited selling the IPhone in my country, and this is something i have not seen with any other vendor.  So off went the Apple IPhone no matter how good!

So then the option was to get into the more wilder Android market.  The Galaxy S was the choice, but with budgets, i took the Sony Ericsson X10 (yeah yeah, support is crap, no proper multi-touch, Froyo aint’  coming here……………………..) as the replacement for the Nokia N97 mini.

First impressions,

PROS

– The app store is definitely richer

– The apps are far more smoother than the N97mini. Then again this is running a processor that 2.5X of the N97 mini and has a dedicated graphic card, so i guess that not a fair comparison

– The higher no of pixels are definitely useful, as you see the difference when browsing and reading content such as pdfs, etc. Definitely a worthy improvement

– The multiple desktops, definitely helps customize the apps into groups, and the lack of restrictions on the size of the widget makes it even more neater

CONS

– Outlook sync:: NO OUTLOOK sync.  This really surprised me. Here i have synced my contacts with outlook, and were all ready to sync to find that i cannot.  The work around was messy and complex, unless you buy a commercial tool.  This is how i got around it without any special tool, but its a manual process based on reading the net and then doing some of my own experiments.  See  https://rayazmuthalif.wordpress.com/2011/01/23/syncing-up-your-contacts-from-a-nokia-phone-to-an-android/.  Quite surprising considering google must be having loads of users converting from nokia and and other phones and no having a Google tool for this is ridiculous.

– Tethering:: No built in tethering, i mean sure it supports it but its all via downloads from the market.  Things that Nokia gave free are sadly not bundled.  The sync app is super featureless, with only media transfers, and a file manager.  No wonder manufacturers love Android, their costs are  lowered in the investment on apps.

–  User Experience:: Maybe its the SE implementation but the touch interface is not smooth, i have tried the iPhone and this is no match for the iOS interface (yet).

– Usability:: who said Symbian was bad.  Just try going through the menu options on Android.  It is no good either.  Stevey J and the boys definitely have that end covered. My wife who had a time learning to use the N97MINI, simply used this and said, only for the techies, as its just to overly complex for a phone.  Can’t disagree with her on that, this is more like a desktop OS than a phone OS.

– Multimedia:: Woo.. seems like the video codec we took for granted is not available as yet for Android phones.  The Galaxy S is the first certified DIVX supported phone, which means none of the other phones have official divx support.  Add to it there is no Divx software for Androids as yet.  Seems the current Divx implementations are all software based, so expect heavy battery drain when playing Divx

– Camera:: Have you noticed that most Android camera’s have no proper flash.  The much famed Galaxy S for instance does not even have any sort of flash.  However don’ t think its because they use any great sensor, the Nokia N8 sensor rules in this arena.  The current camera capabilities are limited in Android, with very little control.  Most of what you see in the camera apps is thanks to the manufacturer, not Google Android.

– Free Apps drain power and increase data costs due to Ad download:: Apps are free on on the google app market, BUT.. a big BUT, most of them require internet connectivity to work, since they need to download ads.  This could be a no no for many users in our market since unless you buy a data package bundle you can end up with big bills.  So watch out.