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Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc Review Part 2 – where it fails!

on June 7, 2011 – 6:10 pm13 Comments

If you have read the first part of my Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc review, you have seen that there is a lot to like about the Arc. Be it the super thin body, the very good camera, the probably best LCD display i have seen in quite some time, or the up-to-date Android, I am sure the Arc will appeal to a lot of people and sell quite well. However, as you know from my reviews, where there is good stuff, there will be bad as well, and after 2 weeks of day-by-day usage, i unfortunately have to come up with some things i wasn’t so happy about! So let’s cut right to it, shall we?

Build Quality: And holy smokes, this is a big one already! In the past months and years, i have trialed and used a lot of smartphones, in a variety of shapes, forms and materials. I cannot remember the last time I have used a phone that was a badly built as the Sony Ericsson Arc. The phone is ultra-thin, but unfortunately the materials used, do not supply a safe feeling when using it. The plastic feels rather cheap, the battery cover is extremely thin and can be bent quite easily, as can the whole phone. The 3 physical buttons feel rather funny, giving a wobbly feedback when being pressed. On the side of the phone, the camera button, while being easy to focus, needs some more pressure when actually shooting the pic, which can result in some movement in your snapshot. The On/Off button gives the same funny feeling and needs a lot more pressure, as there is a lot of give.

What ultimately shocked me though, was the battery back cover. This one reaches over the whole back, with an ultra-slippery material without any texture at all. I don’t know about you, but i like some texture/more grippy materials on back covers, so the phone actually feels save in your hand while handling it. It is also very thin (obviously) and can be bent with ease. With that being said, when closed there is a slight give, providing an uncomfortable feel and giving creaking noises sometimes. I am not joking here, but i believe that if there will be too much pressure applied, the phone can be broken in half. I will not try this, but i believe this is very much possible. Scary. Very.

Sony Ericssons Android UI: I have tried, really. But while it might look fine to some people, it just doesn’t work for me. The problem i have, is that Sony Ericsson tried to be very pretty, at the expense of actual functionality. There are some things you’ll end up scratching your head about:

  • Why won’t the facebook app open when i tap on an update on Timescape? Apart from that, it still takes a long time to actually load in all content and at times, even was buggy.
  • Why are the widgets all so big and/or in such awkward sizes? The SE own settings control widget takes up a 3×2 space on the screen? Plus some 1×1 sized one? gah. really confusing.
  • Why is there no ultra-useful predictive dialing? It should be law, that every Android version and UI has this out of the box. Kudos to HTC and Samsung for doing just that!
  • Why do I have to switch to another keyboard layer, just to enter numbers instead of longpress? You literally have to switch for everything. Swype for the rescue!

Android works pretty good on the Xperia Arc in general, and Sony Ericsson had some good ideas too, but it isn’t my favourite Android UI even if my life depends on it!

Button Chaos: One thing i wanna make clear first: I like physical buttons. But with the buttons on the Arc it’s a rather different story. First, there’s the awkward feedback you get when pressing them, as mentioned above. Secondly, Sony Ericsson has decided to ditch the search button. And while we see other brands doing the same, I question that decision. The search button has become a very handy friend of mine, being implemented in a lot of apps already, making search operations as easy as butter a bread. Yes, the apps have a search function integrated, still i’m kinda missing the physical version. Third, what in the hell went wrong with the arrangement? Why did they have to switch positions?  The back-button on the left side, while all the other brands have it on the right? Very weird, and after using so many other Android phones, it’s very confusing! Oh and one more thing: The only light you get for the three physical buttons, is BETWEEN them. Not the buttons itself, not the symbols above them. Readability in the dark? Zero. Well done SE. Not.

Notification LED on the side: A notification LED is always a nice thing to have, especially when it’s a multi color one. Not having to touch the device while at work f.e., and instantly knowing what’s going on, very cool. But then again, I don’t know about you, but having a nofication LED on the side is a bit like having Keira Knightley in your bed and sleeping on the couch. (Yes, that was my inner Jeremy Clarkson)

No HDMI adapter: Yes, the Arc supports HDMI out, via the micro-USB port. Knowing that, and being used to some Nokia devices, you find yourself looking for an adapter without success. SE has decided to not put any kind of adapter in the box. I rarely connect my smartphones to my TV, so it’s not a big deal for me personally, but I can see a lot of people who might be upset by this decision. Would it cost that much to pack one in there, so the user is at least ready to go?

As usual, all of the above, and in my first part mentioned points are my personal observations and impressions. Those points may be completely irrelevant for you, or maybe you find something you agree with!

Verdict: It’s a love-hate thing, this Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc. It’s kinda Sony said “okay, we have some of the good stuff in, now let’s safe time and money on everything else”. You would expect the Arc to be a safe recommendation for everyone. After all it has one of the best cameras inside on any Android phone, equipped with an 8 megapixel sensor and it’s Exmor R technology. Hobby video filmers will be pleased with the 720p HD video recording function and a nicely working autofocus. There’s also this surprisingly good 4,2″ Super LCD screen with the Bravia Engine inside, leading the ranks of all LCD screens. With the up-to-date Android 2.3 on board, packed in a super slim 8,7mm body, it seems like Sony Ericsson has learned from past mistakes and really went into town with the Arc. Unfortunately, that’s not completely the case, which becomes clear when first touching the device. The Xperia Arc suffers from a dreadful material choice, with a plastic that feels extremely cheap and slippery. Combine this with a rather questionable Android UI and some chaotic hardware flaws, and you’ll end up with the same thought I’m currently having: “It’s nice, but not what I’ve expected!”

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Michael Hell, certified geek, mobile jedi, amateur photographer, music addict. Down to earth and always up for new challenges. Also blogging on www.michaelxhell.com, which is my private blog for things like Photography and personal things :) Feel free to add me on http://twitter.com/michaelxhell or http://www.facebook.com/michaelxhell

  • dr subham

    buddy i have the hdmi cble in my box already…..nd a 16gb class 4 sd card and a leather cover also

    • Michael Hell

      really? apparently depends on the market then, OR some things were missing from my trial unit

      • Diwils

        I agree 100% on this review and I would say more. The screen is the worst I have owned among all the smartphones I have had. Both for visibility and for the response. I have this awful cell for a few days and I am going to sell it as soon as possible. It got on my nerves more than any other one. I have had a Samsung Wave, a Samsung Galaxy S and a Nexus S and all three are wonderful compared to this piece of cheap stuff. 

        Why did I change then? Because when I had the Wave I wanted Android with big screen for internet uses and other useful apps missing in Bada. Then I got the Galaxy S and although I was satisfied I wanted a camera with flash and got tempted by the Nexus S, which happens to have a poor camera (my bad I know) and not so good music. I read about the Arc as having it all, a great camera, great sound, flash, android, big screen…

        When I had it in my hands I thought… what is this piece of plastic crap that looks cheap in every sense? But I went ahead. At home I needed 30 minutes to be sick of the Arc. All plugs and buttons are placed in the wrong place. Absurd in every sense. then those 3 tiny little cheap buttons that you cant reach with your thumb when you use one only hand. Then the AWFUL and HORRIBLE design of Sony Ericsson. Ugly in every sense. From the icons to the panels to the widgets to the menus. And then when using it it fails in response to touch more than any phone I have seen. Lots of fails and pressing the icons a hundred times resembling the famous Agry German Kid hitting his computer keyboard.

        Then the camera and its awful button at the very corner. When you press it to shoot the photo, it moves!. Amazing! It can make good photos but you really have to work hard on it and train even where you place your left fingers so you wont cover the lens. The music quality is good but not as good as the one in the Samsung Wave, which is still the best out there. Then you have the lack of Swype and the difficulties to install it (absurd in Gingerbread).

        The list goes on and on. All together,, this is the worst phone I have had. The most complete, true, but cheap as a cheap electronics device made in a hurry from a third class unknown cheap company in Asia.

        (Oh, I forgot to mention that it is the DIRTIEST phone I have seen. It gets dirty and disgusting in minutes with your fingerprints, dust, etc, and IT IS NOT elegant or stylish at all. Once in your hands it just looks cheap and bad, not classy).

        DONT BUY IT!  

    • Leonardo

      My Xperia Arc is made in Brazil and it also comes with hdmi cable and 16gb sd card… but there was no leather cover in my box.

  • Deeps

    I entirely agree to the comments… I have been using the SE arc for 6 weeks now. In the first week itself, despite handling it with utmost care the phone just slipped off my hands and have cracked the display. SE could have done with sturdier material especially for a such high end handset. Now i dont even know if i can get this replaced easily. I have used the Samsung galaxy S and anyday would recommend that over SE….. Overall disappointed with SE as all the small feel good features are missing, and extremely delicate.

    • Michael Hell

      i agree with you here. like f.e., make the chrome arround the phone from aluminium, the whole phone would feel a LOT different.

  • Kaushik

    I entirely agree with the above comments.

    Other issues i find or difficult

    With more app the phone hangs a lot.In between app many times it stop functioning.

    Timespace is useless it does not function in most app and hangs /stop etc SE has to seriously look into it.
    Many Android app are not movable to external memory Internal Memory issues are there.
    As mentioned camera ON /OFF problem No indication of video recording.
    Phone Dailing also not comfortable.
    Make more user friendly.

    • Michael Hell

      thanks for your comments. i think the apps not being movable to SD, is more an android issue, rather than SE. and yes, Timescape is not really good. they should scrap it entirely, i for example am not using it at all

  • Rahul

    Where this review fails:
    1. Bendability of the back cover makes the phone less prone to breaking. Not the other way round
    2. My Arc came with a HDMI cable in the box.
    3. It has a dedicated HDMI port
    4. When you tap a facebook tile in Timescape it opens the app( in 2.3.3)
    5. I’m sure its really hard to remember the location of 3 whole buttons. Back, Home, Menu.. omg that’s too many to remember

    • http://www.fonearena.com Varun Krish

      Looks like you love your Arc :)

    • Michael Hell

      1. that doesnt take away from the fact that the whole phone feels breakable, and it’s from extremely bad material.
      2. as i said in one of the comments before, that might depend on the region, or something was missing from my test unit. sorry for that, will talk to SE and correct if neccessary.
      3. yes it has, i never said anything different?
      4. it did not for me.
      5. obviously you didn’t read my entire review. If you had many android phones before, SE is the only i’ve had so far, who switched positions. Apart from that, its not only the arrangement, its just the whole button thing is a huge mess.

      it seems clear to me, that you have the arc and quite like it. And it’s not a bad phone really, it sure has some very good qualities in my opinion. It all depends on your taste i guess, but for me the negative stuff was just too much.

  • Leonardo

    I can’t understand why SE do not include HDMI adapter cable on trial units. Apparently all reviews experienced the same issue. in a few cases, when the review was made using someone’s particular phone, not a trial one, the information is that hdmi cable comes in the box. I never read about someone who bought the phone and there was no hdmi cable in the box, I think the correct information is that in fact the phone comes with hdmi cable, but sony ericsson do not include it for trial units, but SE is the only responsible for this missunderstood. Anyway, most reviews added this explanation later in order to provide the most accurate information. By the way, I’m another victim of the soap phone. Its so.slippery that It felt from my hands twice while cleaning it, one of them the phone escaped really fast up before fall, I believe it felt from 1,60m hitting the naked ceramic floor. And I have to say I was very surprised when I realized there was no damage or scratch on any part of the phone. It felt so fast that I could not see wich part hit the floor first, maybe it was not the front. The back plastic cover and the battery were laying some cm away from the phone on both accidents. The cheap back plastic cover is so thin that really makes it very flexible and must support impacts better than hard glass like the mineral glass display, but you can bend it like a paper. Its so thin and light thar if it felt alone from a building pobably would fly and reach the floor like a parachute. Hard plastic or even gorilla glass would be shattered. Soft materials are easily scratched, but may absorb impacts much better than hard ones. Anyway, the display is mineral glass and it will shatter just like any others if suffer strong impacts, it’s not an advantage have such kind of plastic cover in this case. If it felt, suffering high impact, the screen will break and it’s much more expensive. Unless luckily it hits the back first, so maybe the screen survives, like happened to me. A glass cover would break. On daily usage, the plastic will scratch on common situations where glass and metal would resist. I can say the phone is much more resistant than it seems to be, but the real matter is the fact that it’s so slippery that it will be much more exposed to the risk of suffer an accident, obviously will have a lot of opportunities to break before others. It would be different if the back cover was matte or maybe rubber, or at least if the chrome finish arround it was brushed metal, less slippery. I left mine felt twice in a month. My old nokia N76, despite it’s even worst finishing, only felt like this 3 times on 2 years. Well… At least we can already find new displays for a hundred bucks at ebay, covers and lots of ugly silicone cases, some of them, usually mesh ones, are not that bad and will prevent it from slip and protect it without cover the hole phone. But it doesn’t corret SE mistake, only minimize the problem to people who already bought it, just like the Apple antennagate and the need of a case to make calls. This one can do anything without a case, if you are very carefully and sitted on your bed, otherwise it may need a case to survive…

  • http://www.BINKUpg.tk Binku.pg

    Good one!!!

    But I disagree with some. Arc comes with a HDMI cable and it does have a mini HDMI port. Thus, I didn’t have to invest for a HDMI cable. Of course, Watching a video clip on my TV was one of first thing I did when I got the phone. 

    About UI, I agree. Sony Ericsson updated some widgets on 2.3.3 update. But blah, I use Go Luncher instead. LED placement is not much deal. I like that way.

    Who wants to use Timescaple stuff and drain battery faster? I don’t even enable much auto-upating stuff. Timescaple is Sony Ericsson’s marketing trick for their Androids (even it works for some). 

    What you missed: Xperia arc hardly play some 720p BluRip movies larger than 1.5GB (and which are larger than (+1000)x(+1000); On Mobo Player with Subtitles and HDMI connected (without HDMI it plays with lags). Blame single core hardware. -__-

    The other thing is Speaker placement and plastic screen (even with screen protector from factory).

    I love my phone than I did for my iPhones. at least it also got T-coil (Canadian version) and TTY to assist me.