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!”