After seeing press photos, dummy phones and the like, we were pleased to meet with Sony Ericsson to see and play with the XPERIA X1 in person. The Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional phone is still in the beta stages, so some of the software was cranky-- but happily the most innovative software, SE's panel user interface was up to the task.
Panels are much more interesting in person-- they're a short of replacement Today Screen (though you can get to the traditional Today screen if you wish) and are XML-based static and dynamic widgets of sorts. There's one that's dedicated to Office apps for example, and another for fun apps-- sort of like Mac OS Leopard's Spaces in concept but not in form and function. Web pages can be spaces as well-- for example there was a Google space on the XPERIA X1 we played with. Device owners aren't expected to create spaces, instead, Sony Ericsson has expanded their already strong developer program to help developers create panels for the X1 (along with cool games and other apps).
The panels certainly look slick on the XPERIA's sharp, bright and colorful widescreen 800 x 480 pixel display, and better yet, they're responsive. When selecting which panels to use and browsing through a selection they move and refresh quickly, looking a bit like the Vista program switcher and iTunes cover flow interface.
The X1 has a 3.2 megapixel camera with autofocus. Since it's Sony Ericsson, we expect the images to be good. The XPERIA has an interested autofocus-- the screen becomes a large viewfinder with a box indicating the focus area, and you can move the box to the area you wish to focus on (no need to center your subject in the frame). Very cool.
The phone looks large in photos, but looks and feels smaller in person. It feels good in the hand and has a metal casing (SE was proud of the RF engineering involved in getting good reception despite the metal case). The front-facing controls are different from other Windows Mobile phones and area relatively small. The X1 has a relatively uncommon d-pad that's optical-- slide your finger on the 1/2" x 1/2" square to navigate. Interesting.
The arc slider looks cool and puts the display at a slight angle to the keyboard, which reduces glare. The keyboard felt quite nice and usable, despite its relatively small size.
The XPERIA X1 will come out in the second half of this year, and Sony Ericsson won't yet reveal the carrier. Since SE does GSM phones, we know it will be T-Mobile or AT&T-- that's all. There are 2 versions slated- both are quad band GSM, and one will have triband 3G with the US bands (850/1900MHz) and the Euro 2100MHz band. The other will be 900/1900/2100MHz 3G. Given the US AT&T 3G bands, we're guessing AT&T will carry this phone. Alternatively, there might be an unlocked version, since Sony Ericsson has been getting into that market and selling unlocked phones at Sony Style stores. The XPERIA supports 3G in UMTS/HSDPA and HSUPA (faster than HSDPA and in early deployment here in the US by AT&T).
It will have aGPS, WiFi, Bluetooth and a touch screen. The unit we saw was very fast by Windows Mobile standards, including graphics, and Sony Ericsson attributes this to a new Qualcomm CPU that runs in excess of 500MHz. There's plenty of flash memory on board-- 400 megs and a microSD card slot.
-------------------- Lisa Gade Editor in Chief, MobileTechReview