Going by the hits on our site, you’re eager for part two of the Sony Ericsson Xperia arc review! Well, after having some time to properly play with the phone it’s now possible to give a verdict…
At the start of the year, it quickly became clear that 2011 will be the year where devices will get slimmed down, repeating similar battles in the late 90s with 2G handsets. Sony Ericsson’s Xperia arc is 8.7mm thick, with LG close behind with 9.2mm for the Optimus Black. Samsung has since entered the game with the 8.5mm thick (or thin) Galaxy S II. Even Apple’s iPad 2 hints that the next iPhone will likely shed the pounds.
The other thing for 2011 is dual-core processors and faster graphics. The arc doesn’t have a dual-core processor, but it does have a newer version of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processor than the original X10. Sony Ericsson insists that it’s still going to give other handsets a run for their money, especially when dual-core processors are some way off from realising their full potential.
Combined with the slimline design, the arc is incredibly sleek but the plastic cover raises the question of how strong the phone is going to be if you, say, accidentally sit down with it in your back pocket. The phone has a toughened screen, but the bulk of the phone is plastic and the battery cover is definitely a weak point, although at least it didn’t creak when given a good firm grip.
As a result of being so thin, the keys around the edges have to be small too. The volume is controlled by rocking a small button, while the power button requires a precise and firm press to lock. For unlocking, you can alternatively press the home key, which is more convenient to find than fumbling around along the top.
The micro-USB charging socket is no longer covered, and moved to the right hand side to allow the HDMI socket to take its place on the top. It’s much better here, allowing for easier connecting and disconnecting of the USB/power cable without the need to pick open the cover. A small LED to the side shows the charging status. On the top left is the obligatory 3.5mm headphone jack.
There’s also a dedicated camera button, which is a rarity on handsets these days, but it’s tiny. It also needs an incredibly firm press to activate initially and operate when taking pictures, which means that you have to hold the phone very tightly and ensure you’re not then covering the camera sensor, or touching the screen itself.
When shooting video, you’ll find it near impossible not to shake the camera when pressing the button to start and stop recording.
On the front, there are three keys for back, home and menu, missing out the search key that can prove so useful in a myriad of apps. The Xperia PLAY managed to get one, so it’s a rather surprising omission. Sony Ericsson has also retained two LEDs that point at you from between the keys gaps, although this time they’re not as bright. I have as little idea on why they exist now as I did when the X10 was released.
On the back of the phone is a very minimalist design with the camera pushed over to the far edge of the phone, on the right hand side. A LED lamp sits above and to the left. Further in from the right is a second microphone, used to improve video recording and reduce background noise by comparing noise with the voice picked up by the primary mic.
By switching to a taller screen, Sony Ericsson has been able to shoehorn an impressive 4.2-inch capacitive screen into the arc without making it wider than the X10. However, it has grown in height, but that’s the price you pay for such a big screen. Sony Ericsson will be hoping the decrease in depth will more than compensate.
You also get more pixels, as the screen can now display 480×854 pixels, which is 54 pixels more than most phones (Motorola being the other company to use these screens). It certainly makes a difference and if you’re worried it is in any way non-standard and might limit the availability of apps, or introduce compatibility problems, don’t be. The screen is placed in the same category as 480×800 pixel screens from a developers point of view, so everything will work fine.