It may not be among the dual-core, 4G superphones that have raised the bar these days, but even nine months after we learned of the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc at CES, its specifications are strong and its in-hand use satisfying.
The smartphone's sleek, slim build, rich 4.2-inch touch screen, current Android 2.3 Gingerbread OS, and generous 8.1-megapixel camera don't hurt, and we won't deny that it's a pretty phone to behold. Of course, specs can only get you so far. At the end of the day, the unlocked price puts the Xperia Arc far beyond most people's range, and there's already an update model waiting in the wings, the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S, which is sure to please. Still, this Xperia Arc is a quality device in its own right, despite some flaws.
The Xperia Arc comes in Midnight Blue and Misty Silver; we reviewed it in blue.
There's no shortage of shiny black Android phones, but Sony Ericsson has once again worked its magic to make its design look fresh, clean, and interesting, and very Sony Ericsson in style. Worked entirely in plastic, the Xperia Arc nevertheless manages to keep from looking like a cheap toy. Sharp corners (perhaps a tad too sharp for some) combine with the illusion of contouring on the phone's thin, slightly flared sides to good effect.
The Xperia Arc measures 4.9 inches tall by 2.5 inches wide by 0.3 inch thick and weighs 4.1 ounces, which is neither too heavy nor too light. Much of the phone's face goes to its 4.2-inch TFT LED-backlit LCD display, which supports 16.7 million colors and a 854x480-pixel Reality Display resolution. The result is a clear, crisp display that uses Sony's mobile Bravia engine to create rich color and sharply rendered text.
We have to say, fancy rendering engines aside, Samsung's Super AMOLED Plus screen still takes the cake as far as we're concerned. When you hold the Samsung Galaxy S II and the Xperia Arc side by side, the Reality Display looks duller and more washed out, though it's still good on its own merits.
Over the years, manufacturers have made a case for skinning Android, and Timescape argues it well. Socialites will appreciate the (optional and movable) home screen widget that lets you see Twitter and Facebook updates, e-mail, and text messages on a stack of virtual index cards. We love the way the custom interface anchors three program shortcuts to the media folder located in the Xperia Arc's navigation bar. This makes it easy to access the photo gallery, the music player, and the FM radio. You can also create new home screen folders as you would on the iPhone, by dragging and dropping app icons on top of one another. Being able to sort the contents of the app tray not just alphabetically, but by favorites, install date, and manual preference is a nice touch.
Below the display, three narrow physical buttons inscribe a shallow arc; these take you Back and Home and open the menu. Thin as they are, the silvery buttons are very responsive and nice to use.
You'll find the Micro-USB charging port on the right spine, along with an indicator light for incoming messages, an overly short volume rocker, and a too-small camera shutter button. The sparse left spine is home to the 3.5mm headset jack. Up top are the dedicated HDMI-out port behind a cover, and a circular power button--also small enough to make it hard to press. On the back are the camera lens and LED flash. Below the back cover is where you'll find the microSD card slot. The phones come with an 8GB memory card already loaded and ready to go.
You're guaranteed a number of features with any Android smartphone: an address book size limited only by your storage capacity, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS support, and of course texting, multimedia messaging, and support for multiple e-mail accounts. You can read more about Android Gingerbread's expanded features here.
In addition to the communication essentials, Android brings ready access to a number of Google services, such as Gmail, Google Maps, turn-by-turn audio navigation, Google News, Google Places, and YouTube.