Sony Ericsson held a global press conference yesterday to officially unveil their web-based episodical thriller (alright, they called them Webisodes) “Who is Johhny X?” and talk to us some more about the Xperia X1 smartphone.
The first two “webisodes” (there are nine all together, see what they did there? Nine home screen panels on the X1, nine webisodes) seemed well produced and of high quality. The storyline, however, is nothing new. Man wakes up with amnesia, man checks into hotel, man goes out and buys a new phone (predictably enough, the Xperia X1). Anyway, I suspect you don’t actually care about the webisodes as much as you do the handset, and if I’m wrong, you’ll soon be able to check them out for yourself at http://www.whoisjohnny-x.com/.
Since the event was being filmed in a room down the corridor from where we were watching inside the trendy members club The Hospital, we had the chance to get “hands-on” with senior product manager Magnus Andersson, who showed us his X1 handsets which he described as “The best of the best from Sony Ericsson”.
One of the major concerns from our last hands-on experience with the Xperia X1 was that the software was far too slow and this was something I was keen to see remedied in the retail units that Magnus was sporting. Unfortunately, after the briefest of fondles, not a lot seems to have changed. I counted a good 3 seconds between pressing the hardware “panels” button and the actual panel selection screen popping up and the 3D transitions between the panels themselves ran at a very poor frame rate. On the subject of those panels, for those that missed our video hands-on in episode 24 of the MIR show; the handset features a Sony Ericsson customised version of Windows Mobile that can switch between nine different “home screens” that I’ve heard SE reps refer to as panels or desktops interchangeably. In their demos Sony Ericsson is making a massive deal out of these panels but all three of the people I’ve spoken to who use a pre-release X1, including Magnus Andersson himself, admitted that they only used a couple of panels.
The handset itself is a very nice bit of kit and feels very solid and well built with a high quality slide mechanism (all the new Sony Ericsson sliders are blessed with very nice slide mechanisms) but for mobile geeks like us we know that it’s been widely reported that the X1 hardware is actually manufactured by HTC and with an off the shelf OS like Windows Mobile the only Sony Ericsson “innovation” with this handset (aside from some project management) seems to be the panel interface and the nifty media player based on the XMB interface (the same interface used in the PS3 and PSP games consoles). Speaking of HTC, I asked about their involvement in designing and building the product but was told that, while Sony Ericsson has relationships with hardware vendors, they don’t discuss them publicly.
This response seemed to be a trend as someone else asked if the X1 signaled the end of the P series (P800, P900, P910 etc) only to be told that Sony Ericsson doesn’t talk about future product lines.
However, despite my initial negative tone, I do think that this handset has a lot of appeal. If you’re already happy with a Windows Mobile handset and are looking to upgrade then you’re already familiar with the speed quirks of other Windows Mobile handsets and the Xperia X1 may very well turn out to be the best Windows Mobile device on the market, at least for a few months after it’s release. The same goes for those of you still using a P900/P800 series handset who don’t mind losing your UIQ software to upgrade to the next logical step in Sony Ericsson’s business device range. The media functionality isn’t really going to draw any buyers by itself, I can’t see anyone in their right mind looking at the iPhone next to the X1 and choosing the X1 unless they have a very strong aversion to Apple or the iPhone carrier of choice in their country.
We hope to have a review unit soon which we’ll thrust into the hands of various members of the MIR team to get their viewpoints but it won’t be long before you can get your own hands on the Xperia X1 as Sony Ericsson have announced the release date as the 30th of September in the UK, Germany and Sweden with further territories being announced in the coming months. Of course, we don’t know what the cost will be or even if any of their operator partners will be releasing the handset on the same day and, predictably, Sony Ericsson doesn’t publicly discuss wholesale pricing or operator release dates.