The Sony Ericsson Xperia X8 is essentially a compromise between the capacious Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 and the pared down Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini. Essentially, it’s a phone for those who prefer their touchscreens somewhere between pocket-bulgingly big and impossibly tiny to handle. It crams in many of the same features as its Xperia stablemates, with the Timescape custom UI taking centre stage.
The Xperia X8’s main selling point is undoubtedly its cost. This is not a top end Android phone, rather it’s a mobile that aims to tout the best Android has to offer, all while cutting corners in order to drive it into the budget arena. To that end, it’s got the HTC Wildfire and the million selling LG Optimus One in its sights.
Sadly though, initial explorations are not good. The Xperia X8 we tested was stranded on the ancient Android 1.6 platform, first released in the summer of 2009 and since outdated four times over by ever more intuitive upgrades. This isn’t down to it being a budget blower.
The flagship X10 suffered from the same fate until recently and LG’s Optimus One has been shipping with Android 2.2 FroYo since September. Sony Ericsson has said an upgrade is coming this year, but frankly it’s not good enough when key rivals already offer better software as standard.
It all means things feel a tad sluggish and outdated. There’s no unified mailbox, Google Goggles is missing and the keyboard, while assured, is not a patch on Android 2.x’s iPhone-bashing effort. Things are not helped by Timescape, which clouds the Android experience. The four corner UI on the homescreen is handy though, letting you easily dive into music, contacts, messages and the keypad without fiddling with menu systems.
Sony Ericsson Xperia X8: Screen
The screen itself is pretty sharp, albeit the resolution is a tad on the low side. It’s remarkably responsive for such a budget phone, although tapping out text requires plenty of care and attention, with spelling mistakes and errant punctuation a key issue. This can be ironed out by a simple Android update, however.
The Timescape function is great for aggregating your social networking contacts, bringing together complete info on what your pals are up to in one place. It all works seamlessly, if a little slowly, and does mean you don’t have to handle separate Facebook and Twitter accounts if you don’t want. However, you can’t help but feel this feature really holds the phone back when it comes to speed.
Sony Ericsson Xperia X8: Browser and battery
The browser is workable and renders pages well, but with no pinch-to-zoom, delving into web pages is not ideal. This is something that other cheap Android phones manage and its MIA status is again down to Sony Ericsson’s failure to use a more up-to-date version of Android. We also found the Wi-Fi a bit wobbly, the X8 failing to pick up our broadband connection despite being next to the router and our PC working dandy on the network.
Battery is pretty neat though. We squeezed two full days of browsing, calling, app buying and snapping in before we had to head off and find some juice. That’s not bad in these days of resource depleting smartphones.
The camera is none too bad either, even if it’s stripped right back to 3.15 megapixels and lacks a flash. There are easy to tap into shooting modes and shots appear colourful, if a little noisy, in good light. However, if you want take pics of your pals at night, we suggest taking out a compact or getting a different phone altogether. Uploading to Facebook and Picasa is a breeze and can be done with just one touch, clearly showing Sony Ericsson knows how to get some things right with its Google phones.
It’s hard to recommend the Xperia X8, however. The LG Optimus One offers more for less, as does the excellent, if slightly ageing HTC Wildfire. If you want Android on a budget, we suggest you look elsewhere.
Sony Ericsson Xperia X8 release date: Out now, find out more from Sony Ericsson
Sony Ericsson Xperia X8 price: From £130 sim free.