What's Good: The X10 mini is speedy and lag-free, and is a cool device in a sea of huge superphones.
What's Bad: The screen resolution isn't great (given the size of the device), and battery life is short.
The Verdict: The Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini is a neat niche device that works quite well, but beware of the short battery life.
If there's a push towards large devices, there should be a push toward small ones, right? That's the thinking behind Sony Ericsson's X10 mini, shown off at CTIA in March and available unlocked from SonyStyle.com. Instead of a 4-inch display, it offers a minuscule 2.55-inch display in a package that's smaller than a pack of gum. It's so small that when I unboxed it for the first time, my first thought was "this belongs in Zoolander." That being said, the large devices have established themselves in the marketplace, so conventional logic would tell you that the small devices would find a footing as well. As one of the first in the newly created "tiny" category, is the X10 mini worth considering?
Design & Features
The Sony Ericsson X10 mini is 3.26 inches tall by 1.97 inches wide by 0.64 inch thick, and it weighs 3.11 ounces. Not only does it fit perfectly in the pocket, but I confused it for gum and my car's key fob during testing. It offers a 2.55-inch display, so those that have visual impairments may want to look elsewhere. Simply put, it's tiny, especially when compared to the "superphones" on the market today.
True to its name, the X10 mini is small, so there are few exterior buttons. The right side of the device sports a volume rocker and a camera shortcut, and the top side of the device houses the power button. Flip it around, and you'll notice the 5.0-megapixel camera and flash on the back. Sony offers quite a bit in the X10 mini's box. In addition to the phone and built-in battery, you get a 2 GB microSD card, five rear covers in addition to the pre-installed black one (red, green, white, grey, and pink), AC adapter, USB cable, and a stereo headset.
Usability & Performance
The XPERIA X10 mini ships with a custom version of Android 1.6 to accommodate the small screen. Since I'm used to using Android 2.1 (and 2.2) on a regular basis, I was expecting to be a bit frustrated by having to go back. Despite the tiny stature and outdated Android build, the X10 mini is quite snappy and was a pleasure to use. I never experienced any lag (a departure from the unlocked XPERIA X10 I tested earlier in the year), and though the user interface is a bit watered down versus the regular Android build, I was very pleased with how it looked. Power users will be frustrated, but first-time smartphone buyers should find a lot to like in the phone.
The X10 mini offers a customized T9-esque touchscreen keyboard that works well given the size of the phone. It's certainly not for those that type on a regular basis (I'd hate to compose a full e-mail on it), but works just fine for the occasional message. If the form factor appeals to you but you need the full QWERTY keyboard, have a look at the X10 mini pro, the mini's older brother.
Offering a 5.0-megapixel camera with a flash, the X10 mini's picture quality was very good. Editing options are scant, but you do get four scene modes (auto, macro, twilight, and sports) and the option to turn the flash on and off. Video recording was also decent, and you're given the choice of recording for an extended time or recording for MMS.
Though I've been using an AT&T SIM card, the X10 mini is available unlocked with support for GSM in the 850, 900, 1800, and 1900 MHz bands, and 3G in the 850, 1900, and 2100 MHz bands. AT&T works well in the Charlotte area, and working with the X10 mini was no exception. Call quality was good, and when I took it to an AT&T dead zone in the Charlotte area, I was able to maintain the call despite some choppiness. The earpiece is incredibly loud for a small device (to the point that I was surprised), and callers were able to hear me without a problem. The X10 mini's speakerphone is also quite loud, and when testing it with all of my windows down, I was able to understand AT&T's customer service prompts.
As I said above, the X10 mini supports AT&T's 3G bands in the US, so I had a good data experience. Pages loaded relatively quickly, and my usual arsenal of news applications worked well. The tiny keyboard made it frustrating to enter long webpage URLs, but overall speed was good. The mobile CNN homepage loaded in about nine seconds, and PhoneDog's page loaded in about 28 seconds. On the speed front, it's on par with other 3G smartphones in AT&T's lineup, but the screen size prohibits comfortable web browsing. For the most part, anything beyond WAP browsing on the X10 mini could be frustrating.
Given the size of the device, the battery life isn't the best in the world. The 930 mAh battery offers 3.5 hours of talk time, and 15 days of standby time. With moderate use including calling, text messaging, and browsing the web, I was able to get about 3/4 of a day of use out of the device. Since the battery itself is so small, short battery life is to be expected, but it could be a frustration for those that travel on a regular basis. If you're interested in the X10 mini and are frequently out of the office, I'd recommend a car charger.
I like the X10 mini solely because it bucks the trend of giant, 4+-inch devices and is proof that if we can have big devices on the market, then we can have equally tiny devices. Having used the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 and X10 mini, I prefer the X10 mini. It's thin, light, and since it falls into the "small category," it's excluded from the "has to have Android 2.1, a big screen, and lots of power" mantra that's been defining wireless innovation this summer. It's not going to appeal to the power user, but for those looking for a unique device, the X10 mini could be the perfect device.
Have a look at the picture gallery below!