I got some time to check out Sony Ericsson's forthcoming flagship smartphone, the Xperia X1, here at CTIA and also got a thorough demo from an SE representative. You can actually check out the demo captured in full video for your enjoyment.
On the whole I'm pretty excited for this device to ship, though a bit concerned about the still somewhat vague "second half of 2008" availability SE's tell folks about. SE has something of a tarnished reputation when it comes to long delays between the launch and ship dates for their high end devices. Hopefully the X1's ship date won't slip much beyond this Summer - early Q3 is still second half of the year, right?
That being said, the demo I saw of the X1's panels system was visually impressive and pretty responsive to the touch, and I liked hearing that SE just announced they'll be opening up the panels system to developers. Panels can be static HTML pages that link out to Web content or they can be mini-apps, and so it seems there's a lot of potential for interesting uses of the system. Honestly I'm not sure what Panels offer that standard shortcut links don't, beyond some cool eye candy, but I'm intrigued.
I also was intrigued by the "touch focus" system I saw on X1's camera. Granted, the camera wasn't actually working on the demo unit (SE stressed that the X1s on hand at CTIA are running "early, early versions of the software"), but the idea is very impressive: launch the camera, frame your shot, and then pick an area to center your focus on by tapping it on the touch display. Very cool.
As SE put it, X1 will come "fully loaded" with HSPA (for up and downlink), WiFi, and Quad-Band EDGE connectivity. The device felt solid in hand, with a heft edging towards flat-out heavy but not quite tipping the scales that far. The arc slider is a nice touch that puts the display in an ever so slightly easier-to-read position than your standard slider, and the QWERTY keypad features subtly beveled keys meant to make typing easier.
It's way too early to pass judgment on the X1 given the non-complete state of the software. We'll also have to see just how big a sticker price SE slaps on this thing - they said it'll be positioned "at the high end of our portfolio," which I'm thinking means $600+. The good news is they are in talks with US operators about carrying the device, which could lower the after contract price substantially.
If you watch the video of the demo, you'll see me kiddingly offer to trade my iPhone "on the spot" for an X1. I was only half-kidding. On paper and in its current semi-functional state the Xperia X1 really does seem to be fully loaded. Part phone, part high-speed Internet terminal, part multimedia machine, and part extendable mobile computer, the X1 is an exciting device worth keeping an eye on. Price, ship date, and just what the final software will look like are still x-factors to some degree at this point. Here's hoping that SE's learned from the problems that plagued some of their P- and M-series smartphones and is able to get the X1 to market quickly and with software that's as polished as the hardware ready to run it.