Just as everyone of us is unique, so are our usage patterns. Before I continue, let me establish my usage pattern so that you can make a judgment concerning your future experience with the Xperia arc should you decide to pick one up. Since I am on an unlimited data plan, I leave my 3G connection on round the clock, having the phone synchronized to both my Face book accounts. Entertainment-wise, I listen to around 20 minutes of songs each day on average, deal with around 10 text messages and double that amount for emails in terms of reading and replying. Photo taking is minimal, limited to around 5 or so shots each day – mainly during meals. Apart from that, I do make conversation for around 20 minutes each day. This review will be based on my usage pattern, so depending on how you push your phone, mileage may vary.
The Xperia arc S does not disappoint in this aspect, as it comes in a lightweight form factor that clearly sets it apart from the competition. I was quite surprised at its weight at first, sometimes checking my pocket to see if it is still there or not. To access the SIM card slot and battery is a simple affair of removing the back cover – which by the way, does feel too plastic for my liking. It lacks the seriousness of a business phone, but then again, it was positioned for a more multimedia-centric audience. The power button is at the top left hand corner, while volume controls and a physical shutter button are within easy reach at all times. I do question the reason for placing the 3.5mm headphone jack on the left hand side of the phone – it is an unorthodox move and an inconvenient one, as most people would slip their phones into their pocket vertically instead of horizontally. Other than that, the way the screen blends into the overall design is worth taking note, making this one of the more physically attractive smartphones out there.
Calls and texting
Since this is not a unibody design and there is far more plastic than metal in its exterior construction, you need not worry about poor call quality when holding the phone without a protective case. So far, I did not experience any dropped calls to date, while text messaging proved to be a breeze as well. The Sony Ericsson user interface for Android does take some getting used to if you had experienced UIs on other Android phones, so you might find yourself taking one or two more taps than usual to access a particular contact, but this is not a make or break decision. I would recommend you install Swype on any Android smartphone that has no physical keyboard as until now, it is one of the fastest ways to get you message or email typed out. Texts are threaded, making it easier to follow the conversation with each contact, as is the trend these days.
Sony Ericsson prides themselves in the camera segment where smartphones are concerned, and I must say that the Xperia arc S’ 8-megapixel shooter is of the above average stock. I was treated to the Exmor experience, where this enclosed box that simulates a low light environment showcases the strength of the camera in low light conditions. When compared to my HTC Sensation that shot a pitch black image, the Xperia arc S managed a decent image of an Android figurine. With adequate lighting, the Exmor sensor shines through again with nearly zero shutter lag when you tap on the display to shoot an image, although you can also use the physical shutter button if you want to. It does panorama sweep shots in both 2D and 3D – the former works great, but I did not try the latter as I have no 3D HDTV to begin with.
As for video capture, it does the job in pretty much the same way as other high end Android phones, although you won’t get Full HD resolution as it Macedonia out at 720p. Definitely not a big deal, because if you truly want 1080p videos, you are far better off with a dedicated camcorder.
Other than being your standard communications device, this puppy also sports Bluetooth 2.1 connectivity, Wi-Fi support as well as the ability to turn this into a portable hotspot, a mini USB port to let you charge and transfer your data, and HDMI, which would come in handy to share your photos and videos with others in the room on a big screen. The other use would be to do your work, i.e. type a document with the display being output to a HDTV, as you hook the Xperia arc S to a wireless keyboard for fast and easy typing.
While this is definitely not music-centric like the Walkman range, the default music program does the job well with all the basics like playlist management and cover art thrown in. As for video playback, this is where the display quality shines, as Sony’s Bravia engine has been miniaturized for smartphone use to produce more vivid images and movement. You can squeeze in around 4.5 to 5 hours worth of video playback before requiring to make a trip to the nearest power outlet, which is pretty decent by smartphone standards.
I managed to eke out around 18 hours of juice from the Xperia arc S each day, making it on par with other high end Android handsets. I suppose with a built-in light sensor, things could have been better, making me wonder why it lacks this feature as manually adjusting the brightness can be quite a hassle each time. If you really want to make the battery last, turn off 3G, use Wi-Fi whenever possible and disable haptic feedback as well as lower the brightness settings to below average, that ought to see you push it to a day and a half or so in terms of normal usage.
If you want something hip, happening and light from the Android camp, then burning a USD 600 hole in your pocket for the Xperia arc S is worth the money. Sure, there is no 3D display to boast of, but it does its job well enough while looking sleek to maintain your yuppie image among your peers.