The Xperia Arc is a premium Google Android handset by Sony Ericsson that’s built to compete with the likes of HTC’s Incredible S and the Samsung-Google co-branded Nexus S cell phones.
Though dual-core devices like Samsung’s Galaxy S II and HTC’s Sensation are almost upon the Indian market, the Arc and its ilk are currently the best Android phones available worldwide.
The Arc is a stylish phone that’s impressively slim. The curved back is well designed and fits comfortably in the hands. Wrapping your fingers around the phone is as comfortable as curling them around your favourite pint of beer. The fact that we don’t say that about most cell phones says a lot about this Xperia.
The front side sports a huge 4.2-inch capacitive touchscreen that sports a resolution of 854x480 pixels. SE prefers to call this feature a ‘Reality Display’. In terms of screen clarity, it’s a bit short of the iPhone’s ‘Retina Display’ at 960x640, but the difference isn’t drastic. Besides, the larger real estate on the Arc makes all the difference as far as utility value is concerned.
Three buttons at the base of the screen let you step backward, and invoke the application and right-click menus. They’re perfect for finding your way around the interface, firing up applications and changing settings. However, buttons are too tiny for comfort and inconvenient to use in the dark.
The top of the phone sports a micro-HDMI output, and there’s a stereo output (with microphone support) on the left. The power on/off at the top is also pint-sized and difficult to access. Thankfully, you won’t be using it much except to lock the screen or restart the device. The second biggest feature on the Arc is that it comes preloaded with the latest version of the Android operating system – v2.3 aka Gingerbread. The OS features a better user interface compared to its predecessor v2.2 Froyo, a more intuitive and accurate text input via the virtual keyboard and better copy-paste functionality amongst other features.
Sony’s little improvements also make a significant difference. For instance, there are five homescreens available where you can pin your favourite applications. You can even add live widgets for Facebook, Twitter and the like, which will instantaneously show new updates as long as you’re connected to the Internet. However, expect battery life to get reduced and be very careful if you’re using a limited data plan. The photos widget on the homescreen is quite convenient – you can choose to display photo albums of your choice and rotate through your pictures directly from the homescreen. There’s also an overview feature that lets you pinch the entire screen to show all five homescreens at once. It’s something like the Expose feature on Mac OS X 10.5 onwards.
The large screen is great for surfing the web and viewing multimedia. The mobile browser works well and can display Flash websites too. But it’s the camera on this device that’s the real deal. With Sony’s Exmor R image sensor, the Arc can capture images at 8.1 megapixels and record video in high definition (720p). Photo quality is very good. Images are sharp and with balanced colours even in low lighting. Videos too are crisp and detailed. You can also adjust a host of settings, including the white balance, exposure and metering. You can even tap the screen to focus on an area or click a photo. The only fly in the ointment is the badly placed shutter button on the lower right of the device.