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Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc review: Maps and apps
Because the Xperia Arc is running the very newest version of Android, you get the very latest suite of Google apps on the phone straight out of the box – Gmail, YouTube, Maps, Talk and the quaint News & Weather widget.
The Arc's processor and multi-touch screen means the new, vector-based Google Maps runs perfectly, with the full range of 3D zooming, panning and rotating options available when viewing maps up close.
The initial GPS lock was swift, with Google's fantastic Maps Navigation app giving you a superb free satnav tool.
Google's Maps app is easily the most impressive mapping and navigation tool out there. As well as access to the classic Google Maps, it now includes full voice navigation across most of Europe. Simply accessing the Directions tab lets you specify a start and end point, with Google computing a route for you.
Clicking on the Maps Navigation arrow then opens the sat-nav part of the app, prompting you to download and install a voice pack for spoken directions – if you want to hear some amusing American mis-translations of UK place names.
The route is calculated in advance, so it's simple to punch it in while at home on Wi-Fi, then head off and let the GPS do the rest of the job. It's one of Android's killer apps.
Aside from the Google apps, Sony Ericsson has resisted temptation to fill the Arc up with third-party software. There's not much on here at all. The BBC iPlayer app is installed, with the Arc managing to play the highest bitrate streaming video perfectly through Wi-Fi after an initial choppy bit of buffering.
As with Sony Ericsson's 2010 Android phones like the Xperia X10 Mini and Xperia X10 Mini Pro, the company has teamed its TrackID music identification app with its PlayNow online store. Track ID works well, and individual songs can be bought via credit card of premium SMS message for £1.50.
TrackID also lets you look up artists on YouTube, incorporating sharing features so you can ping links out to Twitter and instantly become more popular.
One clever Sony Ericsson enhancement is its brightness widget. It's customisable, flipping between the lowest brightness setting and your own level set in the phone's Display setting menu. So it's easy to specify your own custom screen level – rather than making do with Android's default low, medium and high options.
This breaks if used in tandem with the standard Android power strip widget, though, which overrides the setting of the Sony Ericsson toggle. So pick one and stick with it.
Phone memory displays as having 380MB free for apps, although being an Android 2.3 phone you're able to move certain apps (ones the developer has updated to allow the feature) to SD card to free up space. And our unlocked Xperia Arc came with a generous 8GB card in the box. Enough space for several million Angry Birds levels.
And yes, it plays Angry Birds perfectly. Sony Ericsson has also included a copy of Let's Golf HD in this unlocked version of the Arc, plus for business there's MS Office-compatible tool OfficeSuite. What other freebies you get may vary depending on your mobile network.
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