Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S review

A minor phone processor update or an essential Android refresh?

Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S
Android 2.3.4 and a faster processor feature on the new smartphone

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The changes Sony Ericsson has made to the Android 2.3.4 software that arrives on the Xperia Arc S are rather small compared to the 2.3.3 that currently powers the original Xperia Arc, but there are at least quite a lot of new little features to poke around with.

But first of all, this is an Android phone. So you get a scrolling collection of home screens, in this case limited to five by Sony Ericsson, upon which you can install shortcuts to apps, folders and all sorts of live widgets.

Long-pressing on an empty part of any home screen enables you to add your own stuff, although Sony Ericsson suggests you dedicate a huge chunk of your main central Home screen to its Timescape social network aggregator.

This is a nice little toy. It pulls in updates from various social sites, displays missed calls and text messages.

Plus Sony Ericsson has published a few plug-ins on the Android Market to expand its functionality, adding support for Gmail messages and more.

The enhanced power of the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S means Timescape is finally perfectly smooth and a pleasure to use. However, we'd still rather install the standalone Twitter and Facebook apps and use those. Why have phone companies decided we should all treat Twitter and Facebook as parts of the same thing?

Another nice new Sony Ericsson widget is its Favourites and Call Log tool, which gives you a nice grid of your favourite phone contacts and a second tab that displays missed and recent calls. Touching a Contact's face opens up their individual Contact page, from where you can message them in their preferred way.

Folder support has been enhanced a little, with your folders now making it more obvious when they have stuff in. Each folder now has a little 4x4 grid on the front, which displays mini icons of the first four apps you've put in them.

As you can see, folders can even be placed on the floating dock that sits along the bottom of the screen, so it's possible to absolutely ram the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S with links to apps and games.

The app drawer is accessed by the central button on the dock, which pops up your big list of apps. You can have them sorted automatically, but there's another very nice interface addition in here - the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S has a button on the bottom-right of the screen that brings up an editing mode.

You can use this to rearrange your apps, dragging and dropping them into position, or non-critical apps that are removable have a little red cross on them - press this to instantly delete them. This is a much, much easier way of removing apps than the usual Android method of rummaging about through the Applications menus.

And then the Overview mode explodes all the live widgets on your home screens and presents them in one weird, floating pile. It's in case you get lost on the five home screens. It's not really of much use, but it is cool.