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Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc Hands On

Far more than simply adequate is the rear 8.1-megapixel camera (there is no front facing camera). It uses Sony's Exmoor-R sensor technology, which uses back-illumination, to boost sensitivity and thus increase low light performance. Combined with the good quality, f/2.4 lens, it results in noticeably better pictures in general indoor use than much of the competition.

What's more, with really snappy performance from the app, the autofocus, and the shutter; the ease of use of having a shutter button; and excellent extras like rapid face detection, it really is a cinch to use. That said, the camera button is a but fiddly to operate when holding the phone one-handed, as you might want to for self portraits. HD video is also on-board, and again it looks impressive.

Neither stills nor video mode has an optical zoom (though digital is available) and there's only an LED for flash duties but otherwise its an excellent camera.

We have further praise when it comes to the software. Sony Ericsson (SE) hasn't exactly been known for its timeliness in releasing updates for its Android phones in the past, however with the Experia Arc they've managed to get ahead of the curve by loading Android 2.3 Gingerbread on it. What's more, the company has even found time to modify things, adding a custom design to the interface and adding a couple of software features of its own.

The result is a phone that offers all the neat UI and performance enhancements found in the latest version of Android – and they do add up to make it possibly the best mobile phone OS on the market right now – but with a distinct SE flavour.

Now, the changes that SE has made do seem largely pointless but they don't actually detract in anyway either. The home screen layout has been tweaked slightly to have five shortcuts along the bottom and the app launcher has been arranged in panels that you scroll left and right between, rather than the single long list that is standard.

You also get Timescape which is a social networking interface that shows a timeline of updates from all your social network feeds and lets you respond to messages and comment as you scroll through. It's a bit overly stylised and lacking in true functionality but it's still fairly nice to use. Gone, though is Mediascape as found on some previous SE Android phones.

All told, though, the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc looks like a really nice rounded handset. Obviously we've yet to test phone essentials like call quality and battery life but in terms of design, screen quality, camera quality, software implementation and general features it’s a very strong contender.

We don't have a price or carrier information yet but it should be available in Q1 of this year.

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