The mere presence of a button for the camera is also a huge boon. The impact of this is diminished somewhat now that Apple has added the ability to use the volume button on the iPhone 4S and iPhone 4 to take a shot – it used to be a nice quantifiable and genuine advantage of other phones over Apple’s devices – but it’s still good to see it present. Unlike the iPhones’ the button on the Arc S can also be used to launch the camera app. However, the button itself is so small and stiff that it’s actually a bit awkward to use, especially with the body of the phone being so thin, but as it’s there at all it’s still worthy of praise.
Similarly the power button is small and fiddly, and is on the top edge where it’s difficult to reach one handed, all of which makes locking your phone’s screen a little more awkward than we’d like. Thankfully the Home button underneath the screen can be used to unlock the screen so you can gain access to your phone quickly and easily with just one hand.
Just finishing off our tour of this phone’s physical features, alongside the earpiece are an LED indicator, to show when you’ve got a message or the phone is charging, and the proximity sensor for turning the screen off when you’re on a call. Below the screen are the three main navigation buttons (Back, Home and Menu) which are physical rather than touch sensitive. Their low positioning makes them a little difficult to reach but this does allow more room for the screen.
The right is home to a rather small volume rocker and the back houses the camera, noise cancelling microphone and mono speaker. Finally, on the bottom is a lanyard loop alongside the main microphone.
Moving onto this phone’s interface, it runs Android 2.3.4 which along with the faster processor is the only thing that currently separates it from its predecessor that runs 2.3.3. We say currently as there will be an update rolled out to the older handsets that will bring them up to date.
There aren’t a huge number of extra features or even stylistic changes in this new version but there are a few titbits.
Starting from the top, though, this is an Android phone so the first thing you’re greeted with is a host of homescreens ready to fill with shortcuts and widgets. You get five screens in total and when you get the handset you’ll find all of them have at least one example widget or shortcut, the majority of which we rapidly removed due to being a bit useless.
One such example is Sony Ericsson’s Timescape widget. This shows a stream of messages and updates from your social networking services as well as missed calls and text messages (you can even download extra plugins for it for such services as Foursquare). However, the presentation of Timeline has always been and remains poor. With the processor update it is at least slick and fast now but the whole vertical scrolling carousel styling is a pig to use.
Other widgets include a TrackID tool for quickly listening to the world around you to pick out what song’s playing, Music and Video Unlimited links for quickly accessing Sony’s music and video download and streaming services, a data usage monitor and the ever useful quick switches for turning on/off wi-Fi, 3G data, Bluetooth and switching to a low brightness mode.