More useful additions from Sony Ericsson include the ability to take a screenshot by holding down the Power button and selecting the option from the popup.
The Swype-like trace-to-type keyboard is also very welcome. It works by predicting what word you were aiming for by tracking the movement of a single finger as it vaguely moves from letter to letter in one motion. It doesn’t have quite as good prediction as Swype but we actually preferred it as it doesn’t otherwise interfere with the normal two-handed typing experience – Swype uses a slightly different keyboard layout and can be thrown off if you type at speed with two thumbs.
Perhaps the two most crucial additions, though, are the Video Unlimited and Music Unlimited services. These tap into Sony’s huge entertainment divisions to provide music download and streaming services for music and movies. Setting up Music Unlimited is cumbersome as you have to go to the Music Unlimited website to create an account before you can use the app, and you have to be a premium subscriber too. Once done the interface is slick and easy to use and the selection is impressive, as it is for the video selection. However, with many new movies costing £11.99 to download, it’s not quite the revolution in streaming media one might have hoped for.
Boosting the processor speed of the Arc S from 1GHz to 1.4GHz hasn’t resulted in a hugely noticeable improvement in performance over its predecessor but it’s just about enough to keep tabs with the competition. General navigation is snappy and apps open promptly, with just a little less pause for thought than the slower model. However, it’s notably not on par with dual-core models so if you’re looking for the snappiest performance then you’re better off with those handsets.
Part of the problem, however, is Android, which still doesn’t feel quite as slick and integrated as iOS, Windows Phone or even the latest BlackBerry OS. It is actually faster than many of these as it does away with some of the fancier animations as you move from one task to the other, but equally some of these animations are what make for a smooth journey through using your device. It’s all subtle stuff but especially now that iOS 5 is out, the arrival of Android 4.0 can’t come soon enough as it should bring smoother graphics and even tighter, more integrated features.
Still, Android and the Arc S does have some distinct advantages. The web browser supports Flash so can play back videos embedded in webpages, and the extra processor speed means playback is generally smooth. You also get an FM radio and much easier multimedia file management than iOS. Well, it’s easier if you’re prepared to just drag and drop your files onto the device rather than use iTunes.