Sony Ericsson X1 Review – Part 1 (User Interface)

Posted by Mister Mobility

Here is Mister Mo’s Sony Ericsson X1 Review.

The Sony Ericsson Xperia X1 is a top-range Windows Mobile smartphone. It spots both a full QWERTY keyboard and a touchscreen. As far as touchscreens go, the world has largely migrated from tiny menu items needing a stylus to fancy menus that are finger-friendly.

The user interface of Windows Mobile 6.1, which the X1 runs on, is sadly still living in the dinosaur era. It is largely dependent on the use of a stylus. In addition, the user interface is plain, compared to the more modern mobile operating systems like OSX, Android, and WebOS.

However, In the past, I did use at least one WinMo device that had such a good implementation that I barely required using the stylus at all – the Samsung i780.

How was this possible? Samsung put in an optical trackbad, similar to touchpads on laptops. If you are wondering why I am going in this direction, it is because Sony Ericsson has implemented a fairly similar solution on the X1, an “Optical Joystick”, such that I have found the device can be used without needing the stylus.

Optical Joystick: The central rectangle is touch-sensitive and can be used for navigation in different directions, as well as pushed in or tapped to select menu items

The optical joystick can be disabled in the settings menu of the device – just in case its not your cup of tea.

As for the user interface, while bland by default, where WinMo continues to shine is its powerful customization abilities. Couple that with the X1’s unique concept of “panels”, and all of a sudden, I was jolted into a new world of really fancy and highly usable interfaces.

A “panel” is more or less a homescreen option that can go deeper than just the homescreen. Besides the panels that come pre-installed on the phone, certain panels like SPB Shell, Bell UI, PointUI Home and Moto Homescreen take the experience on the X1 to a new level, overlaying the drab WinMo interface for the most part. Of course, somewhere along the line, you hit the dirt again.

Pre-installed Xperia Panel

Another pre-installed Xperia panel

SPB Shell panel

SPB Shell Panel: Lifestyle theme

Moto Homescreen Panel

PointUI Panel

Bell UI Panel

Both the SPB Shell and Moto Homescreen panels introduce 3D menus with sweeping effects, among others. They also both integrate weather updates and nifty notifications. SPB Shell has two optional interfaces.

The Moto Homescreen panel navigation is similar to the horizontal menu on the HTC Sense UI – sweep right/left or tap to navigate between menus

Bell UI’s interface runs deep and is lovely. However, in landscape mode the background image does not cover the whole display, producing a cluttered look.

In my opinion, the SPB Shell panel is the best of the lot. It runs as deep as Bell UI, providing several configurable options, and has the fanciest of animations.

Animated 3D interface from SPB Shell Panel

I’ll see if I can get a video clip of this done and uploaded later (no promises!).

The X1’s panels certainly make it an interesting experience on Windows Mobile.

Update (11/08/09):
I found a cab over at the XDA Developers’ site that installs the TouchFlo 3D on the X1. There are a couple of such TF3D cabs available, but this one works pretty well. A fix had to be done to enable landscape functionality and then its generally blissful use.

Enjoy the pictures and screenshots:

TouchFlo 3D on the X1

TouchFlo 3D in landscape format on the X1

TF3D running on the X1

Email tab

People tab (contacts)

That’s it. The best of both worlds: an X1 with fully-functional TouchFlo 3D running. Ah, the life…


  1. Added an update about Touch Flo 3D running on the X1. Check out the pictures and screenshots in the article above.

  2. Just curious! How do apps designed for qvga and vga screens render on the Xperia’s huge wvga screen?

  3. brym!

    Generally speaking, I went after apps marked as WVGA-specific. Not sure that I played around much around that.

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