The tale of two Android devices

By on April 19, 2010
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Sony Ericsson’s Xperia X10 and Motorola’s Milestone are two Android smartphones released just about a week apart in the Middle East. They are similar in some ways but different in many others.

The opening to Charles Dickens’ “A tale of two cities”, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” must be one of the most-quoted pieces from literature. You may think what does Dickens have to do with modern smartphones (because that’s the topic of this article) and we’ll get to that. Suffice to say there is a connection, I promise you, albeit a thin one.

In recent weeks I’ve had the pleasure to spend considerable time with two of the latest smartphones to hit the Middle East market, Sony Ericsson’s Xperia X10 and Motorola’s Milestone.

They are both Android-based, they both have touch screens, but that’s about where the similarity ends. I’ll be up front with you and say that personally I prefer the Milestone and I think it offers a better option for most consumers but that’s not to say it’s the perfect choice for everyone.

So, they are both running Android but in very different ways (here’s where it’s “worst of times, best of times”.) The Milestone runs the latest Android, 2.1, with full Arabic support in both input and interface. The X10 runs the old-ish Android 1.6 with no Arabic support. Why is that a big deal? Actually it may not be but consider that these two smartphones are released almost at the same time (only a week apart) in the Middle East and the matter gets a bit confusing. These are both from major electronics manufacturers and presumably, since Android is open source, they have access to the same building blocks to start with and yet they arrive at so different destinations.

Sure, Sony Ericsson has included some of their own apps, mainly Timescape and Mediascape, which Sony Ericsson told me make up for the difference between Android 1.6 and 2.1, an argument that I don’t really buy. Add to that, that at least Timescape runs pretty slow even though the X10 is powered by a 1GHz processor. The Milestone, powered by a 600MHz processor, actually feels at least as fast even though it’s slower when it comes to the hardware at least.

What I do really like from the X10 is the 4 inch display. The Milestone is slightly smaller at 3.7 inches. Even though the Milestone can show more colors I would like to see the X10′s display on the Milestone. I’d also like to see some of the X10′s camera functionality, like smile and face detection, on the Milestone. Motorola didn’t exactly go out of their way to add great functionality to the camera on the Milestone.

Even thought the X10 is not “the worst of times,” far from it actually, I can’t help but feeling it could have been so much more. The Milestone, although it also has faults, is a much more mature and finished product. I’m not sure it could really replace my iPhone but it’s the smartphone that has come closest to that among all devices I’ve tried.

Now if Motorola could just “forget” that I have one of their review Milestones and I could keep using it. Oh well, it’s time to stop dreaming and get on with some more work.


I write and talk too much about tech. You can find my personal blog at, my radio shows at, and me on Twitter as mnystedt.

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