Monday, October 10, 2011

Sony Ericsson Xperia ray Review: Part 4 - TimeScape, Facebook and UX

Continued from Part 3

A while back, when I first got my X10 Mini Pro, I commented on the promise, and limitations of Sony Ericsson's TimeScape interface, cool looking but not ready for public use just yet.  Two Android generations later, and Sony Ericsson has learned quite a bit from their past mistakes.

TimeScape w/ Infinity button
TimeScape used to be heavily integrated into their version of Android.  This, in theory, was supposed to make it better, but instead made the interface slow and very difficult to update.  This in turn slowed the development of the X10 family and despite the positive feedback on the phones, the quickly outdated software became a huge ball and chain.  Today, I'm happy to report that TimeScape is more like an app, rather than a core system.  This means that it doesn't bog down the system nor does it hamper software updates.

Running on Android Gingerbread, the new TimeScape looks gorgeous, and allows much better plug-ins like RSS, other Social Networking sites, and email integration via 3rd party plugins available in the Marketplace.  The new widget is also live, unlike the older TimeScape which only showed the newest message, the current one allows you to scroll through messages without having to launch the app.

It now also integrates the Infinity button for messages received from contacts, pressing it will bring up a separate 3D stream of messages from that particular contact.  No need to look through your call history or email history to see your correspondence with someone.

Graphics are a lot smoother, thanks in part to a faster CPU, but mostly to much more efficient coding.  Gingerbread is supposed to have a 400% increase over Eclair, and TimeScape itself has been cleaned up... all these things combined really has improved the over-all user experience (or as Sony Ericsson wants to call it, UX) and enjoyment of using the app.

Facebook integration
Facebook Inside Xperia is another neat (or annoying, depending on your view of Facebook in general) feature.  I'm a heavy Facebook user, so this level of integration is great for me.  What once took 3-4 apps on my X10 Mini Pro, now is all built-in the UX of the Xperia ray.  Contact photos, numbers, status updates, and other important info are all automatically synced and updated.  Your phonebook cards can now contain all the info on that particular person's Facebook page.  Twitter is also integrated, just sign in with TimeScape.

Some people aren't fond of social integration, you don't have to use them.  Just don't log into your Facebook or Twitter accounts.  One caveat is if you're on Google+, unlike Facebook and Twitter, you need to log into your Google account to use your Android phone, Google+ integration is AUTOMATIC, and must be disabled if you don't want your phone to automatically update your status and upload photos.  Or you can just not download the Google+ app.

A few issues: This integration overlaps with Facebook's own app sync... so you will have 2 Facebook apps using up your data connection.  The other is purely aesthetic, the app seems to try to sync even when  mobile data is off, so you always get this annoying red triangle saying "Facebook Sync Failed" when you're data connection is lost, even when the app is set to manual sync.

SonyEricsson has been really slow the past few years... fumbling about for a unique fingerprint to put on Android.  I think they've found it with TimeScape and Facebook Inside Xperia.  Let's hope that future software updates and upgrades won't exclude previous generations so quickly.  For now, good job on the big improvement!  It makes looking through status updates actually fun!  Hahahaha!

Up next - Movie Time!  Video formats, playback, and the built-in gallery

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