Archive | August 2011

Er, wonders continue…?

Despite my post last week about about ‘wonders never ceasing’ it seems Sony Ericsson had another ace up their sleeve this week; the Xperia Arc S.

Sporting a 1.4Ghz single-core processor and the 2.3.4 software updates also mentioned last week, it’s being touted as an improvement to the already impressive – and award winning – LT15i model released just 5 months ago. SE have taken the old ‘if it ain’t broke’ adage and tinkered with it a bit to deliver the ‘ultimate entertainment phone’.

From the Arc S press release:
Taking the award-winning sleek design from Xperia arc,the latest addition to the Xperia family has a processor upgraded to 1.4Ghz, Sony 3D sweep panorama technology and access to the Sony Entertainment Network services – “Music Unlimited” and “Video Unlimited”. Xperia arc S features 25% faster camera start up and media conversion , along with 20% faster web page rendering compared to Xperia arc:
  • Super fast 1.4 GHz processor
  • 3D and 2D sweep panorama photography
  • 8.1 MP camera with Exmor R™ for mobile image sensor
  • 4.2“ Reality display with Mobile BRAVIA® Engine
  • Latest Android™ platform Gingerbread 2.3
Whether the Arc S can live up to this moniker is another matter – reading the white sheet here the battery delivers the same power as before – 1500mAh. 

So let’s not forget what goes up, must come down and a 20% performance increase has to be compensated for somehow, so for those out there using the Arc and having to recharge it every 24 hours (based on the performance I get from the existing Arc, as an example, running at 1GHz and with a 1500mAh battery), no amount of software-related performance updates are going to compensate for a 20% increase in power consumption so you’re probably going to have to charge it every 15-20 hours and have a charger (or spare battery) with you at all times.  

The other element to this phone is why 1.4GHz single core? The market for dual core has picked up considerably in the last months. HTC have delivered a belter of a handset in the Sensation and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the iPhone 5 came with dual core. So again, why single core? Why 1.4GHz single core? Yes, it’s fast, but it can still only do one thing at a time, just a little quicker! 

Looks like another missed opportunity to me, especially when you consider the ongoing third-party development with the Arc that lets those who’ve unlocked their bootloader install a new kernel…and overclock the handset to 1.78GHz. The Arc can be overclocked to over 2GHz, however the boot.img that I have been using is restricted to 1.78 GHz as anything over that can potentially be a little risky to use in terms of processors overheating and exploding next to someone’s head etc..!

IDespite my intial gripes, the 3D Panorama app seems to expand on the 2D version beta tested to X10 (and some more daring Arc/Neo owners) back in June which I raved about. To have this app on the earlier-released 2011 phones, without having to root and fart about in framework/permissions, is something I’m very much looking forward to as it delivers some cracking pictures.


Wonders Never Cease!

A pleasant surprise today from Sony Ericsson with an official announcement regarding the release of Android 2.3.4, coming out in October for the 2011 Xperia series.

For the X10 owners? I wouldn’t get your hopes up in any way, shape of form for an update to 2.3.3 – you’ve had your lot from SE with regards this handset.

Back to the upgrade, which comes with the following enhancements:

  • Xperia smartphones to be upgraded to the 2.3.4 version of the Gingerbread platform with new features including Google Talk with Video Chat for smartphones with front-facing cameras
  • Updated Facebook inside Xperia functionality for enhanced like, share and discover abilities
  • Xperia smartphones introducing world’s first 3D sweep panorama functionality powered by Sony. The latest camera enhancements from Sony introduce 3D sweep panorama technology so that images can be captured and then viewed in 3D by connecting the phone to a 3D TV using the HDMI output.
  • The software upgrade enables consumers to turn their Xperia smartphone into a mini-mobile PC by connecting USB peripherals (mouse, keyboard or game controller) to Sony Ericsson LiveDock™ multimedia station. Connect the smartphone to a TV via HDMI to get a big screen experience. 
  • Swipe text input – text input by swiping the finger from one letter to the next 
  • Screen capture – allows the user to share a screen grab from anywhere in the phone

This update follows hot on the heels of the 4.0.A.2.368 update, which has its problems but this latest seems particularly thrilling, with Nikolaus Scheurer, Head of Product Marketing at Sony Ericsson, promising:

“ With this software upgrade, we are bringing a wealth of new and really entertaining experiences to all our 2011 Xperia smartphones, including those already in consumers’ hands today, Our users will get to enjoy new features from Google, an even richer Facebook integration, and enhanced camera functionality from Sony.”

As if that weren’t enough, SE are also releasing another phone – the Sony Ericsson Neo V, which will come pre-loaded with the latest enhancements. I’m particularly excited about this handset, as I currently use a Neo and despite recent intermittent problems with the newer FW (now rectified with a generic UK 2.3.2 install/repair and SEUS upgrade) I wrote a glowing review about the handset and continue to say nice things about to all and sundry. Will be keeping track of this for sure.

Top marks to SE for really making a song and dance about this – I’ve long-complained about the lack of a changelog and this is just the ticket! Thumbs up!

Path of Neo…A Bump in the Road

Much was said by me back in early July, extolling the virtues of the wonderful Xperia Neo handset. Sadly, it appears the latest ‘update’ from Sony Ericsson, 4.0.A.2.368, has brought not only some improvements but some significant glitches as well, some of which I blogged about a fortnight ago, although I have uncovered more problems since using the official UK firmware…

* The phone is unusable when on a mains charge; the screen is over/under responsive. Typing with any keyboard input is useless as the phone literally makes it up as it goes along. It’s fine when charging from the PC, but this is a BIG problem if the phone is largely unuseable when charging.

* The wifi/mobile data glitch is still present and seems to be worse on this software release. When switching from wifi to mobile data, I generally have to turn data off and back on, or even reboot the phone, just to kick start the data connection again. Also wifi detection is a big problem too, it was just about fine with a SAGEM router but I’ve had to switch to an old DG834 router and the phone just doesn’t seem to be interested at all.

* The messaging app hangs from time to time, despite having read all my texts, a little ‘1’ is superimposed over the graphic. I have to wait for a new text to come in or text myself, just to get rid of.

* The Gmail app seems to take two refreshes before it will properly populate the inbox.

* Facebook notifications aren’t appearing on the lockscreen.

Being lucky enough to own both the Neo and the Arc, I’ve checked some of these glitches on both handsets and am not able to replicate them on the Arc, so the problem I feel lies with the Neo update itself, as everything was working fine on the phone beforehand – including using the phone while charging!

Issues with the new update…

* The end call button on the new update is no longer a highlighted box – if you’re not looking for it, it simply appears to blend into the background. If you are looking for it, it’s a considerable annoyance!
* Lockscreen controls for the Music app still haven’t appeared
* Facebook Inside Xperia still has a mind of it’s own. I told the standard Facebook app to sync last night, apparently that meant FiX could do its thing as well. The sooner this intrusive cack becomes optional, the happier I will be.
* Get apps and Get games should’ve been combined into one app.
* The Fun & Downloads widget likes to run in the background, even if the widget itself isn’t actually in use. Waste of battery life.
* Media server has changed it’s name to Connected Devices. A pointless change in my opinion, and equally pointless is the way the app continually runs in the background, seemingly perenially poised to stream info. Waste of battery life, it should be the users choice whether or not they stream.
* Data monitor isn’t included as a standard app on the HK firmware, while a third-party unofficial Messenger app is. It’s absolute tosh, by the way, but can deleted from the phone simply by ‘managing applications.’
* Landscape mode on the homescreen doesn’t appear to work on Neo or the Arc, but I am going to repair both upgrades so should have an update on that in the not too distant future.
* PlayNow is STILL on the handset – I thought this was being replaced by Qriocity?
* Touchnote is still pointless
* While the addition of zoom to the camera is very welcome, zoom hasn’t been applied to video.

The more things change: Neo + 4.0.A.2.368

Late last night I learned the same software update for the Arc had also been released in Hong Kong for the Neo. I’m installing this overseas firmware, as the ‘official’ UK updates are nowhere to be seen, and even worse, there’s no communication from SE when this might even be released properly over here. Yet again it’s the standard cloak-and-dagger procedure from SE that’s really getting very tiring, particularly when people are aware this update works very well on the Arc and are anxiously awaiting a wider release. Bad form.

So, I acquired the necessary FTF files and set about installing this wondrous new update to the Neo…And have had nothing but problems since that point. In fact, so many problems, that I’ve had to take my Arc handset (working perfectly well on the HK FW) to work with me just in case I throw the Neo out the window!

Late last night I blogged I was having problems with Swype and the touch screen, so much so I removed Swype from the handset. This morning the phone seemed to be running fine, and was very fast, in fact using the stock browser this morning the phone was incredibly fast, when it works; in addition to the screen and Swype issues, I’ve had massive problems with WiFi and mobile data connectivity; Blogger won’t refresh, Facebook is pretty much unresponsive and I’ve not even bothered syncing Gmail just in the case the phone explodes in my hand.

Unless these services are genuinely playing up and/or I’m plagued with a terrible case of bad timing, then there is a genuine issue with connectivity as well as the screen –thereby rendering the entire handset useless and almost a peril to itself to use.

My initial suspicion with the performance of the handset is that it’s NOT the official update for the Neo; it’s the update for the Arc that’s been customised quite poorly for the Neo. (Although the other possibility could relate to the questionable ‘3G’ coverage where I work; it’s notorious for saying the handset has 3G or HSDPA when in fact the network is down or only functioning at 80%. No communication from the carrier to suggest there’s a problem, apart from a hastily printed note sellotaped to the shop window and that’s only if you go out of your way to find it. Rubbish) Research at lunchtime shows the developer of this FTF was asking questions only a month ago on how to root the phone, so I think he may have bitten off more than he can chew with this FW.

Still, Wotan Server confirm the Nordic and Taiwan version of the Neo software are on the loose, so I can’t imagine it’ll be too long before the official update hits the UK, but tonight I will possibly redo the upgrade – it’s fairly simple. My Neo handset was running a rooted 2.3.3 so there potentially be a problem with the leftover bits of the root interfering with the new software; I’ll downgrade the handset to 2.3.2, do a full wipe to clean the phone, and then flash 4.0.A.2.368.

Fingers crossed this will work, otherwise it’s back to the rooted 2.3.3 until such time as SE deem to let us in on their little secret.

UPDATE 05/08/11 – 19.35

In the absence of suitable firmware for the Neo, it’s been flashed back to 2.3.2, rooted and the 2.3.3 OTA update applied to retain the root. Hopefully in the next couple days (years/months) the official software update will filter out. Possibly OTA, but I’m not fussed either way.

In other news, the Arc is running wonderfully on 4.0.A.2.368, and I’ve even managed to root it as well this evening. My work is never finished!

Touch/Swype issues

Installing the new Hong Kong firmware for the Neo, it’s apparent there’s some sort of issue with touch response. And given that I’ve noticed it within an hour of installing the update, there <i>must </i>be something wrong.</p>
<p>In three separate tests, I could only get the home screen to recognise 20% of the long presses to open the widget menu. And I tried 30 times.</p>
<p>In Swype, the input is basically scrambled. </p>
<p>It could be Swype isn’t yet optimised for the new update, but you have to ask; what has changed with this software to render Swype nigh-on unusable?</p>

Firmware LT15i 4.0.A.2.368 Generic Global (not 2.3.4)

Creeping out a couple nights ago on Orange here in the UK and in a couple other global markets is a software update for the Arc handset with the some significant improvements. However, in the absence of a changelog (yet again) I’ve managed to find the following information from a post on the SE forums:

  • xLoud™ – boosts your music when played through the speaker, 
  • Camera – Digital zoom
  • Stereo recording – shoot video with high-quality stereo sound,
  • Digital home enjoy entertainment content stored in your phone on DLNA certified media devices 
  • New Homescreen – uninstall apps direct from the app tray
  • Themes 
  • Layout change in gallery, Music stock player and many more.
  • Minor adjustments to notifications – number of unread texts is now displayed in the dock. Also applies to calls
  • Timescape widget has had some minor design alterations. 
  • Weather widget. 
  • Transition animations.
  • The screen timeout has a CRT animation.
I’ve had a tinker with most of these adjustments and they are all top notch – in the wake of the Facebook Inside Xperia ‘improvement’ which I largely found a waste of time, this is a software update package with a whole slew of useful bits and pieces.

Some of these I saw at a Test Lab and they were excellent then, despite only seeing about half of what’s in the above list. This is excellent stuff from Sony Ericsson and will keep everyone happy until 2.3.4. 

Not quite sure why it’s currently only on Orange, but hopefully it will make it’s way to generic Arc and Neo handsets in the next few days. If you can’t wait, the Global Generic update is doing the rounds; ironically the best post I’ve found for this is on SE’s own forums!

I find it a little strange SE have released this software update before the release of the Ray/Active etc; with this new software on board, who’s now going to want to buy a Ray/Active when potentially the software could be onboard their existing Xperia handset several days (or even weeks) before the Autumn range of phones comes out? Hmmmm……?

UPDATE 05/08/11 – 19.35
The Arc is still running wonderfully on 4.0.A.2.368, and I’ve even managed to root it as well this evening. My work is never finished! Links here for the more experimental among you.