The latest 4.0 version of Timescape has also seen some new additions. An xLOUD option in the sound settings menu boosts the volume of the speaker, while pinching the home screen zooms out to show all your current widgets, and shaking the phone makes them float in all directions. The volume boost is a nice idea but we found ring tones sounded distorted when it was switched on. The widget feature is ultimately a gimmick more than anything else, as is the 'TV off' animation you get when you lock the screen. However, we can't help but love the latter as it mimics an old CRT television.
The Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc is also the first XPERIA-branded phone to include pre-loaded apps for Sony's Music Unlimited and Video Unlimited services. Music Unlimited is a subscription service with a library of over 10 million tracks, while Video Unlimited is a video rental service with around 9000 movies available to buy or rent. The latter is only accessible through Sony Ericsson Android phones, while Music Unlimited can be used on any Android phone.
The most disappointing aspect of the XPERIA Ray is its cramped on-screen keyboard. By default, the keyboard is set to an alphanumeric phone pad rather than a full keyboard due to the small display. You can easily revert to the full QWERTY keyboard, but it's only really useable if you turn the phone sideways in landscape mode — the keys are just too small to use efficiently in portrait mode.
Sony Ericsson XPERIA Ray: Other features and performance
The Sony Ericsson XPERIA Ray has an 8.1-megapixel camera with an Exmor R image sensor, promising the capture of high quality photos and 720p HD videos even in low light conditions. There is also a front-facing VGA camera for video calls. The XPERIA Ray performed slightly better in low light than most other phone cameras, but it still won't replace a stand alone digital camera for night-time photography.
The XPERIA Ray captures photos with excellent levels of detail, good colour reproduction and records great quality 720p HD video (with continuous autofocus a nice feature). However, its LED flash doesn't work as a flash but rather a photo light that remains on the whole time, and the lack of a dedicated, physical camera button is a downside. Thankfully, the camera interface allows you to tap anywhere on the screen to capture a photo. Another slight annoyance is the fact that the camera lens is impractically positioned to the left when held in landscape mode. This means it's easily covered by your hand when you hold the phone to take a photo.
The Sony Ericsson XPERIA Ray lacks a HDMI-out connection that comes standard on the XPERIA Arc. This would have allowed the Ray to be connected to a high definition television to view multimedia content.
The Sony Ericsson XPERIA Ray is powered by a single-core 1GHz processor, and has 512MB of RAM. Though these aren't top of the line specifications, the XPERIA Ray felt responsive and speedy throughout testing. The Ray also has 1GB of internal memory, but only a paltry 300MB is available for user use. Thankfully there is a microSD card slot for extra storage, and Sony Ericsson includes a 4GB card in the sales package.
Disappointingly, the Sony Ericsson XPERIA Ray has average battery life. You will definitely get a full day of life out of the 1500mAh battery before it needs a recharge, but considering the Ray's smaller screen, we expected a better result.
The Sony Ericsson XPERIA Ray Android phone will be sold exclusively through Vodafone in Australia for three months from 28 September. Full details on XPERIA Ray pricing and plans here.