heyrick1973 -at- yahoo -dot- co -dot uk

If you came here looking for info on the Xperia Mini Pro, this is a blog that covers a variety of topics and isn't afraid of politics. Click here to skip directly to the phone info

Hell in a hand-basket

That's what the world is right now. And, extraordinarily, out of nowhere, the ConDem government laid out plans to have a vote on a Scottish Referendum. Obviously the SNP in charge of Scotland said "eh?!". It was never in doubt that the SNP wanted a referendum on independence, but their outlook was wanting to prove that they were capable and not taking decisions such as breaking apart the United Kindom union and becoming an independent country on a whim. I'm sure everybody reading can understand that such a thing is to be approached with caution.

Of course, it was a bit of FAIL on the ConDems because Alex Salmond, of the SNP, replied stating we'll do it when we're ready, and that is going to be in the Autumn of 2014. Yup, he specified when. Oops.

Ball in ConDem's court, their response was pretty much wah! wah! wah! any referendum you do will be illegal and not count unless westmister recognised it wah! wah!.
To which the Scottish replied, more or less, screw you laddie, if we want a referendum, we're bloody well gonna have one.

To which all English parties got together to say the union should remain united, etc.

We're bordering into Epic Fail here. I mean, education is crap, half the unions want to go on strike, the other half will if the opposition gets into power, the Bank of England has just realised a euro bombshell will badly affect them, the tax regime is so utterly cocked up that the RaspberryPi group have found it less onerous to get the boards made overseas than within the UK, marginalisation in Europe, increasing lack of relevance in the world scene, there's still fall-out from the autumn riots... and the morons bring up Scottish independence? Now? WHAT?

Trust me, Westmister, you don't dick around with a bunch of blokes famous for wearing "skirts" in the freezing-bloody-cold snow-barren glen-whatsits. Really, you pick that fight, it won't end well.

An interesting development of all of this is that the SNP wants it to be a three way question, namely:

  • No change.
  • Greater autonomy.
  • Independence.
Of course, the English mob jumped upon that as SNP indecisiveness - including a highly biased interview on The World Tonight (BBC Radio Four) where the interviewer kept on using this as a weapon to suggest that the SNP don't really want independence after all; however in reality it is an extremely clever move.

Okay. Scottish independence is a nice romantic notion. Tell the English to eff-off, grab the relevant North Sea rights, get more integrated with Europe than any Conservative government EVER would become, run the country the way they want it to be run without external interference. Goddamn, I can practically see Mel Gibson running around yelling as I type this.
But is this the best idea in reality? Is it not that the two countries are sufficiently intertwined that a complete separation would be... painful... for both? I mean, what, the London to Glasgow train would have to stop for passport control? Will there be a patrolled border? You might laugh, but if Scotland joins into the Schenegen Agreement, the Scottish might more or less forgo passport checks (like most of the mainland European countries - I can drive to Spain and nobody is going to check, or care), and if they do so, you can be damned sure the paranoid English are going to want to be sure to keep the illegal immigrant scroungers out.

Thus, if I had a say in this vote, I think my position would be on more autonomy. Scotland will, for now, remain a part of the UK, but the majority if its political process and decision-making should be transferred to Scottish control. This is beautifully illustrated by Westminster going on about the "legalities" of a Scottish Referendum. Excuse me, if Scotland wants to hold a vote on Scottish matters, what the bloody hell is it to YOU Westminster? And that's more or less the SNP's position. What we need to follow is for that to be legal. For Westminster to recognise and relinquish control over Scotland.

But it won't come to pass, for we all know Westminster will obstruct, create chaos, and generally annoy the Scots into a position what complete and total independence seems like the best option. And it will be painful for everybody, though I have a feeling that after the beating, Scotland will rebound and become something of a success. Because, rightly or wrongly, Scots tend to be fairly strong-minded and determined, not the wishy-washy indifference of the English.

And as for England after Scottish independence? Excuse me? Who are they again? I forget...
Because - if referendums (referendi?) are made "legally binding" as was briefly suggested, you know damn well the moronic Daily Mail readers are going to clamour for the EU referendum that Gordon Brown unwisely promised years ago. Bye bye EU. Then Wales will eye Scotland with envious eyes. And, for kicks and giggles, Ireland might ask for the North to be peacefully integrated back into Ireland (as in, y'all can stay, but you'll be Irish and not British, no big deal really, it's just a different currency and a passport with a picture of a shamrock on it...). That will leave all of the foreigners in the world happy, for they often equate "english" with "british" as the same thing (I, being born in Scotland, am an "anglais").
Of course, it might not come to all of this. But one thing history is clear on is that without strong leadership, the English can't run dick. Look at their manufacturing industry (what manufacturing industry?), look at their state-owned railway (huh?), ports (dun't dubai own those?), power generation (you mean like Energie de France?), and the intelligent press that keeps the populace informed (stop, I'll wet myself, the hot news when there isn't a gory disaster to gawk at is what soap star is shagging what other soap star!).

It's a tough call. I don't see how anybody is happy with the current situation. I suspect full independence will be a step too far for England to cope with. Greater (and truly, not token gestures) autonomy may be the best compromise. For now.

 

The Day The Web Went Black

You know what I'm talking about. The SOPA protests.
Wiki SOPA protest

This was followed up briskly by taking down MegaUpload, a site responsible for "around $550 million lost revenue".

I am not going to get into the ins and outs of MegaUpload, from the little I know, it seems that the person running the site was... hmmm... interesting to the police, shall we say?

There is, of course, a different angle. Firstly, SOPA failed (for now) yet MegaUpload has come crashing down. Why is this? Is it perhaps because sufficient legal processes already exist to deal with copyright infringement? It doesn't need to become a criminalised act. Copying a CD or DVD (which is a transient 'theft' as the original was not ever 'stolen') is a far cry from rape and murder. Criminal law and civil law are quite different things. There doesn't need to be a "three strikes disconnection" idea, certainly massaging the legislation to remove the need for judicial intervention, and then basing the accusation on nothing more than an IP address - it's not a terribly reliable way to point the finger, there's no actual proof of said infringement, and by leaving out the legal process, the content owners are elevated to a position of judge/jury/executioner. Conflicted interests?

This one goes deeper, however. That accusation, $550,000,000 of lost earnings due to piracy. Let's see that substantiated. We know it is a lie because as stupid as the MPAA and their ilk are, I really don't see they'd ignore an avenue representing half a billion dollars. But they are. Why?
Simple. I could download "Avatar", right now. I won't, I might be the last person on the planet to watch it, but as far as I'm concerned, the "level of interest" is only sufficient to watch it if it comes on free-telly at a time that suits me. I might download it if I miss part, watch the end, that sort of thing. This might seem an odd statement, but I shall follow it up with: It is not of sufficient interest to me to want to go and buy the DVD.

For the mostly-law-abiding movie downloaders (we shall ignore the habitual freetards, some people always want more), I presume the two reasons for a download are: 1, hard to obtain material (old films, foreign stuff) and 2, boredom.
Yup. Boredom. "I'm bored, let's pick a random movie in genre 'x', download it, watch it". This is a loss to the industry as the downloader did not pay for the film, but it is a loss of near-zero as the person could have easily done without. Certainly, with today's everyday wages and economic situation, boredom does not account for justifying the cost of a DVD.

This is an avenue the movie studios might like to look at seriously. Streaming video (with a download option for offline viewing, better than the caprices of an internet connection). Support micropayments. Offer stuff that is no longer widely available (pretty much anything pre-1998 that didn't go cult) for one euro a movie. I know, I know, they'll want to pack it up with DRM, require Windows Media Player 12, and ask six euros a film. Bye-bye, we'll all be off to torrent it instead...
...so bear with me. Firstly, no DRM. We all have our preferred movie player. Said movie player might in fact be a smartphone. The more limitations and restrictions that are introduced, the more it will cause undue difficulty, the more people will go off the idea. Secondly, low cost. They should not see this as trying to make a killing like normal business practice (my personal upper limit on the cost of a DVD (unless exceptional) is €6,99 - which is the cost of a cinema ticket; I cannot justify a DVD for €24,99; I just can't), instead they want to bring people into the fold, back to proper ways. If there was a good catalogue of films and the cost was a euro each, I could easily see myself enjoying a film a day. There's thirty euros they wouldn't otherwise have made. Multiply by n people...

Next, and this is specific to fansub animé, if they are the content holder, they might like to see if there isn't something here. I don't know how often an episode of a series is downloaded, stats like that aren't usually visible. An episode of "Moretsu Pirates" being downloaded by 7000 people is probably no big deal if it have just been broadcast it to an audience of a couple million. However if the download numbers are in the quarter/third/half million, this brings to the question of why are English language speakers relying on fansubs until the programme is licenced in their country? The original creators could sub up and stream the content themselves and make some money off it (directly via subs, or by advertising). There are indeed some inroads here - namely Crunchyroll - however when I popped by recently, none of the good stuff was available because... I live in the wrong country. Bzzzt! WRONG ANSWER! The boundaries on the internet are not geographical, they're linguistic. Until Big Media understands that we don't gave a crap about arbitrary political assignations, they'll still be swimming around in mediocrity.
Here's the skinny - Take my card details, give me the damn AVI. It. Is. That. Simple.

Crunchyroll can't show me Moretsu Pirates due to 'licencing'.

And it could be that simple if they could realise that their 1920's business model is failing in the digital age. But no, the US Supreme Court has ruled that it is acceptable to Congress to extend copyright durations, even if this means that works where copyright has lapsed and they've entered the public domain suddenly regain copyright status (and are thusly hoiked back out of the public domain). It is madness. It is things like that that make middle-of-the-road people such as myself wonder exactly who the freetards are.

It is said that piracy reduces innovation and the desire to produce new content. To a degree, this is true. However, and here's the rub - how does continually upping the limitations on copyright aid the creation of new content? Copyright was once around twenty years. Isn't it now something like 70? You need look no further than Disney's obsession with guarding the rights of the annoying big-eared mouse to understand that copyright itself is just as damaging to the creation of content as piracy, if not more so, because where is the incentive to create content when you can rely upon former glories?

Let me ask you - is it right that a person should expect to be paid today for something they did in the sixties? Work hard once, cash in forever more? Perhaps this is why musicians coming out to support stricter copyright laws are aging rock stars. Vested interests. They made something awesome half a century ago, they want to carry on milking it today, instead of - you know - coming up with something new.

It seems to me that big content rights holders want to have their cake and eat it. And as they're loaded and have a damaging influence on our policy makers, we little people don't get much say in the matter - not without protests on some of the mainstream websites. But believe me, treat Joe Public with disgust and distrust; that's how Joe Public will treat you. It's called you reap what you sow, an expression so old it predates Unixtime (thus is "ancient").

 

Some updates in the last couple of days:

  • MegaUpload is displaying a takedown notice with FBI logos and eagles and such. It is incredibly cheesy looking.
  • The replacement MegaUpload isn't. It's a malware site - stay well clear of it.
  • FileServe is in a panic and is deleting content, chucking off users, etc.
  • FileSonic has closed its doors - users can now only download their own files.
  • A round of applause for UploadedTo, for it is business as usual unless you live in America in which case your IP will be detected and you'll get a "Sorry, unavailable" message. Hehe, for all the times of American sites blocking the entirety of China to stop spam and such, it is kinda funny to see a Chinese (well, Hong Kong) site block the entirety of the United States.
    I wonder how long it will be until other prominent sites (whether dealing with 'dubious' content or not) start actively blocking US IPs. Sure, a proxy or VPN will get around this, but you have to know what those are and how to find reliable ones. Will Joe Average know? Possibly not. Either way, bye bye America - so long and thanks for all the fish...
But, you know, there are multitudes of other options. And if those options fail, there are multitudes of other methods. Throwing a tantrum won't get anybody anywhere. Coming to accept and embrace digital and what it means might just.

 

Mobile phone

I have just cancelled my Orange Mobile subscription. My year has come to an end. Orange is, perhaps, a little worried as Free is shaking up the mobile world, but given the costs of mobile comms in France, perhaps this is just as well.

As it happens, I am happy enough with Orange. Their alter-ego, Sosh offers 3Gb data, but there's no free mobile calls. With my package, I get 500Mb data and three mobile numbers I can call as much as I like for free. One is my mother (on a different network, no less!), another is a friend in Lyon I've called, like, twice. The third... unassigned. My social life is so pathetic. Like before, I plan to go for a 12 month contract. I don't like being tied up to long term things. It sucks that Deezer (which I've come to use for discovering new music) is no longer bundled with the one-hour little contract. I don't yack enough to justify the two hour. I can add Deezer for a fiver a month (and get rid of it later, if I wish). Still works out cheaper than 2 hours talk time!
Anyway, with Sosh, you aren't tied to a contract duration, it's for as long as you like. However, you also have to buy the phone at near retail. There is an option to pay for it in installments, but if you do the maths, you aren't saving much. And considering I've yacked my way through 28.63 hours and not paid a penny, that's not bad going. So is Sosh such a good deal after all? I guess lots of data for around €15/month is nice if you're a net addict with nobody to call. Otherwise...

What would be nice, asides from Deezer back in, is if the credit for data was increased to 1Gb.

Selecting a phone

My first idea of a Nice Phone was the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S. Big, flat, oozing style. But I pretty quickly discounted that as it looked like something that would be pretty easy to break. The next option was the Motorola Atrix which was like a sexed-up version of my Defy (only, not waterproof). This looked good.
Problem was, it required a downpayment of a hundred and fifty euros, plus a fifty-a-month contract. I was going to sign up for that, but other events intervened so I had time to regain a sense of reality and - sorry - no way. Too much of a commit.

This left a pile of "feature phones" and Android handsets that were, frankly, a bit rubbish. Crappy memory, processor, display, or all three.

However, lurking in the pile was something called the Xperia Mini Pro. I had originally discounted it because of the lowish resolution display (480×320) which is certainly less than the 854×480 of my Defy. However, it had a reasonable processor, it had Android 2.3 with a promise of 4 to come in 2012, and it could record video in HD (and thus, one would hope, be capable of HD playback). It seemed to offer quite a lot for its fifty euro price tag.

Here I am, on break at work, writing an email to advise my friends of the new phone number. Because the phone isn't well balanced when the keyboard is slid out, I am resting it on a Mars bar!

Writing an email on an Xperia Mini Pro

The contract

The contract I have chosen is Orange's Origami Style 1 hour. Exactly the same as before. Apparently, as I had cancelled my previous contract, the number is forfeit. It sounds a bit dubious, I wonder if this is an 'annoyance' designed to tempt people into remaining in contract? As it happens, the older phone reverts to pay-as-you-go, and a €10 credit will keep the number active for six months... Do that twice, and next year I might reclaim my number in a new phone.

  • I dunno, I remember writing this sort of stuff for my Defy - I'm a bit freaked out that a year has passed already...
Mick rightly asked why on earth I was jacking in a contract for exactly the same thing, especially since (due to changes), I lose Deezer?
The reason is simple. I was paying a loaded contract (€35/month) for a phone, as opposed to the lesser charge (€25/month) for a SIM-only version. Now my year is up, I no longer have any obligation to repay anything for the phone. However contract renewal keeps everything the same - essentially I'd be paying €10 a month for... nothing. Therefore it makes sense to me to try a different Android phone, and pay more or less exactly what I'd have been paying anyway.

I am a little upset about losing Deezer. It was quite a nice freebie - a lawful way to come up with a variety of songs to enjoy. However there's always YouTube, Shoutcast... I could get Deezer for a fiver a month extra, but that's sixty a year at the end of which I'll have nothing to show for it. Instead, when my friend's Japanese wife goes back to visit her native land, I might ask if she can pick up a few CDs.

Look'n'feel

So to the phone. It's a small chunky thing, about the size of a packet of cigarettes and a notable weight. There's a solid feel to it, even though the two halves slide apart (to expose the keyboard).

At the bottom is a small recessed metal lug designed for attaching a neck strap. It is nice to have that as an option.
The top offers a 3.5mm headphone jack (also accepts four-pole plugs for hands-free kits), a micro USB connector, plus a tiny power button.
The right provides a volume rocker, which doubles up as zoom control for the camera, plus a two-stage button for the camera to take photos. Press the button partway, it will focus, press it all the way to take a photo.

A metallic strip around the sides plus Sony Ericsson/Orange logos is about it for embellishments. I left the screen protector film in place, to help guard against scratching.

As you can see from the picture above, the phone slides in half to expose a tiny keyboard. It looks ridiculous, but it is actually not so bad to use - earlier today I wrote an entire, long, newsgroup posting using the phone (click to read it). Even with fingers my size, it is surprisingly usable.

The back cover, which is fiddly to remove, hides away the battery and the SIM and - usefully, the microSD card is easily accessible and hot-swappable. Simply dismount the card in the phone's user interface, slide it out, pop another in. No taking out the battery, fiddly reboots and such required!
The supplied microSD was 2GiB. As I happened to have a spare 4GiB card, I put that in instead.

Xperia Mini Pro microSD slot

Switching on, the homescreen just oozes style. The fadeout text, the use of transparency. Here's the screen after pressing the power button:

Xperia Mini Pro - switch on screen
And here is an example of the contacts display. My older phone showed a thumbnail picture with the information on a black background. Sony Ericsson took the approach that Rule Of Cool means it can't look like something from the mid-90s. So here, full screen, overlaid text, it just looks great. And look, I have an actual real person (that I'm not related to) in my contacts list! Whoo! ☺
Xperia Mini Pro contact information

In the pop-up list of apps, there is even an option to make the apps icons jiggle. It is of absolutely zero use, but it just looks awesome. Take Rule of Cool and run with it! From my limited experience, it would seem that Motorola aims for functional while Sony Ericsson aim for eye-candy. Well, hey, I guess I'm easily pleased...

Of note is that the display is quite dark compared to the Defy. Astonishingly, however, it remains visible even in the presence of bright light. I will try it in sunlight when the sun next makes an appearance...

The touchscreen is a lovely sensitive capacitive type, and it can pick up a finger in a rubber glove when the phone is wrapped in clingfilm (to keep it dry). I'm impressed!

Early models suffered an unpleasant electrostatic noise problem (YouTube video example - turn the sound up to hear it), however my SK17i build date 11W45 is nice and quiet (see my test video).

The home screen

For some reason, this phone only offers five panels on the home screen. This isn't a big loss, as on my Moto the outer two are empty so... Being supplied by Orange, there were two home screens. The Orange one looks like this, and this image is the phone's native resolution of 320×480:

Xperia Mini Pro - Orange homescreen

However, the battery life oozed away in a hurry and the report told me that the Orange homescreen was the biggest consumer. Sorry Orange, that's just not good enough. I switched to the default Sony Ericsson homescreen, and as you can predict, it was simply an exercise in stylish. Here are my three homescreens (the outer two being empty):

Xperia Mini Pro - homescreens

The homescreen is usually upright, as shown, but if you flip out the keyboard it will switch itself to a sideways view:

Xperia Mini Pro - homescreen wide

You can have up to four pull-open corner tabs. In the central view you can see I have kept the ones for dialler and contacts, but otherwise removed the rest. Then there's a nifty feature I've not seen much since the Psion3 - the ability to place 'folders' on the home screen, with stuff inside the folders. I have not used this much, but I might set up a folder with my internet shortcuts to take me directly to my favourite places.

Unlike standard Android, tapping the icon to list apps does not list them on a boring black screen. Instead, it is a series of panels overlaid on the home screen that you can flip between. Usefully, you can set a sort order such as "Most used" so the apps you want most will appear first. Uselessly, you can make the app icons wibble. But hey, it's a crowd pleaser ('cos their phones can't do something that uselessly cool) so don't knock it!

Battery life

The battery is new and might need a few charge/discharge cycles to reach full strength. Initially, the battery was dropping percentage points by the minute. Switching off the Orange homescreen saw to some of this, however the screen seems to be quite a consumer of power. I knocked the brightness down a couple of steps, and turned off the Bravia engine (didn't seem to make that much difference) and things are better.

I took a freshly charged phone to work, listened to randomly selected MP3s from 9pm to 10.58pm, listened to BBC Radio Four (streaming, via EDGE) from then until 11.45pm, then listened to more MP3s until 4.30pm, with a half hour break where I had no music but instead caught up on emails, TheRegister, etc. All the time, the GPRS radio was on, with periodic background checking for emails and such. Bluetooth and WiFi were off.
That took most of the power out of the battery, I think I had 10% or so left. This might sound a little lame, but it compares more or less with the sort of life expectancy I'd get from my Defy's battery.

There are options I can use to increase the life. Turning all radio services off when not required would be a start, followed by downloading The World Tonight as a podcast. In the break room there are windows so I can get a 3G connection and pull the ~18MiB file in a couple of minutes. Certainly it allows me to listen without the eccentricities of a streaming radio broadcast over a mobile network.

It will be interesting to use this phone as a satnav. It took a lot out of my Defy to do that, plus it tended to get noticeably hot (battery thermal readings in the order of 50-55°C).

Telephony

Apart from looking good, it behaves as I would expect. Pairing with my Bluetooth was simple, it offers a basic verbal dialler, and outgoing calls appear to sound okay. I've not tested this much, as you might have guessed, I'm not a big user of this part of the device!

The loudspeaker is on the back, behind a slit in the back cover. It is easy to cover this leading to muffled sounds, but otherwise it can output a decent amount of noise for such a small object.
The primary microphone is situated just inside at the far right of the keyboard (this would be the bottom when holding the phone). The secondary microphone, for noise cancellation, is on the top next to the audio jack.

Connectivity

USB connections can operate in MTP mode or MSC. MSC is where the phone appears as a drive with a letter (i.e. G:\) while MTP is where the phone is a sort of 'device'. The default is MTP, but I think MSC is more useful. In this way you can just use it like a flash drive.

There's some software to help interface a computer with the phone. It has ridiculous requirements, so I've not bothered with it.

Bluetooth... works. It can't send files to my computer, but that may be a config issue as the two phones are happy to shunt files to each other.

WiFi seems a little weak at receiving. Then again, while my eeePC is happy to step up and down available speeds to match the reception conditions, both phones (and mom's eeePC) think "damn, it's a 54mbit connection, we're damn well going to connect at 54mbit, dammit!", which as you can imagine is a bit of a fail when the reception drops off. My computer is currently running at 11mbit and happy enough. My phone is trying 54mbit and isn't always happy with it.
It is nice to see that WiFi can be enabled while in Airplane mode. Unlike the FM radio!

There are USB and WiFi tethering options. I've not tried these.

Security

As well as the usual selection of PIN, pattern, or password (plus SIM PIN), there is something I want to bring to the attention of everybody:

Xperia Mini Pro - data security FAIL
Excuse me? You're going to take my long and complex WiFi password and give it to Google and you're going to do this by default? FAIL!
At least there is an option to switch that off.

Let me state this again: Unless you say otherwise, standard behaviour is to send a copy of your WiFi password to Google.

There's more. Try turning on GPS, you'll see:

Xperia Mini Pro - GPS data FAIL
If you don't agree, you can't switch on GPS. FAIL!

[Will collect data? Who? Where? What's their privacy policy?]

One day, perhaps, we will wake up to this incessent data grab and rebel against it. I'm not holding my breath...

Connectivity Go Large

Taking this all one step further, there's a thing called LiveWire that lets you set up actions to be performed upon inserting things... plug in headphones, WinAmp launches. Plug in the charger, the phone turns itself into a rotating picture frame (that means the pictures rotate, not the phone, but I'm sure if they could make it do that too, it would!).

I don't currently use LiveWire, but it's a nifty thing to have available.

Speed

Speed doesn't seem to be much of a factor. There are short pauses while things load, but by and large the phone feels plenty responsive, and even has plenty of cycles to throw away on visual fluff.

The heart of the phone is a Qualcomm MSM8255 Snapdragon clocking 1MHz. It is a customised ARMv7 (better SIMD ops) similar in concept to ARM's own Cortex A8. There's an Adreno 205 GPU onboard. 720p video recording and playback is a breeze.
Because the display is a smaller HVGA panel, there's less data necessary to draw a video frame, so this phone is actually nippier than other comparable 1GHz models.

Phonebook

I've not really had a chance to play with this much to discover its features. It looks and feels nice. It holds phone numbers (tap to call), email addresses (tap to email), postal addresses (tap to find on a map), and can save/restore from a vCard file on SD. In fact, the only thing that I appear to be missing is a place to remember birthdays, complete with a reminder in the calendar.

Look! I have at least two real people in my contacts!

Xperia Mini Pro - contact information
There is even a widget available for 'favourite contacts' to be listed on the home screen for even quicker access.

Contacts can be filtered (for example, only show people with phone numbers). You can set custom ringtones for each contact, or if you don't want to hear from them, select an option to automatically redirect them to your voicemail.

Messaging

I'll get back to you on text messaging - I haven't done any yet.

As for emails, the software is a little more simplistic than the Motorola offering, though it does the job. If I had to level a quibble, it is not entirely intuitive as to how to refresh for seeing if something has arrived in your inbox. Additionally, if you choose to "Share" something, you will be set up to send from your primary email (the ticked one in the photo below), though there seems to be no way to alter the outgoing mailbox. Finally, all mail appears to be sent base64 encoded. WHY? This application doesn't support styles and fonts and I'm sure foreign scripts could be MIME'd, why not output in plain text?

Xperia Mini Pro - email

Google's GMail is supported, as you'd expect. I didn't much like the functions of the GMail client in my old phone, so I've not yet done anything with it here.

Google's Talk client is provided, but in addition to the usual text features, you can video-chat with people.

Web

It's the standard Android browser, though interestingly enough it doesn't have an option to save pages to SD card. Bizarre. There's Flash 10.3 so streaming video works...

Xperia Mini Pro playing streaming video
I have an app with many channels (including NHK World), but I can't screen-capture that as it uses the video layer.

Overall the browser interface is minimalist, complication-free, and works surprisingly well in a mere three inches.

Xperia Mini Pro browser
Camera

With a 5 megapixel camera on the back, and a VGA camera on the front (for video calls), the Xperia Mini Pro has it covered.

The main camera will, of course, be the big one on the back. The user interface is remarkably complete and offers various capture modes (including an automatic paste-together for 160° panorama shots). In any specific mode, the options are few. In generic mode, the options are plentiful - centre/multiple/spot focus, centre/spot/average exposure metering, push-exposure, white balance (presets, no custom), image stabiliser, geotagging... The list can easily match a basic standalone digital camera.

Xperia Mini Pro - camera options [synthesised image]

As for results, the image quality of an outdoor picture is quite good. There is a reasonable amount of fine detail and the colours look suitably vibrant. The problem is that the JPEG compression is a little enthusiastic. That said, the focus system takes its time to hunt around for the best focus, unlike the Defy that does it in half a second and mucks it up all too often.

Problems arise in low light, when the images get a bit overly grainy and the colours seem to shift towards the reds. But, when it does it right, it rocks.

Xperia Mini Pro - photo of candles

The flash is an LED flash, and it is... lacklustre. Images often look dark and underexposed (even macro) and the colours rarely look good. I'll have a play and see if this is a wonky setting or something.

Video recording is a little blurry at times, I suspect this is more due to compression than anything else. Offering auto-focus and the exposure controls as for the photo functions, there's plenty of scope. The camera is capable of 720p HD at 30fps. I'm not sure I'd be using that much as my eeePC can't hack it, which could make editing...interesting.
Here is an example video I took in a local bar/tea salon literally minutes after purchase. You can see some noise artefacts due to the low light, but even so it is pretty detailed and clear.

PS: Mom says "Hi!". ☺

Gallery

The picture gallery is cute, lots more visual fluff to help you see your photos through thumbnails and full-screen.

Sadly, the image editing options are lacklustre. I'm going to miss the Defy's ability to resize, crop, and fiddle with brightness. I know there are probably apps that can do this, but surely it isn't so much for basic editing to be built in?

Video playback

Is dire. Okay, it supports HD, but it'll do .mp4 and .3gp. But, then, it's the standard Android player so don't expect miracles. Just install something like Moboplayer and off you go.
No, seriously.

Here's Mōretsu Pirates. My 1.6GHz x86 machine is playing the 480p version as it can't hack HD, while the itty-bitty 1GHz mobile phone is happy with HD:

Xperia Mini Pro vs netbook
Notice that the colours look more realistic on the phone!

Some subs look okay, but some styled subs (must work on a percentage of screen size?) are a little hard to read due to their size. That said, 5mm text is surprisingly legible due to the quality of the display.

There are some cases of patterning in the video, such as can be seen in this Taylor Swift video (flv from YouTube):

Video patterning

That said, an HD video plays just fine. I suspect it is a combination of encoder and decoder, and perhaps the scaling down for the smaller display just happens to make normally unnoticable patterns more evident?

Clear video
Sound

The basic media player is capable and includes some EQ presets, but it is otherwise fairly basic, it doesn't support streaming or anything. I kept a copy of WinAMP before they mucked it up, and have installed that. Perfection. And I'll tell you what, this phone has some pretty decent sound output. Plug in some proper headphones and it is just really really nice with solid bass, vivid treble, and no annoying hiss running through everything. Lamb's "Górecki" sounds absolutely splendid!

Summary

There's loads more, but I'll wrap it up for now. Let's say it is an amazing device for something so incredibly small. And so inexpensive for what you get. Okay, it isn't a 1.6GHz dual-core jobbie, but it does the things I am looking for, so...

Geek wibble

Became May 2011 (released in August)
Radiocomms GSM 850/900/1800/1900 [2G], HSPDA 900/2100 [3G], HSPDA 850/1900/2100 [3G]
GPRS Up to 86kbps
EDGE Up to 237kbps (that's 29KiB/sec ☺)
3G HSPDA - 7.2Mbps / HSUPA - 5.76Mbps
WiFi 802.11 b/g/n (with hotspot capability)
Bluetooth v2.1 / A2DP
Dimensions 92 × 53 × 18, 136g
Display 320 × 480, 3", 192ppi, 16m colour
LED backlit TFT
Input AZERTY keyboard (it's a French one), plus capacitive touchscreen with multitouch support
Camera 1 5 megapixel, 2592×1944, autofocus and LED flash
Camera 2 VGA, 640×480, fixed focus
Processor Qualcomm MSM9255 Snapdragon 1GHz
RAM 512MiB
Storage 400MiB internally, up to 32GiB microSD
OS Android Gingerbread v2.3.4 (update to 4.0 planned)
Radio Stereo FM with RDS for station name
Sensors GPS with A-GPS, accelerometer, proximity, compass
Battery Li-Ion 1200mAh; rated for ~330h standby, 5h30 talk, and 29h playing music. I think divide by two is probably more realistic...

 

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Anon, 23rd January 2012, 20:18
I think it's a little unfair to criticise our so-called lack of manufacturing. We do make things, we just don't really make mass market stuff any more (with some exceptions, like cars - both luxury and otherwise) 
 
Any airplane with Rolls-Royce engines has something that was designed and built with British talent. And RR is one of the leading manufacturers of aircraft engines. We also make the bits that RR engines bolt on to - the wings for the A380 for example. Several luxury car brands all have a British heritage and/or design and build here. Honda, Nissan, Vauxhall, Ford, Land Rover, Rolls Royce (cars) and others all build at least some of their cars here. 
 
I can agree that the tax situation regarding the Raspberry PI is rather odd, but this is surely a problem for many countries - not just the UK. China is today's "world's workshop", not France, not the US, not any other first-world country. 
 
Press? You mean like the Guardian, The Independent, The Times (it's mostly good), the BBC (seems to be internationally respected), etc? Those outlets mostly don't concern themselves with celebrity matters. 
 
Someone must be thinking the UK is doing something right. Alongside Germany we're the only country with investors willing to pay for the privilege of holding our debt. Why isn't France in that position? 
 
Our railway *is* state owned. The most substantial bit is, anyway - the track and infrastructure. Only the trains and the companies who operate them are in private hands. I don't like the way things are, but it's not entirely privately owned.  
 
At least, unlike France, we fairly tender out our contracts. After Alstom wins *yet* another contract for SNCF you have to wonder what's going on. How successful would Alstom be in France if they weren't French? They don't appear to be quite as successful in the UK - where it has to compete fairly against Siemens, Bombardier, and other (sometimes British) firms. 
 
Scottish independence isn't going to be as rosy as you seem to think. Westminster is inevitably going to keep all it can (and it will have the ammunition to make it so), and there is no way it's going to let Scotland go without transferring a proportionate share of the public debt (presumably including those one-and-a-half Scottish banks we had to bail out - so much for Scottish financial propriety). And oil, as we know, is a dying commodity. What's Scotland going to do to prop itself up when it disappears? It won't have had the years of revenues to do a Norway-style investment fund. 
 
I notice that your post has an overall pro-EU theme. From this side of the channel it looks like our reticence to "integrate" is paying off. Not joining the Euro appears to be nothing but positive for us. It also has the usual "British expat" air to it - the country has turned to excrement and that everyone else does everything better than us - when if you care to put aside that attitude things are quite different.
Rob, 24th January 2012, 14:24
Nice review of the phone. I've got the previous version, and love it to bits. Always been a sucker for tiny phones, but it's stuck on android 2.1 and no further updates will be offered. I'll have to look into how much it'll cost me for a new one :-)

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