Sony Ericsson X1 Xperia review

January 2009
By Olav Hellesø-Knutsen


Sony Ericsson highlighted the panels as the special and unique feature for this device. 7 panels are installed when you buy the phone and 2 more can be installed which gives a maximum of 9 panels installed at the same time. Actually, only 8 of the panels are exchangeable. The first panel listed is no panel at all. It is the default Windows Mobile Today screen and this is the one you see when the device is powered on after a reboot. The standard preloaded XPERIA panels are:
  1. Windows Mobile Today screen (in reality: panels are turned off)
    This is no-panel is set by default and every time the phone is rebooted.
  2. Sony Ericsson panel 1. Panel to read news, weather, finance, RSS reader, world clock and shortcuts to communication and applications.
    Two instances of this panel type are installed. What's differentiates them are the way the content are organized and the color of the themes.
  3. Sony Ericsson panel 2. Same as above.
  4. Fish panel. A panel that showcases the 3D feature of the phone.
    Three or four fishes are swimming around in screen. Touch them and they swim away. They are changing color or behaviour if you have any missed calls or unread messages
  5. Media Experience panel. Panel for viewing and playing multimedia files.
    Here we have the same media interface as all recent Sony Ericsson phones and Sony entertainment electronics (Sony PSP style).
  6. Radio panel. Panel to operate the built in FM radio
  7. Google panel. A simple (Google style) front end to Google Search with links to, Google Maps (the built in application), Gmail (web site), Calendar (web site) and Photos (Picasa web site)
Notice the two Sony Ericsson panels. It is the same panel, but they are configured differently.

No panel visible Sony Ericsson panel 1 3D fish Sony Ericsson panel 2 Media Experience player Radio panel Google panel
The 6 preinstalled panels
According to a quick "research" in the Esato forum, most X1 owners users switch to the freely Spb Mobile Shell as this panel are the most friendly for finger navigation. Many manufactures of Windows Mobile (WM) devices want to swap the standard interface with their own. HTC and the Touch Flow was one of the first companies adding interfaces suitable for finger control. It is not possible to change panels by using the default Today configuration. On some panels, the top located statusbar and the bottom softkey-bar are affected by the Today Theme colour settings. The only possible way to switch between or configure them is by pressing the dedicated X-Panel key

During my X1 review period, several new panels were release. Cool Hunting (a web site), Windows Live, Facebook and more. The setup page for panels has a direct link to a Sony Ericsson server where panels approved by Sony Ericsson are hosted. At the time of writing all panels were available for free, but these could as well be charged for. Panels can also be hosted on other servers than the Sony Ericsson server, but they will of course not get as many potential users.
Three layout options to select a Panel
Panel Selector Panel Selector Panel Selector - Landscape orientation
The Panel main screen shown in portrait and landscape mode
Panel Selector Panel Selector
X1 panel configuration page. The Facebook panel was downloaded and installed by me

The reason why you would use anything else than the standard Windows Mobile Today panel could vary. The Spd Mobile Shell panel improves the Windows Mobile interface by offering buttons for commonly used tasks and applications. It can be called a smart desktop. On the other hand, the Facebook panel is just an active widget where all the recent updated by your friends at Facebook are shown in real time. In my view, the Facebook panel could just as well have been a standalone application.

All the standard Windows Mobile shortcuts are available regardless of the active panel. The Start menu is always locate at the top left corner of the screen. The network icons, WLAN, Bluetooth status are always visible on the statusbar during the active panels home screen except on the downloaded panel Spb where the drop down link to the task manager is missing. My thoughts about this is how much a downloadable panel can do to your X1. Should you treat it like any other installable application? Yes of course. It can do harmful things just like any other software you download from the Internet. The safe way to install new panels are therefore to click the "Add panel" link on the panel configuration page where you are taken to the Sony Ericsson web site and the Sony Ericsson approved panels.

After several weeks of usage, I can see a fixed pattern in my usage behavior. I do not change the panels very often. I tend to switch between 2-3 panels. One for daily usage, one for Radio time and maybe another when I am off work and do not have the need to always see the calendar on the X1 desktop. I do not see any need for having more than 9 panels installed at the same time.

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