So far, no Android device has quite managed to outstrip the BlackBerry in terms of raw finger-grinding productivity potential. Sony Ericsson fancies making another attempt at besting the BlackBerry, though, with the Xperia Pro. With a slide-out Qwerty keyboard, it's an Android phone that's built for typing.
We were fortunate enough to get our hands on the Pro at Sony Ericsson's Mobile World Congress press conference, and here are our first impressions.
Keep it in your trousers
The Pro feels quite lightweight, at only 140g. It isn't a phone that will anchor you to the spot or hilariously drag your trousers down should you stuff it in your pocket.
Measuring 57 by 120 by 14mm, the Pro is hardly the slimmest of handsets --its extra girth is due largely to the pop-out keyboard. The Pro has an elongated, flat body with rounded edges. It comes in black, silver or red versions, all of which look classy.
The Pro feels like a sturdy mobile. Cheap phones often have dodgy slide-out keyboards but the Pro's sliding mechanism is snappy and smooth. Here's hoping it won't deteriorate too quickly if you use it constantly.
The 3.7-inch touchscreen has a maximum resolution of 854x480 pixels. It looked clear and bright to us during our limited hands-on time. We should say, though, that we were playing with the Pro in a darkened environment -- we don't know how readable this phone's display will be in the brutal British sunshine.
The layout of the Qwerty keyboard seems quite intelligent. It's not cramped, and there's a generous gap between each key, which will help you to cut down on typos. Hopefully, it will prove to be a comfortable, usable keyboard in the long term too.
The Pro is essentially the same as the Xperia Neo but with a pull-out keyboard. Both phones look capable in terms of the hardware on offer, and both pack some neat software twists. The slide-out keyboard makes the Pro slightly chunkier than the Neo, so think about whether you really need the physical keys, or whether you'd be able to manage with just an on-screen keyboard.
Sony Ericsson has given the Pro a dual-pane email system. On the left of the screen, you'll see a big list of all your emails, while the right half will show a preview of the highlighted message. We found this system worked rather well. Even though the screen's not very big, it meant we were able to cruise around the email app efficiently, without having to sacrifice the whole screen to either the list of emails or a preview of an email's contents.
Running on a 1GHz Snapdragon processor, the Android 2.3 Gingerbread interface feels very slick indeed. Sony Ericsson has put its own skin on Android, so we'll need to use the phone for longer before we can comment on how good the menu-navigation system is. But we can tell you that we found moving around the Pro's various home screens to be a slick affair, with no juddering or lag.
You'll also have access to the Android Market, allowing you to download thousands of apps onto the Pro. Version 2.3 of Android supports Flash in the browser too, so you can watch the vast majority of online videos.
On the back of the Pro sits a hefty 8-megapixel camera. The phone also offers HDMI connectivity, so you can export video and audio to a hi-def telly.
The Sony Ericsson Xperia Pro looks like a cool, capable Android device. We'll need more time with the phone before we can say whether its keyboard is comfortable enough to justify a purchase, though. But, on first impressions, it certainly looks set to give the HTC Desire Z a run for its money.
Edited by Charles Kloet