The Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini Pro manages to pack loads of features into an eye-squintingly small package, just like its sibling, the Xperia X10 Mini. But the Mini Pro adds a slide-out Qwerty keyboard, making it the most usable miniature smart phone we've tested.
The Mini Pro is available for free on a £20-a-month, 24-month contract. You can also buy it SIM-free and unlocked, so you can use it on any network, for around £250. Finally, it's available on a pay as you go deal for around £200.
Mini messaging maestro
The Mini Pro manages to pack a full Qwerty keyboard into a phone that's shockingly tiny to begin with, measuring only 52 by 90 by 17mm when closed. The keyboard makes the phone feel rather chunky, but you should still be able to slide it into a pocket without too much bother.
When we first heard of the Mini Pro, we had a hard time imagining who would want a phone with the body of the Tesco VX1 Party Phone and the keyboard of an email powerhouse like the Motorola Milestone. But the Mini Pro's keyboard is a pleasant surprise, and makes the handset easier to use than its sibling, since you don't have to fumble around with an on-screen keyboard. When the slider's closed, the Mini Pro also offers a virtual keyboard that's well optimised for the little screen.
The physical keyboard has small keys, but there's plenty of space between them and they're raised slightly, so they're easy to use. We had no trouble typing emails and text messages accurately, although staring into the tiny screen tended to make us go cross-eyed.
Combined with the great social-networking apps that are available for Android, and the phone's fast Wi-Fi and HSPA connectivity, the keyboard makes the Mini Pro a good phone for chewing the fat online.
The Mini Pro runs Android 1.6, which is a relatively old version of the operating system -- phones like the Google Nexus One run version 2.2. That means you'll miss out on some handy features in later versions of the OS, such as built-in support for Exchange email. You'll also miss out on a few of the apps in the Android Market, and there's no multi-touch zoom feature either.
Even if you could pinch your fingers together on the screen to zoom in, it's hard to imagine fitting more than one digit onto the Mini Pro's 64mm (2.5-inch) display. Fortunately, Sony Ericsson has done a good job of making the tiny interface usable. The icons are large and easily to poke, and four shortcuts sit in the corners of each of the home screens, allowing you to access your favourite functions quickly.
You can also swipe through a maximum of 20 home screens, putting a widget on each. It's too bad that the widgets don't fill more of the screen -- most of them sit in the middle -- but it's handy to have access to live info without having to open a separate app, like your calendar, for example.
All of Sony Ericsson's Android phones so far, including the flagship Xperia X10, offer a feature called Timescape. It leaves us flat. Timescape brings together your Twitter and Facebook updates, as well as missed calls and texts, into a zippy timeline that you flick through with a finger. But it doesn't show enough of each message on the screen, and, if you want to see more, you have to wait for the relevant Web site to load. We recommend you try downloading one of the Facebook or Twitter clients from the Android Market instead.
The Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini is charmingly tiny, but we don't think there's a big market for such a small phone. The addition of a keyboard makes the X10 Mini Pro surprisingly usable, as long as you don't mind its little screen. It's not a phone for media lovers or Web junkies, but, if you're seeking smart-phone prowess in a ridiculously small package, the X10 Mini Pro could be worth a look.
Edited by Charles Kloet