Pitting the HTC Incredible S against Sony Ericsson’s Xperia Arc

Posted on April 13, 2011

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The HTC Incredible S was launched on 2 April by Digi with a retail price of RM 1999 without contract. Four days later , Maxis followup with its Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc launch  for RM 2099 without contract. Both are Android smartphones with  the same processor , a 1 GHz Scorpion , Adreno 205 GPU, Qualcomm MSM8255 Snapdragon. The Arc comes with the latest Android 2.3 Gingerbread OS while the Incredible S is with the older 2.2 Froyo OS. The Xperia has a slightly larger display of 4.2 inch versus the 4 inch on the Incredible S. Previous Android offerings from Sony Ericsson has been disappointing and not well received mainly due to its general weaker performance. However the Xperia Arc is now being proclaimed as a serious challenger to the HTC, Samsung and LG Androids.

This comparison is based on my actual experience using both smartphones. I will not attempt to answer directly  which is the better smartphone here as different users has different needs. I will compare several major features and to decide which is best  should be  based on which features is more important to you. I will use a rating of 10 as the best and 1 as the worst . This is not meant to be a scientific measurement, but more as a layman’s approach to rating. I’d like to reiterate , the scores are solely my personal assessment and you would probably disagree with some of them.

APPEARANCE and BUILD QUALITY

The Arc has been aggressively advertised as a ” See and be seen” smartphone due to its unique and striking classy design especially with its concave rear design. It is very light weighing at 119 gm versus 135 gm of the Incredible S.  The exterior of the Xperia Arc is constructed almost exclusively out of glossy metal-flake-textured plastic, with accents of chrome. The Incredible S design is ubiquitous of most candy bar shaped phones. Take out the HTC logo and is just another nondescript phone. However I find the build quality of the Incredible S as more robust and solid. The soft textured back of the Incredible S gives one a confidence in holding it firmly while the Arc could slip off the hand easily.

On both smartphones I do not quite like the back covers as I deem it too thin and fragile – one need extra care taking it out

Some minor issue on the Arc which needs improvement : both power on button and camera is slightly stiff – one need to exert more than normal pressure to get it working. I find that in this age of modern designs, the Arc usage of the 3 hard buttons seems to me a retrograde move. In fact, the hard buttons do slow down very slightly and less responsive to user input ; maybe I am just nitpicking here

On the Arc, I like the ability to turn on screen from standby by just pressing the HOME button. On the Incredible S, one need to press the POWER button which is slightly more inconvenient

Both phones come with a Sandisk 8 GB micro SD card as standard. On the Incredible S, the card slot is at the side and can be taken easily out without taking off the battery. On the Arc, one needs to remove the battery to take out  the micro SD card

Appearance : Arc ( 10 ), IS ( 8 )

Build quality : Arc ( 8 ), IS ( 9 )

PACKAGING

The Arc , apparently for the Malaysian edition comes with several free added accessories which is not provided in many other countries. These free added extras are the HDMI cable, car charger, extra USB cable, spare screen protector and a  HiFi FM radio wireless headset. It is indeed very well packaged and the best I have ever seen. The Incredible S comparatively is a poor man package with just the minimal basics –  USB wall charger , USB cable and wired headset.

 

Packaging : Arc ( 10 ), IS ( 5 )

DISPLAY

The Arc 4.2″ capacitive display is based on Sony’s TV  Mobile Bravia Engine  and it  produces sharp, bright and  true-to-life colors with its  FWVGA (480×854 pixels) resolution. The Incredible S with its S-LCD ( 480×800 pixels ) loses out but not much. See the images at the top, both smartphones are at maximum brightness. Viewing in sunlight is better on the Arc. The Arc is one of those rare smartphones that comes witha pre-applied screen protector

Display : Arc ( 9 ), IS ( 8 )

CAMERA and VIDEO QUALITY

Both smartphones has a 8 MP ( 3284 x 2448 pixel ) rear camera with auto focus, LED flash. Both can record 720p videos up to 30fps. The Arc however boasts its  Exmor  R sensor technology that  under very low light conditions it can  take superb photos with clarity on foreground and background . On 26 March, I attended a preview at Jayaone and Eric Lee , the Product Manager of Sony Ericsson demo this feature where the Arc captured  the image of a picture inside the box . Most of us tested our phones ( iphones, blackberries, HTC, Samsung, LG etc ) on the Exmor box and all came out disappointed as we could only see black screens on our phones. Soyacincau.com had taken a video of this – posted below.

The shots taken on the Arc are sharper, brighter and colors resemble more closely to actual. The Incredible shots looks slightly faded and looks poorer. Video recording on the Arc displays similar sharpness and clarity.

LHS : Incredible S , RHS : Xperia Arc

 

Video recording daytime , medium sunlight : Xperia Arc – very nicer , sharper colours which  are close to actual

Video recording daytime, medium sunlight : Incredible S

Video recording, night time low light : Arc – slight brighter and sharper than the IS ; the difference is not that significant despite the claimed Exmor sensor technology

Video recording, night time low light : IS

Camera and Video recording : Arc ( 9 ), IS ( 7 )

Demo of Arc Exmor R sensor technology ( from soyacincau.com )

PERFORMANCE

User Interface : The HTC Incredible S htc Sense UI is slicker and smoother than the Arc UI. There is nothing special about the Arc UI except for its Timescape widget which makes it easy to view status updates and messages by just swiping a finger up or down on the panels. However I find this feature is not well designed as scrolling it does not allow one to select the item one need easily unless it is done slowly. HTC Sense offers better quality, more featured and more widgets variety . I tried Spb Shell 3D home launcher  on both and it performs flawlessly on the Incredible S while it stutters and lag at times on the Arc. I attribute this to the lower memory on the Arc which has only 320 MB storage and 512 MB ram while the Incredible has 1.1 GB storage and 768 MB ram. Spb Shell 3D when used takes up to 40 MB memory space.

UI default  features : Arc ( 6 ), IS ( 9 )

UI slickness and smoothness : Arc ( 8 ), IS  ( 10 )

Speed in general access to apps and launching apps : Arc ( 7 ), IS ( 9)

Installation of apps : Arc is noticeably much slower at least by 1-2 secs : Arc ( 5 ), IS ( 9 )

Browsing : Arc ( 7 ), IS ( 9 )

GPS lockup : Arc ( 8 ), IS ( 9)

Wireless detection : Arc ( 9 ), IS ( 10 )

Speed of Facebook, Tweeter, Newsroom updates : Arc ( 8 ), IS ( 10 )

Audio and Video playback : Arc ( 9 ), IS ( 8 )

Apps access using  Astro File Manager : Arc ( 8 ), IS ( 10 )

Connection to computer through USB and mass storage detection : Arc needs about 8 – 10 sec ( 5 ) while the IS needs 2-3 sec ( 9 )

Power on and off  measurements :

Shutdown : Arc – 27 secs, IS – 5 secs
From an OFF position to bootup till locked screen : Arc – unbelievably long at 34 secs, IS – 5 secs
With battery pull off, reinserted and restart to lock screen : Arc – 3 mins 10 secs , IS – 1 min 50 secs