Thoughts on mobile blogging with the Sony Ericsson Xperia X1

Xperia_x1_moblog

Of the 71 posts I wrote while covering CES 2009, 39 of them were done live from the showroom using my Sony Ericsson Xperia X1 smartphone.

I took a photo using the X1’s 3.2-megapixel camera (in VGA resolution to keep the file size down), emailed it to a custom Flickr address with a subject line and a sentence or two, and hit “Send” for all three elements (photo, title, body) to publish automatically on this site. Each post created with this method was identified as a “moblog” by an email signature. I chose Flickr as my mobile blogging tool because the result (see example) looked most like my normal posts.

Now that CES is over and I won’t be mobile blogging again until MID Moves kicks off next week, I’d like to share my thoughts about using the Xperia X1 for on-the-go blogging.

Mobile Blogging: Pros

  • Immediacy. The most appealing aspect of mobile blogging was that it allowed me to show you what I was looking at . . . while I was looking at it. After taking a picture, I stood right in front of the photographed object (or off to the side if there was a crowd) to type the text and publish everything on the site.
  • Quantity. If you followed my CES 2008 coverage, then you probably noticed right away that the post count during the show more than doubled this year. Putting up quick posts throughout the day really helped with the backlog of content I dealt with last year, when I waited until the end of the day to post, and reduced the stretch of time between new posts. 71 new posts in about a week isn’t a lot for other sites, I know, but it’s a ridiculous amount for me.
  • Downtime. Blogging throughout the day meant that I had more free time at night. Though I still followed-up with more extensive posts once each day’s events were over, it took much less time and was less stressful than last year because the work was spread out.

Mobile Blogging: Cons

  • Quality. What prevented me from embracing mobile blogging before this is quality. The ability to share things as they’re happening can be abused very easily; on-the-go blogging can turn a website’s front page into a longer version of Twitter, which certainly has its merits but is also filled with a lot of noise. Once you discover how fun it is to “go live” with your readers, the temptation to post nonsense that doesn’t belong on the front page of a tech blog is great.
I struggled with the question of moblog quality a lot during CES, often canceling posts I almost sent to the site just because I could and because being at CES sometimes made me feel that anything that happened there was related to technology and could therefore become a part of the site. Example: “Well, I’m eating these nachos between visiting booths, so maybe I should post a picture of it and tell everyone that I’m taking a break between visiting booths.” Thank goodness for Twitter. Moblog quality is the reason I supplemented my mobile posts with longer, fuller posts with more and better photos at the end of each day.
  • Long-term value. The flip side to the immediacy I cited as a moblog advantage is long-term value. In most cases, there isn’t any. If someone wants to find out about webOS in the new Palm Pre, for example, my non-mobile post would be much more useful than my mobile one (although I went back into the latter to update it with a link to the former).

Mobile Blogging with Xperia X1: Pros

  • Size. The X1 isn’t the smallest or thinnest smartphone on the market, but I loved being able to slip it into my jacket pocket without ever feeling its size/weight. There were some events and days during CES that I carried nothing but the X1.
  • Power. There are certainly more powerful devices out there that could be used very well for mobile blogging, but the fact that the X1 allowed me to do it quickly, easily, and with little compromise (I didn’t make use of the functionality, but cut-and-paste and basic HTML for styling and adding URLs are supported by the Flickr method) made me realize how truly powerful a smartphone can be.
  • Battery. I didn’t run any drain tests, but the X1’s battery life never failed me. I set out each day with a full charge; used the phone’s camera, email, browser, and a Twitter client over 3G as much as I wanted to; and never ran out of juice. In fact, when the CES venues closed for the night (5pm or 6pm, depending on location), the X1 always had more than 50% of its battery left.
  • Keyboard. Even with my fingernails, which were longer than I usually like to keep them, typing on the X1 was great. I did make a few typos (corrected after the fact) and had to search for certain symbols sometimes, but typing was not frustrating or tedious. The keyboard’s size, backlighting, and tactile feedback made for a comfortable experience.

Mobile Blogging with Xperia X1: Cons

  • Camera. The X1’s camera is capable of taking good pictures, but it isn’t point-and-shoot easy to do so. For every photo that looked decent enough on screen to put on the site, there were about 4 or 5 unusable photos of the same shot. The X1 takes forever to focus: in the time it took for my photographer to take 5 pictures, I was still standing there like a statue to get the X1 to focus for the first shot.
  • Reliability. I blame Windows Mobile and maybe AT&T (the network I use the phone on) for this, as the X1 hardware has nothing to do with the sporadic “error synchronizing” messages that would prevent my emails/posts from being sent, the untimely soft resets sometimes needed to manually send an email/post, and the bizarre disappearance of a few tweets and an email/post that appeared in my “Sent Items” folder but was definitely not sent.
  • Speed. Again, this is Windows Mobile’s fault. The OS, in general, is just a bit laggy. The lag isn’t unbearable, but seconds feel like minutes (which are small eternities in the blogosphere) when waiting for 1) apps to redraw themselves when switching between portrait and landscape mode (sliding the keyboard in/out automatically switches the orientation), 2) the messaging app to launch after tapping the “email photo” icon when using the camera, and 3) my Twitter client to update.

Overall, I’m satisfied with how the Xperia X1 worked for mobile blogging, but I don’t think it was the unequivocal best combination. I still feel conflicted about the merits of mobile blogging in general, so I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback. Did you like the moblogs? Should I do it again next year (I don’t think I’ll still be using the X1 by then, but you know what I mean)? What would you have done differently?

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Jenn K. Lee

Jenn K. Lee is the founder of Pocketables. She loves gadgets the way most women love shoes and purses. The pieces in her tech wardrobe that go with everything are currently the Samsung Galaxy Note II, Sony Tablet P, and Nexus 7, but there are still a couple of vintage UMPCs/MIDs in the back of her closet.

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