The mobile phone scene has been set aflame, and out in the battlefield, many solid contenders are jostling for the crown (and your dollars). The question is: what does it really take to stand out from the burgeoning crowd of mobile devices? Sony Ericsson's answer may lie in the subject of this review, the Xperia Pureness. It's certainly got an attention-grabbing name, but this is easily eclipsed by its unique, transparent LCD display. As they say, a picture says a thousand words so let's pause to marvel at that display below:
The Pureness is slightly long for its waifish and angular frame, cutting a modelesque figure that's dressed in a head-to-toe futuristic design due to its use of black and silver with white LEDs and a minimalistic keypad. The form factor is modern and fits with the trend of mobile device becoming increasingly less square and more hip. As mentioned, the Pureness comes with a transparent (well, technically, translucent) screen lined on all four sides with a reflective material and a glossy black keypad, both of which are sadly, magnets for fingerprints. Thankfully, the back has a black matte surface.
Another interesting aspect of the design is that the letterings on the keypad are not visible until the phone is powered on. When left to sleep, the keypad becomes blank as well, but once pressed, the buttons will light up in a cascading manner. Nice touch.
A cautionary tale for those interested in the Pureness: forget smartphones. What you have here is an extremely basic feature phone reminiscent of older SE devices, such as the W800i, which are designed mainly for listening to music, sms-ing and calling. Alas, there isn't a built-in camera, which makes it even more of a throwback.
The main draw of the Pureness is its apparent ability to emulate a close-to-holographic mobile experience. You can see through the screen while SMS-ing or listening to music. Other than the obvious aesthetic reason, we assume it is useful, presumably, to avoid obstacles in your way. Also, it is pretty funky initially to see the screen light up in your hand like a glowing crystal. The drawback however is that the display is entirely monochrome.
At arm's length, text is too faint to be seen properly even at maximum brightness. Under broad daylight, it becomes even less discernible and can only be seen at certain angles or on darker backgrounds. This severely cripples the user experience.
The battery is built-in, and the SIM card holder has been shifted to a slot at the right side instead, where it can be easily mistaken as an SD card slot. Notably, while the device does technically support 3.5mm headphone jacks, it has to be plugged into the proprietary wire connector, which fits into the charging station. The power button is at the back of the phone and extremely small. We tried switching it off without flipping it on its rear, but it was extremely tedious. You'll have to turn it over.
Since the Pureness has a narrow frame, there isn't much space between each button on the keypad for optimum input. We found it near impossible to SMS without making any errors due to the frequent and accidental pressing of a neighboring button.
Hence, it all boils down to, why buy the Pureness? There's not a lot here to offer functionality-wise and plenty of usability issues. It's no doubt an interesting concept phone, but the execution is less than ideal. Our advice: save your $798 (without contract) for the next pretty and cool thing.