Sony Ericsson is more renowned for trading in Cyber-shots and Walkman phones, so it’s a surprise to see it dabbling in the premium phone market for the first time with the Pureness Xperia – the first phone to sport a transparent screen.
It may have the Xperia name, but the Pureness is a world away from all-singing smartphones like the X2 and upcoming Android-running X10. Instead, it harks back to simpler bygone days when a mobile phone was used for just two things – making phone calls and sending text messages.
Such simplicity seems a little at odds with the screen. It’s opaque when the phone is lying dormant, but becomes completely clear when powered up – much like the effect a de-icer has on a frosty car window.
The price is right?
Exclusive to Selfridges, the Pureness costs a reasonable – in premium terms – £650 SIM-free. But while it still clocks in just below the £800 Nokia Sapphire Arte, the price tag is nevertheless still clearly too inflated, especially when you start to handle the phone.
Where the Nokia Arte and Motorola Auras of this world weigh in with a quality heft that gives you the impression you’ve blown your wad on something substantial and expertly made, the Pureness feels like a scrawny mid-range prepay handset.
Its ceramic-coated plastic lower torso gives it a smooth sheen but there’s no sign of quality craftsmanship you expect from a deluxe phone or one priced at £650. That said, it minimalist design and clean square lines are pretty cool.
But while its may look quite striking, a badly designed control pad throws up some usability issues. Because the four cursor keys and soft keys are integrated and squeezed tightly into the panel with no clear definition, you frequently encroach on neighbouring buttons. It quickly becomes incredibly frustrating.
Sadly, the scratch-resistant transparent screen presents more problems than it’s worth. It does turn heads down at the country club but in bright light the display can badly fade in and out of view and more often than not you’re straining to see what’s on screen.
Similarly, being monochrome, album artwork and internet pages – although nicely crunched to fit the poky 1.8in panel – lose impact in black and white.
While the Pureness is billed as basic talk and texter it’s not completely devoid of features. There’s no camera, but with 2GB of onboard memory there’s enough storage to stockpile some tunes. The music player is early standard issue Walkman, so you get MegaBass to flesh out an already listenable sound.
The £650 asking price tag does include a year subscription to a 24-hour ‘lifestyle’ Pureness concierge service for those who are too busy to order theatre tickets, caviar-topped pizzas or hire a wedding planner.
In that respect, the £650 feels less of a rip off, although it’s a further £770 a year if you can’t live without it.
The Pureness has it moments – the transparent screen is a crowd pleaser, if ultimately useless – but its just doesn’t feel like a premium phone.
It seriously lacks the artistry and quality of other deluxe handsets and so feels overpriced. If you really want a slice of phone exclusivity, we recommend saving a bit more and looking at Nokia’s Arte series.