We take a look at the Sony Xperia S, the first post-Sony Ericsson device. How does the new Sony smartphone establish itself?
Look and feel
The Sony Xperia S sports a sharp, minimalistic design with angular corners and a curved back case. At 10.6mm thick, it’s slightly thicker than other ultra-slim smartphones. When turned off, the screen blends in with its black front. At the bottom, there is a transparent element which provides a nice contrast in the design.
Underneath the screen, there are dots representing the back, home and menu buttons with their icons displayed underneath the dots in the transparent element. This takes a little bit of getting used to, as most Android phones feature the icons on top of the buttons rather than underneath them and I found that the dots representing the icons were hit and miss when selecting them.
Processor and display
The Xperia S runs on a 1.5GHz dual core processor, which makes the phone very speedy to use and the display is quite responsive, with little-to-no lag.
It has a 4.3 inch HD display with the Mobile Bravia Engine. This 1280×720 resolution display features 342 pixels per inch (ppi) and is really beautiful – in fact, it beats the iPhone 4S which has 326ppi. Colours are incredibly crisp and the image is sharp from all angles.
Not only that, but it delivers great sound quality, making it a particularly good device for watching movies. The smartphone also includes a HDMI port for displaying the image on HD screens
The rollout for Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich on many devices has been somewhat slow – it apparently makes up just 2.9pc of active Android devices. This compares to Android 2.3 Gingerbread, which makes up 63.7pc of the Android ecosystem. The reason why I bring this up is because the Xperia S currently runs on Android 2.3, with Sony promising to update it to Android 4.0 in the second quarter of 2012.
I’ve reviewed Google’s debut Android 4.0 device – the Samsung Galaxy Nexus – where I said that I believed that the OS represented the most mature and cohesive version of Android yet. It is somewhat disappointing that the Xperia S doesn’t have Android 4.0 right from launch, but it does seem to be an issue with a lot of other mobile manufacturers and the update should be arriving soon.
Sony’s overlay over the Android OS reflects the sleek design of the phone itself and comes with a number of stylish themes which highlights the sharp display. By holding down your finger on the home screen, you can add widgets and apps to the screen or you can adjust the wallpaper or theme. There is also a row of app shortcuts at the bottom of the screen which can be customised accordingly and the app menu can also be accessed here.
The Xperia comes with a number of built in apps, such as TrackID which offers details on songs when you hold the smartphone up against the audio. It also offers TimeScape which streams all of your social networking updates through a graphical feed. I found that it doesn’t display enough information from each status and that the images don’t display too well, so you may be better off using the Facebook and Twitter apps.
The Sony Xperia S features a 12 megapixel camera with an Exmor R sensor as well as a 1.3 megapixel camera at the front. It can shoot up to a 12 megapixel resolution image in a 4:3 screen ratio and a 9 megapixel image with a 16:9 screen ratio.
The image quality of the shots is excellent – the camera can capture sharp detail even in low lighting conditions and colours are extremely vibrant.
The camera has a 16x digital zoom – though expect understandable pixilation if you zoom in too far – and offers smile detection, which takes a photo when the subject is smiling. You can even set the intensity of the smile for each shot whether the smile is big or small.
The smartphone can also shoot Full HD video at 1080p and can use the LED light for extra lighting when shooting video. The focus can be adjusted to detect faces or can be set for a single auto focus. It also has an image stabiliser to reduce motion blur.
With its dual core processor, sharp screen and top sound, the Sony Xperia S is great for movie watching. Its camera is also very impressive both for image and video capturing.
In terms of software, the fact that it’s still running on Android 2.3 is a pity, though Sony promises that an update will arrive. Soon, many of the smartphones revealed at Mobile World Congress with Android 4.0 built-in will be arriving in stores, so hopefully Sony will update the smartphone in time to compete.
Regardless, the Sony Xperia S is definitely worth considering, particularly for those who want a smartphone which can handle high-end media or can take top photos.