Sony Xperia S one classy smartphone
The Xperia S is an important device for Sony as the first phone following the divorce with Ericsson. As Sony tries to re-focus on its most profitable enterprises — digital imaging, smartphones and gaming — the success of its first major phone release of 2012 could foretell the company’s success for the coming year.
Out of the box it is clearly a Sony product..excellent design for the most part..it is carved out of a solid piece of black or white polycarbonate with a nicely curved back that makes it sit well in the hand. That back is removable..if you can figure out how..and is a pretty flimsy piece of plastic. I ask why bother when it is only to access the sim card as the battery is not removeable and there is no additional storage..wouldn’t it have been better to provide a slot for the sim card in a unibody construct?..now that would have been classy.
Speaking of classy..that describes the front of the Xperia S. A solid block of scratch resistant glass covering a spectacular 4.3”, 1280×720 pixels 16,777,216 colour TFT screen combined that with Sony’s Bravia engine produces fantastic images. Underneath the black slab of glass is a thin strip of clear illuminated plastic that houses the labels for the Android buttons..the actual buttons are soft spots at the bottom of the screen marked with small silver dots..in the wrong places so I found myself missing the spots until I figured out where they actually were.
The Xperia S is powered by a 1.5 GHz Qualcomm MSM8260 Dual Core S3 processor w/ Adreno 220 GPU with1GB DDR2 RAM / 32GB internal storage (no microSD slot). Surprisingly it is running Android 2.3.7 Gingerbread when all the competition will feature Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Read Sony’s reasoning here. That said the Xperia S will get ICS before the end of June..the GUI Sony is using mimics ICS in look and feel..for example..the Google search bar on the home page and the app drawer scrolls horizontally rather than vertically as it does in stock Gingerbread..as well there are only three Android buttons compared to the four common on Gingerbread phones. Overall performance of the phone was pretty good but I found apps sometimes stuttered and the browsing experience was less than optimal..graphics were slow to load and zooming was ragged at times. Once pages loaded however the image was spectacular on the HD screen. The phone was also hampered by Roger’s slow network in Quebec..network performance was much better in Toronto.
The Xperia S has good connectivity Micro USB and Micro HDMI both covered by plastic port covers that are only a bit finicky. Sony,unlike many manufacturers does supply a HDMI cable..a nice touch. It also features NFC..which could be used for apps such as Google Wallet…or NFC Tags Sony sells separately that can be used to customise settings on the phone with a swipe. I tried it on my NFC equipped Visa card and found very fussy.. it took several swipes to detect the chip which it recognized as unknown.
The Xperia S comes with a solid complement of cameras..the front a 1.3MP unit capable of 720p video is solid for video calls..the rear facing camera is a 12MP beautry capable of 1080p video recording @ 30fps with continuous autofocus and stereo sound. I was quite impressed with the still camera..this shot was taken through the window of a VIA Rail Train approaching Toronto at 60kph.
This one taken at the GO train station in Burlington shows how it deals well with varying light..I apologize for the finger in the corner of the lens.
The video shot at 1080p, again from the moving train outside Toronto..this time at 120kph is also pretty impressive. Lesser cameras would have been smeared and shown lots of artifacts..
While the Xperia S has a lot of good things going for it I am afraid it will not be competitive with HTC’s One series and Samsung Galaxy S III..it is however attractively priced at $99.99 at Sony Stores and Rogers with a 3 year contract.