Introduced at CES 2012 the Xperia S was the first handset to be released under the newly formed Sony Mobile name, following the Sony’s buy out of Ericsson a few months earlier.
Will the Xperia S be a positive step for the company? Or have they changed the design of the handset too much and lost out on other issues?
Similar devices at a similar price:
- HTC One X (£469.99)
- 4.3” capacitive screen, at 720x1280pixels resolution
- Dual core 1.5GHz processor (Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8260)
- 1GB RAM
- 32GB Internal Storage
- WiFi and Bluetooth
- 1.3MP front facing camera
- 12MP rear facing camera (with flash)
- Android Gingerbread (2.3)
- Mini HDMI out
- 1750mAh battery (claimed standby of 420hrs)
- Cellular networks: GSM850, GSM900, GSM1800, GSM1900, UMTS850 (B5), UMTS900 (B8), UMTS1900 (B2), UMTS2100 (B1)
- Data: GPRS, EDGE, UMTS, HSDPA, HSUPA, HSPA+
- Great rear facing camera
- Comes with a HDMI cable
- Good build quality
- Excellent design
- Poor front facing camera
- Uses microSIM
- No microSD slot (has NFC)
- Non-accessible battery
- Doesn’t come with Android 4.0
In the box:
- Sony Xperia S phone
- Mains charger
- USB cable
- HDMI cable
- Various guides
- Front: 4.3” screen, front camera, notification LED, speaker and touch buttons: menu, home and back.
- Rear: Rear camera with flash, speaker and noise cancelling microphone.
- Top: Power button and headphone socket.
- Left: USB port.
- Bottom: Lanyard loop and primary microphone.
- Right: Volume controls, camera button and mini HDMI port.
(Ignoring Google Apps such as Browser, calculator etc.)
- 3D Album; This allows you to view pictures taken with the 3D camera on a 3D TV.
- 3D Camera; This app allows you to take panoramic pictures which can be 3D (I was unable to test this due to lack of a 3D TV).
- Alarm; This is very similar to the stock Gingerbread alarm, but it has buttons to a world clock, a stopwatch and a timer.
- Connected devices; This is for the DLNA capabilities of the device. You can view various devices on the Wi-Fi network and either stream music videos to or from the Xperia S.
- Facebook; This is the official Facebook app.
- Flash player; The device comes with Flash pre-installed.
- Football downloads; This is an app where you can download football related wallpapers and ringtones.
- Liveware manager; This allows certain apps to be assigned to various objects, such as when the charger or headphones are connected.
- McAfee Security; This is a security app to help prevent theft of your device.
- Media remote; This allows you to control your TV from your phone.
- Music Unlimited; This app allows you to listen to music by streaming it, it is similar to Spotify.
- OfficeSuite; This is a fully fledged office suite, which allows you to edit various documents.
- PlayStation; As the device is PlayStation certified, you can play games on the phone. The games can also be outputted onto a TV.
- Power Saver; This allows you to assign certain profiles on certain events, to help make battery life longer.
- Recommender; This recommends apps which Sony have tested for compatibility on the device.
- Setup guide; This is the setup wizard that is fist shown when the device is booted up for the first time.
- StopWatch; A simple stopwatch app.
- Tags; As the device has NFC, you can scan tags which contain certain information.
- Timer; A simple timing app.
- Timescape; Timescape is a viewer for your Facebook and Twitter feeds.
- TrackID; TrackID allows you to hold the device next to a source of music to find out what song is playing.
- Update center; This app manages the various updates for the device.
- Video Unlimited; This app allows you to rent movies and TV shows on your device.
- WhatsApp; WhatsApp is the somewhat popular multi-platform messenger.
- Wisepilot; Wisepilot is an app which allows you to find nearby things such as hotels, restaurants and petrol stations. These can then be viewed on a map.
- World Clock; As the name suggests, this is a world clock. Various locations can be added and the weather and time from these locations is shown.
Upon opening the box, the Xperia S is immediately on display. Under the phone, and lifting a piece of card up, unveils the accessories; the charger, headphones, HDMI cable and a USB to micro USB cable. Manual wise, the box contains the SAR information, important information and a small startup guide. There is also a little piece of paper saying how “pre-installed applications will vary on a country by country basis”.
The hardware specifications have been outlined in full above, but I will now comment on what I think about the device and these specifications.
The device has a 4.3 inch screen at a resolution of 720×1280. The screen is very bright and has excellent viewing angles, perfect for a multimedia device. The touchscreen is capacitive, and is very responsive.
The device has a 1.5GHz dual core processor, which, whilst it isn’t a quad core device, is still very powerful. As the review shows soon, the S has no problem with HD video or 3D games.This is helped by the 1GB of RAM. This is a similar amount to most high end phones in the market. Battery life of the device was surprisingly good, again being what you would expect from a phone at this end of the spectrum.
Unfortunately, the device does not have a microSD slot, as it has NFC instead. This is good technology, but is somewhat pointless at the moment due to its lack of widespread support.
The build quality of the Xperia S is excellent, and the truly different aspect of this device is the transparent bar which passes through the device near the bottom. This bar contains the antenna, which can be seen by close inspection. The bar also illuminates when the touch buttons are pressed. The whole device is made of a high quality plastic.
Unfortunately the Xperia S comes running Android 2.3.7 rather than Android 4.0. Sony have stated that an update will be coming in Q2. The device has had a few interface alterations, such as the lockscreen and the menu. These are fairly similar to stock Gingerbread, but the menu allows you to arrange apps by alphabetical order, by most used or by recently installed. There is fourth and final view which allows you to arrange your apps how you would like them arranged.
Upon powering up, there is a small Sony logo as it boots up. After this short boot period, and swiping the unlock slider, the homescreen appears. This is similar to the stock Android Gingerbread launcher, and the homescreen has various widgets, such as search and the clock. Other screens have widgets such as power control, a Feed widget and a multimedia player.
The Xperia S allows for various themes, such as an Amethyst, ruby or gold theme. The notification bar is black and grey, with custom icons. It has various indicators, such as the clock, network status and battery.
Browsing was good on the device, due to the large 4.3 inch screen. As the device has multitouch, it supports pinch-to-zoom, which worked well with no problems at all. I was able to read a whole webpage with no difficulty, due to the large screen and the good resolution.
The camera of the Xperia S was excellent. The 12MP camera was able to take some excellent pictures.
The device supports panoramic photos, much like stock ICS now does. This can be a bit fiddly sometimes, as you have to move the phone at just the right speed. There was also a 3D camera, which uses a similar capture style to the panoramic photo. 3D photos can only be viewed on a 3D TV, however.
Sample shots from the camera are below:
Video and music:
The Xperia S is excellent at playing HD videos, even when outputted to a TV. The YouTube app ran great, and HQ videos played without any issues.
The loudspeaker was very loud. The supplied headset is the good, in-canal type, perfect for listening to music and blocking out the environment. The device handled various DLNA streams with no problem.
Gaming performance is fairly good. Angry Birds ran extremely well on the device, and was lag-free. As this is not the most demanding game, I then tried Minecraft Pocket Edition and Temple Run, both ran extremely well did not suffer from and lock ups or lag.
This Xperia S is, in my opinion, one of the best looking phones available. The design, with its transparent bar, is what makes it truly different, and what I was impressed by the most. Build quality is excellent, even though it is made of plastic.
Using the device was great. Being a high end device, it is actually fairly hard to say what is wrong it. The device is certainly powerful enough, with its 1.5GHz dual core processor, for everything that needs to be done. The camera and screen are both truly excellent. The screen is a great resolution for its size.
The most annoying thing about it is that it didn’t ship with Ice Cream Sandwich. The final little thing is the non-accessible battery.