Sony Xperia S
The Xperia S has been receiving a lot of interest in the mobile community and seems to be one of the most desired phones at the moment, however at the time of writing the HTC One X is not yet commercially available so that may change.
None the less the Xperia S from Sony (not Sony Ericsson) has a considerable amount to offer.
Initial impressions are that it looks big. In reality it is not as big as the likes of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus or the One X, but the black colour of our model and the the square shape makes it look and also feel a little bigger than it actually is. After a few days use we soon got used to the size of the device, but the squarer edges makes the Xperia S feel a little difficult to handle with one hand and could be uncomfortable in prolonged use for some in comparison to those smartphones that have a softer and more curved edge to them.
The addition of an illuminated bar that houses the antenna does make the device look different and it has a design edge that will appeal to many, but I can’t help but feel this has caused the phone to in turn be slightly longer than it needed to be.
The illuminated bar has etched into it the back, home and menu key needed for navigation on the Xperia. That is fine, however you need to actually press one of the 3 small dots that sit fractionally above the etched icons. It is not a massive issue but takes a bit of getting used to. You do too need to be a bit more accurate with the pressing of these. Whilst it has got easier and more natural over the time I have been using the device, it has taken time to get used to it and initially it took several attempts sometimes to register the press. Whilst it is minor in the bigger picture, for a first time smartphone user or even to a more experienced one, it makes the transition to this phone feel a bit more difficult and awkward than it need be for a smartphone in todays market.
The positioning of the volume button initially felt too close to the base of the phone on the right hand side but in general use it is actually not too bad.
The covers that serve to protect the microUSB and HDMI port have a purpose but they are fiddly and you always feel like you are going to break them. A cover over the HDMI port is one thing, as most wont use the HDMI port on a daily basis, whereas 99% will be using the charging port. It is nit-picking but these little things make the difference. It does give a cleaner and smarter look, but I would argue it is worth compromising. Some may pull the covers off permanently?! On this point if you open both the HDMI and microUSB cover, maybe because you are connecting to a live dock or a HD display the covers look like silly stumpy arms on the device. Feel free to laugh here but it just looks silly. What about a sliding cover….(LG have done it perfectly on the Prada).
It is too necessary to say here that many users might take advantage of the LiveDock that Sony offer as an accessory. It is incredibly powerful especially for the business person or the mobile worker, but the positioning of the charging port and the HDMI port mean that it doesn't sit elegantly in the LiveDock and can end up being a heap of cables and the phone on your desktop.
A modern smartphones is about making life easier, and the Sony SmartTags are one such thing that allows this but the covers and positioning of the ports make it more awkward.
So it may seem like I have complained so far, and to a degree I have but these are what I consider to be the annoyances of the device. If the above doesn’t cause you too much concern then game on, because the Xperia S is superb.
The black finish is clean, it looks smart. it doesn't feel cheap, nor does it feel exceptionally premium but the phone feels robust and strong. Slide off the back cover to access the micro SIM card slot. There is no removable battery or microSD card slot here. These are fixed internally. The memory is 32GB whilst the battery is 1750mAh in capacity.
This is enough juice to power you through a working day providing you are fairly sensible with the phone features. The 32GB of memory may be an annoyance for some, but sign up to box.com for free and get 50GB of cloud storage.
The 4.3” screen it is super bright, super immersive and the supplied video content really highlights the screen capability. Hook it up to a HD display and no quality is lost it is without doubt a killer feature on this phone. However you may want to consider setting auto-adjust on the backlight to keep battery power drain to a minimum.
Watching a movie on this would be a pleasure and sound playback on the device is fairly loud through the one speaker on the back of the phone just under the camera. I would have like to have seen another speaker to give that stereo sound.
The 12 megapixel camera records in full HD and manages the light fairly well like many previous Xperia phones. Our test footage was excellent in well light conditions. It seemed to struggle a little bit with some focusing and in poorer light conditions (overcast day) but that is if we had to find faults.
A dedicated camera button on the right side of the device means you can take a picture within 5 seconds even from a device that is in standby, which is a nice feature. It is easy to change settings and share content. We would like to have seen more image customisation/filter options to give the pictures more life and make everything a bit more fun. There are plenty of apps that you can download that do just this but it would have been a nice to have.
Bluetooth, GPS, WiFi it is all there. You have the ability to tether, create wireless hotspots as you do on many Android phones. GLONASS gives GPS that extra helping hand for more accuracy. In the time we tested, the GPS signal was strong and we had no signal loss, but couldn't say it picked up any any quicker.
Near Field Communication (NFC) is present on the Xperia S. It has limited use at the moment for many in an everyday life, but pick up the Xpeira SmartTags and you can customise different tags to automate different processes for you. It is a great feature and I can see many benefits, but you do have to get into a bit of a routine with it and I can see some finding it more effort than is necessary.
USB hosting is present on the device, you just need the appropriate adapter and you can connect USB mass storage drives, keyboards and more. This can be done too through the LiveDock. I am not sure how many people use this because you need the cable, but for those who have to transfer files a lot, it is a potentially handy feature, this is where the Xperia stands out potentially as a businessman’s friend.
As a PlayStation certified phone, the S has access to the PlayStation store where you can download compatible games and play them on the phone. At the moment, not many are available and they are all to be paid for. However in time more will come through and maybe some will be free, we hope. The PlayStation certification is not going to be of big appeal to many but we all like occasionally to mess about with a few games and waste some time and the thought of playing a classic on the smartphone draws even the occasional gamer in. As it is PlayStation certified it is only right to use a PlayStation controller to play a game, and that is what we did with Driver. Graphics can be a bit dated and up-scaling to the HD display through the HD out doesn't do the game any favours but it could be a lot worse. If it is occasionally when in a hotel room and you have an hour to spare, you can live with it.
Running Android 2.3.7 the fell is very similar to many other Android phones and previous Sony Ericsson devices. Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich is about 6 weeks away at the time of writing and would give the Xperia S a bit more of an edge. It is unfair to criticise the Xperia for the lack OS ICS at this time. 2.3 is perfectly fine and more than adequate.
Timescape from Sony is present, it gives greater integration of social services including Twitter and Facebook. It is not for everyone, I prefer to have it switched off, but none-the-less the integration exists.
Sony have too created some nice new widgets for the home screens which give a more interactive experience. The ones you can expect are similar to most Android phones. There is too the ability to group apps and contacts by creating folders and keeping your home screens organised.
The device has many language options and you can even write message or emails in Arabic, Russian and Hebrew. English is the default language and the keyboard offers a good on screen typing experience and the accuracy and spell correction seems to have moved on since the days of the original Xperia Arc.
Drag your finger between letters and you will see a on screen trail. Think Swype but made by Sony.
Many other apps have seen small tweaks including track ID, the default email client, but we could go on for ages.
To conclude the fantastic 4.3” display is stunning and you can easily put up with the fiddly covers and small niggles for what this device gives you. I like it, a lot, but I would be keen to see how this compares to the One X. I am just put off by the much bigger screen.
If you are considering the Xperia, consider no longer and put the money on the table and spend the next 24 months enjoying it.