Samsung’s latest Galaxy handset might be stealing all the headlines of late, but it’s not the only Android device from a Far East manufacturer that’s good enough to take on the all-conquering iPhone. Sony’s latest attempt at toppling Apple’s reign is the manufacturer’s first smartphone as a solo enterprise after buying out telecoms partner Ericsson in February. Released in March, the Xperia S has plenty of features that could turn heads, but with a market awash with brilliant devices, does it have enough to take on the big boys?
The upsides of this phone are obvious on first use. The vibrant 4.3” Bravia HD screen and 12-megapixel camera, capable of shooting panoramic photos and 1080p video, both smack of the quality that Sony-philes have become accustomed to. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the phone’s build – while the screen and design make the Xperia S look stunning, the plasticky feel and fiddly, unresponsive buttons let the device down when in your hand. By far my biggest niggle was the device’s port cover, which is not designed for those short of nail and big of finger, and would no doubt be ripped off by accident or through sheer frustration before too long.
Another shortcoming is the operating system, the sluggish Android Gingerbread 2.3. While it is possible to upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich, would it have been so hard to include this on launch? And while Gingerbread supposedly runs with no lag, this reviewer did not find it as responsive as some other models. Still, with NFC-capability allowing the phone to be turned into a bankcard and travel pass soon, and programmable tags opening up other scan functionality, the device has a few tricks up its sleeves, with a level of future-proofing to boot. A decent battery life means you’ll be able to use it for these other functions all day too.
When it comes to media, Sony really stands out. The (relatively) huge Bravia screen makes watching movies and TV a great experience, with the vibrant LCD making animation a particular joy to watch. This visual prowess converts to gaming also, and the Xperia S comes, of course, with the Playstation certification, there are plenty of top-range titles to choose from. With a 1.5 GHz dualcore processor and 1GB RAM, the Xperia S is more than capable of dealing with everything you can throw at it. Music is dealt with just as adeptly, with the Walkman app offering a brilliant experience and the sound being very full, with throbbing bass notes and distinct treble.
As a package, the Sony Xperia S way not stand out, unlike its vibrant screen, but it does stand up to the other phones in its class, despite a lesser OS and clunky feel. There’s already talk of the next Xperia launch (most probably due to the aforementioned Samsung), but so many slight upgrades seemingly warranting a whole new model at a brand new price (and some manufacturers refusing to drop prices on older models), the Xperia S could soon be the smartphone for the savvy shopper.
The Sony Xperia S handset was provided for review by Three with its all-you-can-eat data plan.