Sony’s Xperia line has always been about refining. Back in 2008, their first Xperia X1 was clearly the benchmark for how a high-end Windows Mobile device should look and perform. Sadly, Sony Ericsson’s adoption of Android has been a different story. Their phones have done a good job in pushing industrial design to the limit, but the fact that their first Android device, the X10, launched with Android 1.6 Donut (later updated to Eclair) in times when Froyo was already shipping, has really tarnished their reputation. As good as their phones have been, they’re still struggling to land a hit years later.
Scratch the Ericsson from the name and now we meet the Xperia S, which is not only their first Sony branded smartphone, but their new flagship in the NXT Series. Is the Xperia S hot enough to gain your hard-earned cash? Read our full review to find out.
BOX, CONTENTS & HARDWARE
Sony also touts that the sound on their new Xperia is above average with the inclusion of their xLoud technology. So far, I must admit that the speaker does a great job in bringing sound some justice, but I can’t say the same about the headphones included in the box.
Overall, I feel that Sony has again raised the bar in the hardware department. They’ve always been good at pushing the limits with their design, but sadly, software is a different story.
SOFTWARE AND USER EXPERIENCE
The list of apps includes:
– Sony’s Video Unlimited and Music Unlimited service for selling music and movies
– TrackID which is a Shazam music discovery alternative
– Timescape which consolidates all your social media in a cumbersome UI
– A Data monitor app to compensate for your lack of ICS
– Xperia Football, which allows you to download wallpapers and ringtones from their partnership with the UEFA Champions League
– A media remote which allows you to control DLNA capable Sony BRAVIA TVs
– Wisepilot as an offline alternative for navigation
– Moxier Pro for a more secure connection to Microsoft Exchange Servers
– McAfee Security to go with Moxier Pro
– OfficeSuite Pro for document editing
– NeoReader for barcode and QR code search
– World clock and timer
You see, they literally only certified the store for the “PlayStation”, and by that I mean the original 1995 game console. It’s like finding a cheap emulator on a torrent website and then filling it up with legal ROMs of all the games from back in the day. It only includes 16 game titles at launch, and none are optimized to take advantage of the 720p resolution on the Xperia S. Remember that the original PlayStation launched back when flat screen TV’s weren’t even on store demos. Even if you can scale the game from 4:3 aspect ratio to take on the full screen, it still looks cheap and choppy. Are each of these games worth $5.99? Well if I were to compare it to EA’s Dead Space, just like I did in the video, I think you know my answer to that.
SPEED & PERFORMANCE
The Xperia S packs all of the high-end specs that any top-of-the-line smartphone would need to succeed. It’s fast, smooth and prepared for just about any task you could throw at it.
CALL QUALITY AND NETWORK
We tested this phone on Vodaphone in Spain, AT&T in the US and even TIGO in Honduras. Like most high-end smartphones, the Xperia S performs well when making phone calls. We experienced great sound quality and no drop calls on any of the networks that we tested it in. Despite the fact that it’s not optimized to take full advantage of AT&T’s network in the US, we got great download and upload speeds through HSDPA.
PURCHASING & AVAILABILITY
Currently the Xperia S is limited to the European market, and can be purchased for 599 which is around $750. Remember that AT&T will soon debut the Sony Xperia Ion, which is an LTE variant that’s a mashup of the Xperia S and P, so you could also consider that device instead.
– BRAVIA enhanced 720p resolution display at 342 PPI is gorgeous
– 12-megapixel camera with the Exmor R sensor performs great
– Sony Xperia Smarttags give NFC some real use
– Great speaker quality
– Lots of great apps and widgets included
– LiveWare Manager for peripherals like HDMI out
– Video recording software needs improvements
– Bellow-average battery life
– Forget about the PlayStation Certification for now
History seems to repeat itself. Sony has once again proven that they can come up with great hardware, but that the software department is late to get the memo. Even if Sony was able to skin many of the limitations in Gingerbread, it’s still no Ice Cream Sandwich. Notice that all my Cons are software-oriented though. Sony is still a month away from pushing their Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich update, and let’s hope that they act on them before the release.
I’ve got to hand it to Sony for trying though. They don’t do everything that other competitors do, but what they do, they do well. The device is fast, performs well and is stunning in the things that matter like its screen and camera performance. There are also little things like LiveWare Manager that make this device act like a true “Smart” phone. Having music start while plugging-in your headphones may be nonsense to many, but it’s something basic that everybody else should be doing.
If you’re out for a high-end smartphone that has all the bells and whistles to stand out from the crowd, the Sony Xperia S is your device.
For now, I’ll give it a 4/5 rating. Let’s see what Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich brings to the table in the next coming weeks.