Having ditched Ericsson, Sony is now forging ahead with a new range of Xperia handsets.
And while the Xperia S was undoubtedly designed when Ericsson was still in the frame, the specs and general demeanor signify that Sony has some serious plans for its Android phones.
The Xperia S has a very distinctive look, mostly because of the clear strip towards the bottom into which are embedded symbols for Home, Back and Menu functions.
You actually activate those functions by pressing small touch sensitive dots just above these symbols on the black part of the fascia.
To be frank, we don’t really like the look, but we can accept that some people might be pleased to see a move away from the standard handset design.
It is undeniable that this clear strip adds to the overall height of the Sony Xperia S, and it isn’t a phone you can easily stuff into a small pocket.
Another design feature we don’t really take to is the curved backplate.
The curve is slight and it feels okay in the hand, but it does mean the handset rocks a little when you press its screen if it is laying on the desk. And one more complaint about the size of the Sony Xperia S before we move on. It is too big to use one-handed with comfort – we couldn’t stretch right across the screen one-handed.
The specifications will certainly give the competition something to think about. There is a 1.5GHz dual core processor supported by 1GB of RAM.
While this might seem old hat with quad-core processors just around the corner we found the Sony Xperia S was responsive and speedy in all the tasks we asked it to do, so we’ve no complaints on that front.
The 4.3 inch screen uses Sony’s Bravia HD system to deliver crisp and clear visuals while the resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels means delivery really is pin sharp.
A micro HDMI port on the right edge of the chassis is protected under a hinged cover (just as the left mounted USB port is), and Sony provides a cable. There’s DLNA, and even Near Field Communications too, which at some point might actually prove useful.
There’s a 12 megapixel camera too. While you should take the 16x digital zoom with a pinch of salt (it really doesn’t perform well at 16x), there are a fair range of shooting options and smile detection has become complex as it can be set to ‘big smile’, ‘average smile’, ‘small smile’ or off.
Photos look superb on the screen, of course, and more than adequate on a larger monitor or printed, if not class-leading.
Sony has not fiddled too much with the old Sony Ericsson Android skin, so that any existing Xperia fan ought to feel at home. Five home screens can be filled with widgets easily enough and these include the social media rich Timescape.
Sony’s PlayStation app is here too, and there are lots of other extras – too many, actually, in our view.
The lock screen gets a few neat tweaks too, such as music controls and notifications, but it’s still a way away from HTC’s ability to unlock into specific apps.
The Xperia S is one of many handsets this year that will forego standard sized SIMs in favour of a micro SIM, requiring anyone upgrading to jump through a hoop or two to keep their number.
The admittedly generous 32GB of built in storage is not bolstered by a microSD card slot. Our review handset had so many extras bundled on over and above Android itself that there was just 25GB free inside the phone.
Not only might this be too little for some people, it might make getting data across from your old handset a bit of a fiddle.
We’re also nonplussed that the battery can’t be removed. We aren’t fans of any handset which has a non removable battery. Overall, though, there are more plusses than minuses with the Xperia S, with a decent camera and fantastic screen perhaps showing the way ahead for Sony in future.
Written by Sandra Vogel