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January 10, 2012 by Dean Quinn
Just like the England squad did in 2006, Sony have have said goodbye to Ericsson, although this successful Swedish export wasn’t a softly spoken, cool-as-a-cucumber character with a penchant for the ladies, but instead a telephony behemoth with a rich heritage in mobile. Yes, the Japanese-Swedish axis on which the modern day mobile success story that is Sony Ericsson has been built on has come to an end after a decade as Sony decide to take the reins and go it alone. Some might say that this decision to part company is a strange one considering the burgeoning Xperia range has recently been gaining momentum after a somewhat shaky start (remember the Xperia X 10 update debacle?), but only time will tell whether the fruits of the sole venture will be successful. Thankfully for eager phone fans though, that time is now because we’ve only gone and got our hands on the first bit of kit to emerge from newly single Sony’s stable, the Xperia S (or the Xperia S from Sony as they’re calling it) a high-end Android effort with imaging prowess at its very core. Let’s have a look then shall we?
Design & Hardware
Those of you familiar with the smooth, sexy design elements synonymous with the more recent Xperia handsets might well be in for a bit of a shock when they first clap eyes on this mother for all those lovely rounded edges and the glossy coating have been consigned to the bin. Showing up in their place however is a markedly more angular (and infinitely more futuristic) design featuring minimal styling and what at first appear to be harsh, almost brutal lines on the chassis that frames the massive ice rink-esque 4.3-inch HD display. On closer inspection though, the gently cambered back panel becomes evident, demonstrating that Sony hasn’t completely distanced itself from the Xperia aesthetics of past devices via this nod towards a feature incorporated into older siblings the Xperias Play, Arc, Neo and Arc S.
Whilst not a radical departure from the Sony Ericsson-produced devices that form part of the range, the inaugural Sony Xperia joint does bring some new external elements to the party, most notably in the form of the clear plastic stripe that runs through the bottom of the handset like the lettering through a stick of highly technological rock. Rather confusingly though, this panel is emblazoned with the symbols denoting the functions of the usual home, back and menu touch sensitive navigation buttons, but not the buttons themselves which instead reside above where its corresponding symbol is. Whilst the inclusion of the see-thru panel is one we applaud, bringing as it does a futuristic air to proceedings, we would liked to have seen the touch sensitive incorporated into the thing too (you might find yourself aimlessly poking the perspex-y bit in the hope that something will happen – like we were).
Aside from that small gripe though, there’s not much that warrants complaining about on the outside so we turned our attention to the innards and were pleasantly surprised. Now we know that imaging and display chops were going to be the big shouts with this one, thanks to the ‘proper’ HD display (complete with that cool Mobile Bravia Engine tech that makes their tellys so blimmin’ impressive) and that strapping 12 megapixel camera, but we weren’t expecting such top spec hardware to be nestling under the hood having metaphorically spuffed their load with the awesome screen/snapper combo. How wrong we were though as also crammed in is a speedy 1.5 dual-core processor which makes all the difference when streaming video in 1080p HD, browsing the web, and playing all those PS One titles you’re privy to thanks to the Xperia S’ PlayStation Certified status (more about this later).
Software & Multimedia
The Xperia S, sorry, Xperia S from Sony, runs Android 2.3, which mightn’t be the latest version of the little green robot but is a more than adequate software platform for even top end handsets such as this. In fact the Sony boffins have been a busy little lot when putting the insidey bits of this one together and they’ve even managed to incorporate that cool NFC-powered Android Beam tech that shows up on Ice Cream Sandwich devices and lets you share stuff like photos and MP3s between two device simply by touching the two together. Now this version of the tech which shows up here isn’t strictly the same as Android Beam, but Sony’s “Touch to Share”does pretty much the same thing, so you can swap content with other Xperia S users and anyone who has a blower running Ice Cream Sandwich.
Continuing the caring, sharing theme, it might be an idea to let you in on the wealth of connectivity options the Xperia S has going on. Of course, there’s the usual Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and whatnot, as well as a micro HDMI out port, but where the Xperia S excels is in its use of DLNA. Users can set up a home network and connect all manner of different devices to it it from PCs and tablets to tellys and speaker docks, and then seamlessly ping digital content stored on the phone to each, or all. In essence, this neat bit of wizardry turns your phone into a kind of control hub for your own personal media sharing network, and best of all, the devices you choose to include don’t have to be Sony branded either, so you can ping whatever you like to whatever you like. It’s really simple too, open your photo/video/music, press the little icon you’re presented with and your Xperia S will look for all the other kit you can share with then let you ping it to a TV, tablet, PC or speaker.
The sharing side of things doesn’t stop there though as Sony have also seen fit to tickle the joy receptors of all you social networking fiends by way of something called Facebook inside which not only lets you ‘like’ the track you’re listening to and post a notification to your wall direct from the media player, but there’s also the option to view all of your Facebook photos right there in the gallery without having to jump through the hoops of opening the FB app and clicking round the place until you find what you’re after. Add to this nifty movie rental service Video Unlimited and the similar Music Unlimited and you’ve a multimedia monster on your hands.
Performance & Verdict
Although the device we had to play with was only a pre-release version and the software it sported was far from final but nevertheless, it held up to the rigours we put it through. Web browsing was slick and free from hindrance and apps were quick to open. The user interface is perhaps not the most attractive when compared to the likes of HTC’s Sense but it is intuitive enough to help you keep abreast of all the stuff you’ve got going on by way of social networking, widgets, weather etc (although the strange feature that allows you to pinch-to-zoom and then waggle all the widgets around in a snow shaker-esque fashion seems ultimately pointless). Battery life was as expected from a smartphone of its standing with about a day’s ‘normal’ use out of one charge. However, when completing actions such as streaming video over DLNA, we found that the juice drained at more of a rate, but we kinda knew that’d happen.
All in all, the Xperia S from Sony continues the linage of the Xperia range and is a more than adequate smartphone laden with top quality imaging capabilities. When we first heard that Sony would be going it alone with this one we were a tad weary but having had a good play around with it, it’s safe to say that the Xperia range is in safe hands. Now if only we could get used to calling it the Xperia S from Sony…
This phone is great for those wanting loads of connectivity options to sync with other devices, and boasts an excellent camera too.
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