While all eyes might be on the Samsung Galaxy S3, I’ve been spending time with another flagship Android handset, Sony’s Xperia S. It’s a masculine looking smartphone which has a lot going for it, but there are a few issues in Sony’s first Android powered handset that will make a lot of people think careful before any potential purchase.
Following Sony’s acquisition of the Ericsson part of Sony Ericsson, the Xperia S is the first ’100% Sony’ smartphone to be released. In parts it does feel rather rushed – the Sony Ericsson logo is prominent on the rear of the handset for some reason, while there are mentions of the joint venture still lingering in the UI and casing.
Attention to detail lifts any smartphone out of the world of ‘stock Android handsets’ and while Sony has made a number of efforts to make the handset feel ‘Sony’ and not ‘Google’ errors like the above undo the effort rather quickly. I want to see my smartphone manufacturers sweat the small software details as well as the broad strokes in the hardware and manufacturing process.
For the technically minded, the Xperia S has a 1.5Ghz dual core Scorpion CPU, the Qualcomm Adreno 220 GPU, 1GB of Ram, 32GB of internal storage, no support for memory cards or additional storage, and a 1750 mAh sealed battery.
While many people do buy their handsets on the strength of a spec list, I don’t think that’s a huge percentage. Those that do are going to make a bee-line straight to the recently announced Samsung Galaxy S3, which is marginally ahead in the numbers game when compared to the Xperia S.
Up until the S3 was launched, the Xperia’s big advantage was the screen size – at 4.3 inches and a pixel resolution of 720×1280 it was one of the most densely packed screens in the Android world. Even though it is ‘just TFT LCD’ the Xperia S screen is impressive. The Galaxy S3 might be Super AMOLED with the same resolution, but at 4.8″ the larger physical size on the S3 does lead to some issues in terms of handling that the Xperia S does not experience – such as one handed operation. With a relatively small bezel around the screen, the Xperia S is as close to a one-handed smartphone as any other 4.3 inch Android device.
Acronyms aside the display looks gorgeous.
The Xperia S excels with its camera – a 12 megapixel shooter, capable of recording in HD with a 16x digital zoom. It’s still not comparable to a digital SLR but it’s sufficiently high quality to replace any point and shoot camera in your pocket. It’s also very fast in terms of taking a second shot. With nifty fingers it is possible to take a second shot in under a second.
There’s something utilitarian about the design of the Xperia S. The angular lines are only broken apart by two elements – the slight curvature on the back panel that helps the handset sit in the palm of your hand, and the clear perspex strip at the base of the device.
If you look carefully through the strip, you’ll see a tiny criss-cross pattern of wires, part of the radio system on the device. You’ll also spot the three Android buttons of back, home and menu. For the first few days I was pressing these , hoping for the function, when the actual capacitive key is just above the bar, signified by three white dots on the casing. The perspex bar gives just enough feedback to my fingertips so I know where to press for the three default keys, but it is disconcerting for the first few days to hit the perspex bar and see nothing happen. This may catch many people out when they try the device in a store.