Sony Xperia S Review: A Refreshingly Good Android Smartphone

The Sony Xperia S is a super-slim smartphone that distinguishes itself from the crowd of Android based phones that fill up most of the catalogues of mobile network operators. Boasting a a dual-core 1.5 Ghz processor behind its elegant and svelte design, it comes packed with Sony technology:  mobile BRAVIA Engine and 12-megapixel camera with Exmor R sensor.

From my perspective as an iPhone owner, I would have never expected to find myself second-guessing my choice – until now. That’s because it’s really hard to find a fault in the Xperia S, but we’ll come back to that later.

First of all, the display is absolutely stunning for an LCD-based implementation, and at 4.3 inches it’s feels just right in your hand. Thanks to its resolution (1280 x 720 pixels) it has a bigger ppi (pixel per inch) than the iPhone 4S with its Retina display – which means photos and videos look nothing less of amazing, which is exactly what you want to see when looking at shots taken with the camera or browsing photos on Instagram.

Benefitting from Sony’s experience in the industry, it produces very good quality shots even in low light conditions – which often is not the case with phones because of the reduced size of the sensor. For that extra bit of light when taking shots indoors or at night, the LED flash gives a helping hand. And when it comes to showing off those photos or play back videos, you can use the HDMI port.

If you’re used to listening to your tunes on your way to work or uni, then you’ll be happy to hear that the Xperia S has 32 GB of integrated flash memory, plenty enough for most journeys. We could not test this objectively but in my opinion the sound quality exceeds any phone I’ve used so far; that’s saying quite a lot because Apple has a lot of experience making iPods and they’ve used in the past some of the best DSP’s (digital signal processors) available. The Media Player is a bit rough on the edges – not as intuitive as we’re used to – but flicking through the album art on the 4.3 inch screen makes up for it. And you can always use something like DoubleTwist – which is available in the Android Store.

The Xperia S also benefits from HSDPA and WiFi capabilities – which means you’ll never spend a minute away from your friends on Twitter and Facebook; Assisted-GPS with Google Maps, bluetooth A2DP for wireless music & handsfree, 3D panoramic photos, full HD video recording, Google Voice search and a standard 3.5mm audio jack, all in a sleek black design weighing just 144g.

For one of the best phones available right now in the UK, the Xperia S does however get a low grade on build quality. The back plate which covers the SIM card holder seems rather flimsy and prone to scratches unlike the mineral glass on the front of the device. It also suffers from Android’s immaturity as an operating system, a lesser selection of applications and non-standard user interfaces. While a technological marvel in itself, it doesn’t feel like an integrated experience, but a series of undoubtedly remarkable features strung together by engineers in an effort to create a proof of concept device.

The battery life was acceptable, lasting a full day of normal usage – music, web-browsing, texts and calls. It’s not an impressive result, but most would charge their phone overnight anyway.

A good thing to note is that Sony is paying attention to Mac users – maybe the hardest crowd to sell a phone to – by releasing Sony Bridge, an comprehensive app that tries to be your one stop shop to managing your phone, be it music, photos, videos or backing up. There’s a few bugs in the code – syncing stopped a couple a times – but its understandable as the development for it did not start until very recently.

To conclude, I would say to definitely go in a store a give the Sony Xperia S a try, especially if you’re using Google products like Docs and Google Mail. People used to MobileMe and iCloud are going to miss the Calendar and contacts synchronisation, but given the openness of the Android platform I’m sure someone is already working on it.