Hands on with the Sony Xperia S, P and U
Sexy: the NXT generation
Sony's Xperia S flagship smartphone was on show at the company's MWC 2012 event in London yesterday and, having had a play with it this NFC-equipped Android, I'm impressed.
Prototype models of others in the new Xperia NXT range, the U and P, were also on show.
The build itself is lightweight but sturdy, its curved, soft touch plastic back giving a deceptively compact feel for a phone that packs a 4.3in display. Still, you probably wouldn't want it any bigger than this.
It has well-positioned buttons on the sides for volume and camera with power/standby on top that have a real feel of quality to them. Being a touchscreen Android phone, the navigation is icon driven with the Xperia S having a dedicated control section of three buttons.
A thin transparent strip near the bottom shows white icons for Back, Home and Settings with tiny white dots above activating these functions. The strip itself lights up for notifications and even mood lighting. While this section seems to lengthen the phone, it does make navigation thumbing easier and apparently incorporates antenna components.
There's no removable battery nor expandable memory, but if you do require more than the 32GB onboard Flash storage, Sony points customers towards the free cloud-based app, Box, which comes supplied and gives users 50GB of free storage. Do you really need more than that?
At 1280 x 720, the display itself is magnificent, its Mobile Bravia engine delivering a definite wow factor when viewing videos. Connected to a Smart TV and big screen playback is impressive too, with no noticeable downgrade in quality.
Navigation is smooth, with Sony's UI matching the 'Iconic Identity' of Sony's new range. This theme continues when connected to a telly, giving any HDTV smart features and access to t'interweb through a simple HDMI connection.
Alas, the handset is currently powered by Android 2.3.7 Gingerbread, but an ICS update is promised in the next couple of months. Either way, the dual-core 1.5Ghz processor handles everything pretty sweetly without lag, despite a plethora of pre-installed apps.
The phone's 12Mp camera is one of the handset's standout features. A quick-start button takes photos in 1.5 seconds from standby, and its startling image quality held its own up against 14Mp Sony Cyber-shot.
The rear-facing snapper handles 1080p video recording too, while the front-facing 1.3Mp camera manages 720p capture too.
But it's the NFC customisation features that really makes the Xperia S standout. NFC 'SmartTags' are available, with some telcos offering freebies out the box and others selling them separately.
These can be set up to activate certain features on the phone, programming an unlimited number of commands. For example, users can tap their phone on the bedside table to activate a pre-made Sleep profile, which could turn on a phone's alarm, change its background and set calls to silent. Hell, it could even be set up so that it sends your girlfriend a text message to say goodnight or other such pleasantries.
In practice, the NFC tap was less sensitive that I would have liked and certainly required some getting used to. But the concept itself is great and if Sony can get the balance right, having NFC tags stuck strategically around the place would potentially be a very useful and time saving feature.
The company was also quick to tout its own Spotify-like service, Music Unlimited, that comes with a free 180 day trial. There's a movie rental service 'Video Unlimited' too, which unfortunately doesn't come with a trial period.
Many of these features can be found on the company's other smaller handsets, the Xperia U and Xperia P, although these roll up with additional features such as the WhiteMagic display. Similar to Sharp's yellow-pixel Quattron tellies, Sony has included an additional pixel, opting for white to improve brightness rather than warmth.
The company says along with a brighter image, WhiteMagic improves battery life, with 50 per cent less drain on the blower's juice capacity. Dimming is automatically adjusted too, brightening up when it detects outside conditions and likewise lowering intensity in darker conditions.
My first impressions on each of Sony's other NXT models were also positive, although the smallest of the group, the Xperia U, had a distinctly bulkier feel to it and with just 8GB of flash memory onboard, customers will no doubt be reaching for Sony's Cloud pretty quickly. You can change the colour of the bottom part, though... best not forget that stylish feature.
Still, the NXT range has a lot going for it and Sony's first outing without the Ericsson involvement certainly leaves a lasting impression. It'll be interesting to give the other handsets a proper run through when they move beyond the prototypes and show off the benefits of Ice Cream Sandwich.
The Xperia S sees a global release in a couple of weeks and has already started shipping. ®
Sony is taking too much of the Apple route, without expandable memory, or swappable battery.
The CPU is also last year's chip.. at least the top of the line should have something equivalent to a Tegra 3.
That camera had better be really unbelievably good, cause I see no other possible reason to buy this over a Galaxy SIII or even last year's Galaxy SII.
I refuse to buy an iPhone, because of the battery issue, with my batteries always giving out after one year, and I also like to carry spares when I travel. A spare battery is such a cheap way to make your phone that much more useful.
I agree with other posters who said they hadn't forgiven Sony for its conniving treatment of customers - which isn't limited to that rootkit scandal either, but I still dislike Apple more than Sony :P
Re: Re: Battery?
Didn't the worrying come after the pre-ordering? How does that make him/her a sheep?
It's a sad day indeed when even the Reg is jumping on the 'heck, why would you even need more storage' bandwagon.
I seem to remember, not too long ago, that the worlds biggest selling music player was available in sizes up to 160gb. There seemed to be some kind of acceptance that more storage was better (so one could carry around all the music/video/etc you want). Slowly that music functionality has become integrated into a phone. All good, 2 devices become one.
For the iOS crowd Apple will happily fine you £700 for a 64gb iPhone. Not cheap but is a decent amount of non-expandable storage. In the recent past of Android world you could comfort yourself with internal storage + MicroSD. This was a standard feature. Now it seems with Android ICS they (Google) are not so keen on card storage. Apparently we can store all our music in the 'cloud'. Yeah right. Unlike the mobile phone development community, I live in the real world. The one where a 3G signal is about as consistent as very inconsistent thing on a changeable day. And I live in the populous SE of England. Not allowing removable storage is a mistake, the infrastucture is not there yet for it to be replaced by a remote server.
Please Samsung, continue to fly the flag for MicroSD...and please, everyone else, stop this irritating practise.
It's so pretty!
I've never been a fan of Sony phones, so why are these three calling out to me in sultry, honeyed tones? I'm no fan of gimmicks either (hello NFC tags) but that colour-changing illuminated strip is frickin' cool - every time I'm reminded of the lack of an expansion slot and removable battery I keep thinking of that warm glow......
I've pre-ordered my S, but beginning to get worried that not one of the reviews / hands-on I've seen has mentioned real-time battery life. It's all well and good having a phone which can sing and dance and knit a jumper while making the tea, but it's just a doorstop if it won't stay on for more than 10mins.