New Delhi: Before everything else - what is great about this phone and how it manages to stand apart in the smartphone crowd - what is interesting is that the Xperia S is the first smartphone under the Sony's Sony Mobile Communications brand. Sony had acquired Ericsson's 50 per cent stake in the pair's former joint venture Sony Ericsson.
Unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this year, the phone has finally hit the Indian shores.
Priced at Rs 32,549, the phone comes in two colours " white and black. The review unit given to me was the black version. However, I have seen the Xperia S in both white and black colours and both have their own grace.
Now on to a comprehensive review of the device.
Hardware and styling
In the first look, the phone looks sexy. The design is simple, yet it manages to attract attention. Chances are, you could fall in love at the very first sight with this phone. What attracted me the most is the translucent strip along the bottom, which houses icons for the navigation touch points " back, home and menu. While some of you might not find it as attractive (design after all, is often a matter of personal choice). For instance, my best colleague did not find it impressive. But I found it voguish and think it adds beauty to the device.
But there is a problem with these navigation touch points. The touch-sensitive spots for back, home and menu are not located near their corresponding icons in the translucent strip. Also, these points are marked with hardly visible silver dots. Initially, it might result in mis-hits, but once you will be accustomed to it, it will no longer seem to be a problem at all. It's just about getting in the habit.
The phone has been ergonomically designed and its back plate has a prominent curve that makes it more comfortable to hold than other phones. At 144grams, the phone is heavier than both the Samsung Galaxy SII and the HTC One X, which weigh 116g and 130gm respectively. Also, it is 10.6mm thick, and hence is a tad thicker than both the Galaxy SII and One X. Practically these differences hardly matter.
Ah, a notification LED! It's on the extreme left on the top. The notification LED on any phone actually turns me on. Though, on this phone, the notification LED tells only about the battery status, but it's good to have something than nothing. I still remember the minor disappointment when I did not find the notification LED on the Nokia Lumia 800.
The Xperia S has no microSD card slot, which means that you cannot expand the storage space beyond 32 GB that comes inbuilt. I admit that the 32 GB storage space should suffice needs of most of the users, but why does Sony have to limit users' options?
The phone has a big scratch-resistant screen. On the top of the front side, there is a 1.3 megapixel camera, which is fair in quality. On the bottom is the translucent strip that we have already discussed.
On top of the phone are a power button and a 3.5 mm jack (headset connector). On the left side, there is a micro USB port. In addition, the right side also has a couple of controls - a micro HDMI port, a volume rocker and a dedicated camera key. The microphone is expectedly at the bottom.
As you go to the rear, you will notice that the phone has been given matte finish, which makes it look elegant and sophisticated and less susceptible to smudges. The rear side has a 12.1 megapixel camera, an LED flash, a speaker, secondary microphone and a readily visible Sony's logo, which does not look awkward at all. It's funny that this first Sony phone has the same old Liquid logo that used to represent Sony Ericsson.
Though you can open the back cover, but the irony is that you will end up having access to nothing but your SIM card. The phone requires a micro SIM card. So, if you don't have a micro SIM card, you will have to contact your network operator. The battery is also not user replaceable.
The Xperia S has an NFC (Near Field Communication) detection area located in the centre of the rear portion. The location of the NFC detection area is not the same on all phones.
In all, design-wise, the smartphone has been beautifully designed, and it looks swish and groovy.
The phone has a 4.3-inch scratch-resistant TFT capacitive touchscreen with a resolution of 1280x720 pixels, thereby giving a pixel density of whopping 342 PPI.
It is said to have an HD reality display with Sony's Mobile Bravia Engine, thereby producing splendid images. The Bravia engine is believed to enhance sharpness, increase contrast and saturation. But, obviously, that only works with photos and videos, so better that you don't wander looking for its effect elsewhere.
The display produces excellent colours, sharp images and detailed results.
It's quite impressive that how black the display looks when the phone is off. One cannot differentiate that where the display panel starts and ends.
The touch is highly responsive and fluid. Swiping left to right is actually a breeze. Reading e-books on this phone will be a treat.
But the viewing angles are okay; these are not something astounding.
Operating System, UI and software
When companies have been gearing up to launch Android 4-based devices, Sony is still clung to Android 2.3 Operating system (OS). On the one hand, of late, HTC launched Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich OS powered handsets in India, Sony, on the other hand, came up with the Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) powered Xperia S. However, users will be able to upgrade it to Android 4 OS sometime down the line, says the company.
The Xperia S runs the Android 2.3.7 operating system and the Xperia skin sits lightly atop the OS.
The interface is intuitive and engaging.
Sony's Timescape feature allows you to manage all your communication in one place. Users can browse by category their Facebook, Twitter, email and text communications.
Besides, the Xperia S is a PlayStation certified phone from Sony, so that users can enjoy a wide range of PlayStation games on the HD display.
The phone is also DLNA certified so you can share content with other DLNA compatible devices including TVs, mobile phones, PCs, laptops and others.
It also supports NFC technology that enables convenient short-range communication between electronic devices, and also allows for data exchange and wireless connections between two devices in close proximity to each other, usually by no more than a few centimetres.
The phone has a powerful camera. It comes packed with a 12.1 megapixel camera with LED flash and auto focus. The phone offers 16x digital zoom. The Xperia S has an excellent camera and it can capture sharp images in both bright sunlight and low-light conditions. Undoubtedly, the camera is more than satisfying.
The phone offers a plethora of options to customise images " landscape, night portrait, beach snow, red-eye reduction, smile detection, exposure value and others. The 3D Sweep Panorama feature lets you create wide-angle, panoramic photos at the touch of a button. It uses the sweep motion to capture scores of pictures in a row, and then stitches them together.
It has a dedicated camera key that lets you access the camera app even when the phone is locked.
Besides, it also has a 1.3 megapixel front camera, which also produces good quality results, and is capable of recording 720p video.
But the catch here is that there are minor jerks when you zoom in and out. However, zoom in and zoom out are smoother than the Galaxy Note.
In video mode also, the camera performed considerably well. The phone comes with 1080p HD video recording capability. But the zooming is a bit fast and jerky, which could bother you. But if we ignore the zoom feature, the camera on the Xperia S is fantabulous.
Powered by a 1.5 GHz Qualcomm MSM8260 Dual Core processor and 1GB RAM, the phone is agile. It offers internal storage space of 32GB, which is not expandable.
The Xperia S has been engineered with a 1750mAh battery that offers a good battery backup. With normal use, the phone can easily last for a day and beyond.
The loudspeaker is loud and produces high good quality sound, even in noisy areas.
Undoubtedly, the phone is good, and offers a cornucopia of rich features, but it does not offer something out-of-the box. Priced at Rs 32,549, the phone is a bit expensive. If you are planning to buy a new smartphone in this price point, you can take it as an option. But if you are not in any haste, then it is suggested to wait for sometime as many new phones are believed to hit the Indian shores soon.
Distinctive and eye-catching design
Good audio quality
Dated operating system
Non-user accessible battery