Smartphone Review: Sony Xperia S [Video]

(Disclaimer: Sony is not a client.)

The Xperia S marks an important moment for Sony as it’s the first product to be developed under the new Sony Mobile division. As it split from Ericsson a few months ago, Sony needs a product that would show that everything is ok as well as mount a challenge against the smartphone hierarchy of Samsung and Apple. But now that it’s going it alone, does it do enough to make its former partnership with Ericsson a distant memory?


Weight & Dimensions: 144g (128 x 64 x 10.6mm)
Screen & Display: 4.3 inches (342 ppi pixel density)
Resolution: 1280 x 720 (16M colors)
CPU: Dual-core 1.5 GHz
Camera: 12MP
Memory: 32 GB storage, 1 GB RAM
Battery: Standard battery, Li-ion 1750 mAh
OS: Gingerbread (Android 2.3)


First things first, the Xperia S’ design is nice and to the point. Everything is where it should be and the device feels quite sturdy as a result. It’s large but it’s practical and small enough for you to fit into your pocket.

The 4.3″ screen is perhaps the biggest screen size you could possibly have for a one-handed smartphone and the Xperia S uses it to good effect. Factor in the 1280 x 720 resolution and you’ve got a nice combination, allowing everything that you see on the display to be nice and clear. The only thing you’d need to look out for is that if you want to turn off the device using only one hand, you will have to readjust how you’re holding it. This could result in you dropping it, but thankfully for the most part, you’re able to reach around the screen so it’s not near as big a problem as you might think.

However, there’s one or two flaws to its design that could have been avoided. For one, the three specific keys found at the bottom of most Android devices, return, home and options, are very difficult to notice. Only a tiny white dot hints to their location and even once you know where they are, the gentle tap normally required to activate them doesn’t have the response it should, instead normally require two or three taps to get it right.

The battery is quite decent and you’ll certainly get a good day out of it if you use it conservatively. Yet because of its larger than usual screen, any heavy use like watching videos or playing games will see that green bar deplete faster than you’d expect.


Powered by a dual-core 1.5 GHz processor, the Xperia S processes tasks very quickly and not once did it lag when loading up apps or scrolling through pages, which is always a good sign. As mentioned earlier, the 4.3″ screen and 1280 x 720 resolution really brings out the best of the screen. The quality on display when its playing videos or viewing images is superb and web browsing works extremely well, the screen being large enough to be able to see everything without requiring you to zoom in.

One of the problems with the Xperia S is that it’s using Gingerbread (Android 2.3.4) as its operating device. There’s nothing majorly wrong with this but considering that Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0) has been out for a while, it means that users will be missing out on a number of features such as Chrome for Android. Sony has promised that the update to Ice Cream Sandwich will happen during the second quarter of 2012 so users will have that to look forward to if they do decide to purchase one. However, if you’re not familiar with Android then this shouldn’t affect you too much.

Another problem is that Sony has filled the device with useless apps that you will probably never use. For example, the 3D camera app is difficult to use, and for what could have been a good app is ruined as you struggle to capture a proper 360 degree panorama. the app believes you’re moving much faster than you actually are, meaning that it only captures three quarters of an image at best, so achieving a proper shot is next to impossible. Hopefully for future releases, Sony will leave it to the user to download the apps they want instead of trying to preempt or convince them to use what they choose.


The 12-megapixel camera is easily accessible, loads up quickly and the overall quality is quite good, but when compared to other phones like the Nokia Lumia 800 and the Galaxy Note, it’s not near as impressive as it should be.

While I’ve mentioned that the device is fantastic for viewing images, capturing images isn’t the same. For one, colours appear a little washed out whenever you take a photo. Sometimes this isn’t a bad thing, but you’ll notice that certain aspects of a photo will appear more vibrant than others, making the contrast jarring at best.

The reason why this is so noticeable is because you’ll inevitably compare them to the stock images already stored on the phone. Granted, those images are of much higher quality, but they end up making the images look grainier than they should be which is a real pity.

On the flip side, recording with the camera suffers from the same problem, but the recording quality is quite smooth and you never notice any real problems with it, provided you don’t pay too much attention to the contrast.


While the Xperia S is a solid device, it doesn’t quite match up to the other major smartphones out there. When dealing with multimedia tasks, it performs quite well. However, if you’re looking for an all rounder, you’re probably better off settling for the Samsung Galaxy Nexus or hold out for their next model, the S III.

The absence of Ice Cream Sandwich doesn’t help its case either but even disregarding that, it feels like a phone that should have been released either three or six months ago. It’s a shame as you normally associate the Sony brand with high quality products, but you can’t help but feel that had more time been spent working on the device, we’d be saying something different about it. The Xperia S gives Sony a foundation to work from but the next version will need to improve if it wants to keep up with the other big players.

Large screen and sharp display.
Clean & distinctive design.
Videos and HD images look amazing on it

Outdated OS
Camera not as sharp as expected/ washed out photos
Filled with bloatware apps

A solid device but doesn’t do enough to separate it from the rest of the pack.
Rating: 6 / 10

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