A smooth and stylish Android smartphone
The new Xperia S is Sony's first smartphone since its alliance with Ericsson ended last year. It runs Android and it's rather stylish. The matte black case is only plastic, but it still feels extremely solid and our only grumble is that the convex back makes the Xperia S wobble when used on a tabletop.
One particularly striking feature is the strip of clear plastic that runs across the bottom of the smartphone. This is sandwiched between the main body of the smartphone and the piece at the bottom containing the radio antennae. This clear strip looks completely separate, but look closely and an almost-invisible grid of connecting wires gives away the trick.
Although the plastic strip lights up to show three icons for Android's Back, Home and Menu functions, the touch-sensitive buttons for these actually sit on the screen bezel above. Unfortunately, the icons are tiny and, since they're white, are difficult to distinguish on the clear strip. The touch-sensitive buttons are only marked with a pinprick-size silver dot and don't always respond to a finger press. As a result, the Xperia S is rather fiddly to use – far more so than other Android smartphones we've seen.
Although the Xperia S is sold with the year-old version of Android 2.3 known as ‘Gingerbread', Sony is planning a free update to Android 4 ‘Ice Cream Sandwich' in the next few months. Thankfully Sony hasn't messed with the stock Android interface too much, and has simply given it a bit of polish to make it shine on the Xperia S's screen – and what a screen it is.
Measuring 4.3in and with a whopping 720x1280 pixel resolution, the Xperia S's screen is one of the sharpest we've seen and it's even a bit crisper than the iPhone 4S's. Colours look sumptuous, making this a great smartphone for viewing photos. It's well-suited to taking them too – the 12-megapixel camera snaps detailed images as long as there's good light. Press the dedicated camera button, even when the phone is in standby, and it's ready for use almost instantaneously.
Calls are clear on the Xperia S and sound quality with music is also top notch. The powerful 1.5GHz dual-core processor makes it faster than the Samsung Galaxy Nexus.
Sony bundles a couple of small ‘Smart Tag' key fobs that can be used to activate certain Android functions with just a touch on the smartphone's back, which shaves a few seconds when changing sound profiles or launching apps. Far more useful would've been a memory card slot to expand the 32GB of storage. We weren't impressed with the battery life either - at just over six hours in our video playback test with flight mode enabled, it is decidedly average.
Read more reviews
The Sony Xperia S is a stylish smartphone with some neat features, but the operating system is past its sell-by date, the battery life could be better and its buttons are awkward to use.
Excellent screen; good camera
Outdated version of Android; weak battery; fiddly buttons
Phone 08705 237 237
free on £31 a month Three contract for two years
Updating your subscription status