5 mins with the “Dark Side” – Why the Xperia S won’t replace my iPhone

As well as some brief hands on time with the latest talk of the tech town – the HTC One X – I also checked out Sony’s latest attempt to bring back some credibility to its name. The Xperia S is an odd device. In some ways I really admire it, but in others I loathe it. It’s a dichotomy wrapped in a good looking package.

A new device, launched with an old version of Android. It comes as standard with Android 2.3 (Gingerbread). Which, if I’m frank, I found infuriating. Every new “high end” device should be launched running Ice Cream Sandwich. It will be updated at some time, but even Sony is saying that the risks of your handset becoming slow and laggy are quite high. That is essentially saying – we weren’t planning for the future with this one – we just needed to get something cool out on the market. And we want your money for it.

The UI is quite cool, and attractive. But, delve in to the menu system and you’ll find an ultimately plain and dull user interface. There’s nothing “wow”, no fanciness, except that cool looking live wallpaper on the front. It is sad to see in some ways because the display is clearly capable of so much more. Its 720 x 1280 pixel display is sharp, but somehow Sony’s managed not to take advantage of that on the software side. In comparison, the Nexus’ display (same resolution) wipes the floor with it in terms of contrast and color vividness.

Then, you launch a video. It came loaded with some movie trailers, which were breathtakingly good. The Bravia engine does its thing and really shines when watching content. It’s just a shame that the interface – that I would be using day-to-day – didn’t have the same effect.


On the form factor and design quality side, I’m left with the same split-position. The phone feels great in hand. The curved back is perfect, and makes what is a pretty large phone, feel much smaller. The transparent bar that lights up at the bottom is a really nice touch, as is the svelte feel of the back panel. All good right? Not quite. The back cover is ultimately pointless since you can’t remove the battery. All its used for is to cover the SIM tray. It’s flimsy, and you get the feeling that it wouldn’t take much to break one of the little clips that holds it down. The same can be said of the port covers. The tiny, weak-feeling plastic tabs are held on by sheer will power alone, and could be made redundant with a quick twist in the wrong direction.

It’s little inadequacies like the ones I encountered that put me off the Sony Ericsson brand in the past, and I’d hoped with the engulfing of the Ericsson division and new SONY branding, that a keener eye for quality would be utilized. Although in some ways, it is a great phone, it’s a little too flawed to replace my iPhone. Apple gets all the little details right. The Aluminum SIM tray, the solid buttons and design. Sony is very close, and hopefully can become a strong competitor in the smartphone market again. Better compatibility with Android 4.0 would make this an almost unbeatable phone.

Gallery below (click images to enlarge): 



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