Sony Xperia S Android phone

Sony Xperia S review: A great looking smartphone that has a few annoying flaws.

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Sony Xperia S
  • Sony Xperia S
  • Sony Xperia S
  • Expert Rating

    3.75 / 5


  • Excellent display
  • Slick performance and user interface
  • Decent battery life


  • No expandable memory
  • Terrible capacitive shortcut keys
  • Still waiting for Ice Cream Sandwich

Bottom Line

The Sony Xperia S has a great screen, a very good camera and provides a slick user experience. However, it lacks expandable memory and a removeable battery, is still waiting for the latest Android software update and its capacitive shortcut buttons are unresponsive at best. Overall, the Xperia S is a great looking phone, but it could have been a much better one.

Would you buy this?

Software and performance

The Sony Xperia S disappointingly ships with an outdated version of Google's Android OS, 2.3 Gingerbread. Sony has promised an upgrade to 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich in the near future, but considering the latest version of Android has been in existence since late last year, the wait is a real downside.

To be fair to Sony the user experience of the Xperia S is pleasing, even with old software. Anyone familiar with Sony Ericsson's last few Android phones will feel right at home with the Xperia S. It has five home screens for live widgets, handy folders that enhance shortcuts and a main menu that can quickly arrange apps in various orders, including most used. We also like the lockscreen, where new messages and missed calls can be opened directly by simply swiping them, while the default, on-screen keyboard is functional and well laid-out. The keyboard also has handy, Swype like functionality that allows you to draw over letters in a single motion to type words.

What we don't like is Sony's insistence on pre-loading the Xperia S with so many apps. A few of them are handy, such as the power saver app that will turn down settings when battery life is low to get as much juice out of the battery as possible. However, many others, such as PlayNow and Sony's app recommender, are simply a waste of space and can't be uninstalled.

Sony Xperia S

The Xperia S comes pre-loaded with Sony's music streaming service, Music Unlimited, and its video streaming service, Video Unlimited. Music Unlimited ($12.99 per month) allows subscribers full access to Sony's music catalogue, which currently boasts over seven million licensed songs from major record labels including Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group and EMI Music. Video Unlimited is is priced on a per program basis, with most movies costing around $24.99 to buy and $5.99 to "rent" for 48 hours after first playback.

Annoyingly, despite both of these content services use the same log-in details, they remain separate apps. Sony really needs to work out a way to combine these services into a single app to make it easier and more effective to use. We appreciate the fact that the company is trying to build a content and services ecosystem, but it needs to be more intuitive to use.

The Sony Xperia S may not have the latest technical specs under the hood, but we experienced little lag or slowdown during general use. There is absolutely no reason to discount the Xperia S based on the fact it only has a dual-core processor rather than quad-core alternatives.

Camera and other features

The Sony Xperia S has an excellent 12-megapixel camera. It can be opened in less than two seconds from the lock screen (by pressing and holding the camera button) and uses Sony's Exmor R image sensor which claims to offer higher sensitivity and less image noise in low light areas than traditional mobile phone cameras.

The camera captures an excellent level of detail for a camera phone, with a particular highlight coming in macro shots. Colour saturation can be a little low and contrast isn't particularly excellent, but there is no doubt the Xperia S takes excellent quality photos. It also records full HD 1080p video, though it is hard to keep a steady hand in order to avoid unstable recording. The Xperia S also has a 1.3-megapixel front facing camera for video calling that records 720p HD video, though the quality from this front camera is poor.

Sony Xperia S

The Sony Xperia S comes in 16GB or 32GB variants but the lack of expandable memory will turn some potential buyers away. The Xperia S also has NFC (Near Field Communication) built-in and has one of the loudest and clearest speakers we've ever come across on a smartphone.

The Sony Xperia S offers decent battery life. We managed to go almost a full day without charging the phone, though heavier users will likely require an injection of power before the end of the day.

The Xperia S will be available through carriers Optus and Vodafone, along with Crazy John's. The phone will also be sold outright through Australian retailers JB Hi-Fi, Dick Smith Electronics, Allphones, Telechoice and Harvey Norman.

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