Sony Xperia S

Sony Xperia S

Summary: The Xperia S is a large and somewhat ungainly smartphone with a superb screen and some high-end features. However, it's severely let down by its lack of storage expansion and sealed-in battery.

TOPICS: Smartphones, Reviews
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  • Superb screen
  • NFC support
  • Plenty of internal storage
  • 12-megapixel rear camera


  • No storage expansion
  • Non-removable battery
  • Fiddly front touch-buttons

Since dismissing Ericsson from its mobile phone division, Sony has announced several new handsets. The Xperia S, which is the first to appear in retail, is a distinctive device with some high-end specifications. Will it help position Sony as a market leader in the increasingly competitive smartphone world?

The Xperia S has a distinctive design: it's thin and tall — as you'd expect given the 4.3in. screen — and is made even taller by an odd-looking transparent plastic strip towards the bottom of the chassis.

The functions indicated by the icons in the clear strip beneath the screen are accessed via the touch-sensitive dots immediately above them

This strip houses icons for Android's Back, Home and Menu functions. It's not touch-sensitive, and to access these functions you need to press small white dots on the black chassis above the icons. These dots aren't as responsive as we'd like, and it sometimes took several taps to make proper contact.

Although the plastic strip doesn't have touch-sensitive functions, it does glow gently to signify call and message alerts, and charge status.

For the record, the Xperia S measures 64mm wide by 128mm tall by 10.6mm thick and weights 144g. We could not reach right across the screen for one-handed use, although those with larger hands may manage this.

Sony has slightly curved the backplate of the Xperia S. We've seen the company use this design quirk before, and we still don't like it. The curvature is minimal, but it does mean the handset tips around on a desk if you prod the screen, and it has no discernible positive effect on grip.

The back of the Xperia S is slightly curved — a design feature we could do without

Ports and connectors are conveniently located, with a headset jack and the power switch at the top, a Micro-HDMI port, a camera button and volume controls on the right, and a Micro-USB port on the left. The HDMI and USB connectors are both protected by somewhat fiddly hinged covers. Sony provides an HDMI cable.

The screen is the Xperia S's standout feature. It's large at 4.3in. across the diagonal, but the resolution — 1,280 by 720 pixels — is the key, given that 800 by 480 pixels is not uncommon (although the iPhone 4 crams 960 by 640 into a 3.5in. screen). It's particularly good for viewing web pages, and it's possible that Sony has set a new standard here for other high-end smartphone developers to follow.

If you are looking to upgrade to the Xperia S from an earlier handset, it's worth noting that Sony has opted for a microSIM. These will become increasingly common, but are still something of a rarity.

The Sony Xperia S runs Android 2.3, but will get an upgrade to Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) in due course. The dual-core Qualcomm MSM8260 processor runs at 1.5GHz and runs things very nicely supported by 1GB of RAM.

There's a generous 32GB of internal storage, but Sony does not include microSD-based expansion, so 32GB is all you'll ever get. Sony also preinstalls a fair amount of software, and our review sample had just 25GB free for user access. With 64GB microSD cards now available, the absence of storage expansion could be a deal-breaker for many potential customers.

The Xperia S has two cameras. The front-facing 1.3 megapixel camera can capture 720p video, while the rear-mounted 12-megapixel camera is capable of 1080p video capture. The main camera, which has an LED flash unit, performs well but is no substitute for a dedicated digital camera.

Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS are all present, as you'd expect. DLNA and Near Field Communications (NFC) are also integrated, as is support for ANT+ — the wireless standard used by many heart-rate monitors and other pieces of fitness equipment.

Sony's UI tweaks include a range of applications and widgets for the five Android home screens. These include Sony's own Music Unlimited and Video Unlimited services, plus lots of media and social networking tools, including Sony's Timescape application. There's an FM radio too.

The Xperia S is PlayStation Certified, which means you can play PlayStation games on it. Sony has put a lot of extras on board this handset, which some may see as overkill.

Performance & battery life
Battery life is as you'd expect for a smartphone with a fast processor and a large screen: we struggled to get a day's use from it when exercising its full functionality.

Sony's own battery life estimates are 7.5 hours of GSM talk, 450h standby and 8.5h of 3G talk, 420 hours standby, plus 25 hours of music playback and 6.5 hours of video playback.

The 1,750mAh battery is not removable, which could be an issue. We sometimes have to hard reset a smartphone by pulling out its battery, which is clearly not an option here. Nor is it possible, in the case of battery failure, to simply swap in a replacement.

Sony's Xperia S is a large and somewhat ungainly smartphone with a superb screen and some high-end features including NFC support and a 1.5GHz dual-core processor. However, it's severely let down by the lack of storage expansion and its sealed-in battery, and overall is not quite the groundbreaking handset we'd hoped for.


Dimensions (W x H x D) 64x10.6x128 mm
Weight 144 g
OS & software
Software included Android 2.3
Processor & memory
Processor model Qualcomm MSM8260
Clock speed 1024 MHz
RAM 1024 MB
Internal 32768 MB
Display technology TFT
Display size 4.3 in
Native resolution 1280x720 pixels
Ports Micro-USB, Micro-HDMI
2G GSM 850, GSM 900, GSM 1800, GSM 1900
Wi-Fi 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n
Short range Bluetooth 2.1+EDR
GPS technology
GPS receiver yes
Input devices
Touchscreen Yes
Battery type Li-ion
Removable battery no
Claimed battery life 7.5 h
Number of batteries 1
Accessories AC adapter


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Topics: Smartphones, Reviews

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  • 4.0

    iPhone and Windows Phone. Now Sony Phone. I love Sony for HDTVs (their Bravia Engine is superlative). Not so sure about their phones just yet. Still, not bad for a first outing after dumping Ericsson..
  • 8.0

    As a user for this handset, and X10 before it I can say that among Android handsets, Sony (and SonyEricsson before) actually appear to design their handsets to be different from the monotonous iPhone clones.

    This review I found to be unfair on many levels - design - this is subjective but I personally like the look of it and as has other people who have seen the handset.

    The limitation of the 32Gb memory? Considering that the most popular iterations of the iPhone are the 16Gb is this a problem?

    Also there appears to be inconsistancies - a non-removable battery is a sin here but on the Galaxy Nexus et al, it isn't mentioned.

    My review summary;

    Design/Quality - its original and its appeal is always subjective, I like it a lot. The build quality is good - the lower section is seperate from the main body but its robust. It has a good weight and feels like a premium product unlike other Android handsets. Only the iPhone betters it for build quality.

    Functions - The touch buttons are not quite as responive as I'd like and this would be the main criticism of the handset. This time Sony haven't hobbled the phone by restricting RAM. The X10i was woefully inadequate for RAM and it's upgrade to 2.3 highlighted this. The phone is fast and responsive and stable.

    The screen is mindblowingly good. As is the camera in daylight. Night shots I haven't really tried yet so can't comment but the flash is a huge step up from the daft photo light on the X10i. Sound is more powerful than before with a decent equaliser so music playback is better but still no Walkman branded tech here and the music player, while adequate is fixed so it cannot be replaced.

    Battery life is on a par with other smartphones but given its power, its not too bad.

    Would I recommend this phone? Yes - as with all Xperias since the X10i launched. They may not have been the most powerful Android phones in the past but they were quality (X10i upgrade to 2.3 apart) and the design quirks distance them from the iPhone clone Samsungs et al. Is it better than an iPhone 4S? Thats subjective as iOS is good but so is Android 2.3.7 and while the hardware are better, the quality of the Apple edges it just but if you are a geek then it would not be a contest anyway. As the best Android phone, I would say that Sony have done it eventually. And until the Galaxy S3 arrive, this will be king of the hill and rightly so.
  • 3.0

    This is the most frustrating phone I have ever owned. The battery dies in less than a day, and if that happens, you CANNOT charge it through USB. It has to be plugged into the wall to get any sort of charge. This is my third phone and they all have the same problems.

    I don't want to be monitoring my phone constantly incase it dies and I'm not at home!

    I'll warn you again, if you buy this phone and it dies anywhere but home or you want to carry the wall adapter with you all the time, you will be screwed. It won't charge in work, in the car or with any emergency chargers.
  • I must disagree with the last post. Having used the handset for the past month, I can confirm that it can be charged via USB - I do this quite often either at home or work.

    Admittedly, this is a UK handset but I have had no issues via USB.