We got a preview of the Sony Xperia S, the 12-megapixel HD superphone launched at CES, the first product of the Sony monolith since it bought out long time telecoms partner, Ericsson. As we've come to expect from Sony, it's a powerhouse for multimedia, with the company's HDTV tech making for a brilliant display, and its Cyber-shot pedigree showing in the 12-megapixel camera.
The sample we saw wasn't running the final software, so we can't give a verdict on some aspects, in particular the camera. For now, here are some of our first impressions.
The Xperia S is made of plastic but in classic Sony fashion, the build quality is high with a reassuring heft in the hand. A 4.3-inch LED-backlit LCD screen stretches across the front face, with the BRAVIA graphics engine delivering crisp visuals to a piquant 342 ppi density. For comparison's sake, the Reality display of the iPhone 4S squeezes in 330 ppi.
Multimedia powerhouse, yo
Below it sits a slim, translucent bar housing three glowing icons for Home, Back and All Programs. Slightly unnaturally, these icons don't actually do anything – it's the tiny dots of light directly above each that you press for action.
The fonts and icons have been spruced up since the last Xperia phone – larger but more minimalist, there's a hint of Windows Phone 7 freshness about it, particularly in the clock widget.
You can see the glowing menu icons from
behind in that translucent bar
While fellow Android manufacturer HTC has already been confirmed to launch quad-core phones next month, Sony is only just arriving to the dual-core party. The Xperia S packs a 1.5GHz two-cored chip, with 1GB of RAM for multitasking and 32GB of built-in storage. No microSD slot, though.
Speaking of micro, the Xperia S is just the latest in a string of new launches that will come with a MicroSIM slot, a la Nokia Lumia 800, iPhone 4(S), Motorola RAZR, and the new crop of HTC phones.
Not too slim, not too fat at 10.6mm
The Xperia S is all kinds of hyper-clear, with a ‘true HD' screen packing in a resolution of 1280x720 pixels. Its home screen displayed in vivid colour and clarity, which bodes well for all those Blu-ray movies you'll be loading on.
There's also a 12-megapixel camera – not the first time Sony's tried it on a phone, either – with 1080p video capture capabilities, but as the software wasn't final on the models we saw, we can't comment on its quality.
The capacitive touch-screen is the best Sony has produced, speedier and more responsive than previous efforts like the Xperia Arc. A preloaded ‘gesture keyboard' gives you Swype-like skills for faster texting – just drag your finger from letter to letter to spell a word in (if you practice) double time. We were far more impressed with its auto-correct and general accuracy than we've been with any other Sony keyboard.
The Xperia S features five home screens to customise as you please – but as with previous Xperia Android phones, the ‘S' sports a distinctive Sony skin. The Timescape widget is still around, and there are still the Rolodex-like widgets for showing album art in the music player, for example.
Of course, the elephant in the room is that the Xperia S is launching on Android Gingerbread at all, when many other phones will sprint out of the gates with its more powerful Ice Cream Sandwich update. Sony confirms that the Xperia S will be upgradeable, but considering the high level of customisation on the stock Android interface, we're expecting that upgrade to be down a rather long road.
The Xperia S is available SIM-free from 5 March, with networks to confirm tariffs and shelf dates. It'll come in black and white, the latter of which will launch exclusively at Phones 4u.