Sony’s Xperia mobile range is expanding faster than Robbie Williams’ ego. It seemed like we’d just finished reviewing the brand new Xperia S, P and U when along came the rugged Xperia Go smartphone, and now the Xperia Tipo makes it five for 2012. Until the new Xperia SL launches in Berlin next week, of course...
But where does Sony’s Xperia Tipo fit in? Well, it’s the cheapest Xperia so far, costing just over £100 if you bag it SIM-free. The emphasis is on simplicity, but don’t mistake that for meaning feature-free. The Xperia Tipo comes with all the usual smartphone fare, including a 3.2-megapixel camera, and is one of the cheapest devices to rock Android Ice Cream Sandwich.
The Xperia Tipo’s chunky design reminded us of the Sony Walkman phones of yesteryear. It’s a lightweight handset weighing in at just under 100g, but feels solidly constructed – although we didn’t have the bottle to toss it in the air, we’re sure it’ll at least survive a tumble from your hand. Of course, if you’ve lost a few phones by dropping them down toilets or into drinks, the waterproof Xperia Go will be more up your alley.
We love the rubberised rear, which feels pleasingly soft in the palm and helps you to keep a good grip. It doesn’t scuff easily either, unlike the back of the Xperia S. We also like the minimalist design. The sides are clutter-free, featuring nothing more than a USB port, power switch and volume buttons, while the front sports touch-sensitive Back, Home and Menu buttons that light up when the phone is prodded. Providing you don’t mind a bit of girth, the Xperia Tipo is a smart little budget mobile.
At first glance you’d think the Xperia Tipo runs the elderly Android Gingerbread OS, but it’s actually kitted out with Ice Cream Sandwich. This version has a few notable improvements over Gingerbread, including a good selection of resizable widgets to decorate your desktop and the ability to quickly set up folders by dragging apps together.
Sony has tweaked the interface to look like a typical Xperia smartphone, from the electric background to the usual Timescape widgets. The notifications bar gives you quick access to the settings menu, and an alerts LED above the screen lets you know when new messages or app updates arrive. There aren’t many pre-installed bloatware apps, which is a relief, but Sony has included a copy of OfficeSuite to keep you productive on the move.
For the most part, Ice Cream Sandwich runs well despite the basic processor, but there are some issues. We noticed a little stutter when flicking between desktops or navigating the menus, which probably explains why Sony used a non-animated background on this device. Some widgets such as the inbox viewer and bookmarks tab kept freezing, but most of them worked well. Games such as Angry Birds In Space ran smoothly, but you won’t be able to play the latest processor-hungry titles.
Typing out texts and emails is a little cumbersome due to the tiny 3.2-inch screen. We found it worked better holding the Xperia Tipo sideways, giving the keyboard more space, although the excellent auto-correct system helped to fix any words we mistyped. After adjusting to the compact display, we managed to type at a decent speed without making many mistakes.
The dinkiness of the Xperia Tipo’s display is also less than ideal for enjoying apps, games and video, but still perfectly serviceable if you don’t mind a smaller screen. Images are crisp for a budget phone, even if it isn’t a particularly bright or vibrant screen. The touch-screen is reasonably responsive, although we did find ourselves tapping some menu options and on-screen buttons more than once before our prodding was acknowledged. The screen also feels plastic and pushes in easily, distorting the image.
Camera and battery life
The Xperia Tipo’s 3.2-megapixel camera is a basic effort with no flash, although you do get a number of features such as a timer and geo-tagging. Shots take almost instantly when you push the on-screen shutter button as there’s no focus. Images appear very soft when viewed back on a monitor, and we found results varied considerably depending on lighting. Some of our shots were blurry or suffered serious glare, while evening or night shots were far too dark to be of any use. Still, if all you’re after is a simple snapper to grab Facebook shots of your family, this will do the job.
Much more impressive is the Xperia Tipo’s battery life. With a full day of use, including emails, texts, web browsing, maps and apps, plus the occasional bit of video streaming and a short phone call, we still had 30% battery remaining. Streaming video over YouTube won’t kill the battery for almost 10 hours, an impressive effort indeed.
The chunky Sony Xperia Tipo is great value at just over £100, making it one of the cheapest Ice Cream Sandwich handsets around. Performance is decent considering the basic processor and the 3.2-megapixel camera does the job for bog standard Facebook shots.