The Xperia S is a quad-band GSM and quad-band 3G phone with support for advanced speeds like 14.4Mbps HSDPA and 5.8Mbps HSUPA. We also have the usual assortment of Wi-Fi ‘n’, Wi-Fi Direct, DLNA, NFC and Bluetooth v2.1. This is also one of the first handsets to support the new GLONASS navigation system, along with GPS. There’s no mass storage mode here, simply MTP, which automatically shows up in Windows under portable devices. The stock browser does its job and surfing the net on the Xperia S is a great experience thanks to the rich screen. Even when fully zoomed into text, it appears sharp and crisp.
Internet surfing is fun on this phone
There are plenty of Internet and social apps bundled along with the phone. TrackID lets you identify songs, which works well but is not as feature rich as SoundHound. Music & Videos aggregates all the videos that your friends have ‘Liked’ on YouTube and even new videos that you have subscribed to. AppXtra is a little app store created by Sony and Recommender is something similar that shows you highly rated apps by users of Xperia phones. Tags lets you manage NFC data picked up by the Xperia S, which can be shared to other phones with NFC as well. Other apps include Foursquare, Evernote, WhatsApp and McAfee Security.
Some of the extra apps
Sony bundles all the essential apps needed to get you started. They've bundled ASTRO file manager, OfficeSuite (only for viewing of Office documents), Media Remote lets you use your phone as a remote control with Wi-Fi enabled Sony TVs, WisePilot, NeoReader, Stopwatch, World Clock, etc.
One of the biggest selling points for the Xperia S is the 12MP camera it packs in. The Exmor R camera sensor is supposed to help remove noise in low light conditions. This works to an extent but ultimately it depends on how far the subject is from the lens. In our indoor shooting tests, we noticed that even without flash, the camera is able to pick up good amount of detail, provided the subject is close to the lens so only macro shots indoors looks really good. If you’re trying to capture something more than 5ft away in low light, then a lot of noise creeps into the picture. The flash doesn’t really help much since it’s not powerful enough to illuminate a wide area.
Plenty of options to tweak
Outdoors though, the camera turns into another beast altogether. During the day, simply set the scene mode to ‘Auto’ and go crazy. The camera automatically adds depth of field when the subject is close giving you some pretty crazy pictures. You can activate the camera directly by simply holding down the shutter button and up comes the viewfinder. Capturing a photo is super quick with barely any lag from the time you hit the button to when the photo is taken. You can choose between, tap-to-focus, tap-to-capture and many other modes. Have a look at the photo gallery on the last page. None of the photos have been edited in any way, although they are compressed a bit while uploading. Sony have also added a 3D Sweep Panorama, similar to the one seen in their digicams. This doesn’t always work right and can lead to some pretty weird photos. Normal panorama works well and is quick in stitching the photos together and saving it.
The Xperia S can record video in 1080p with continuous auto-focus. While the captured video has a solid framerate, it takes time for the auto-focus to kick in and re-adjust. It could have been a little quicker as you have to wait for a few seconds till your subject is in focus if you’re moving. The video can viewed directly on an HDTV via the HDMI port.
All this power and features takes a toll on the battery. The Xperia S comes with a 1750mAh which lasted for a little less than a day under heavy usage. This is with Wi-Fi on most of the time and lots of camera, music, video usage along with a little gaming. How this compares with the other phones in the market is something we can only say for certain once we put it through our series of battery tests. I wouldn’t expect it to last for more than a day and a half, even with using it carefully.
It’s still a week till Sony officially unveils the Xperia S and hopefully the other handsets in the lineup as well. Till then, you can buy this phone from the gray market for Rs.32,000, without a bill and warranty. Obviously we don’t recommend you run out and buy it, especially when the official launch is this close. Internationally, the Xperia S is priced at £459.99 (Rs.37,500) so the launch price could be around 35K from Sony which makes the gray market pricing very attractive. Still, let’s wait and see how they handle the pricing now that HTC have announced the One X as well for India.
All lit up
The Xperia S is a great start for Sony in 2012 and if they continue with this streak then I’m really looking forward to their other offerings as well. The Xperia S is unlike any other flagship phone we’ve seen from Sony Ericsson in the past and represents a bold new direction for the company. The phone has a beautiful build and feels premium and packed to the gills with features. However, it’s far from perfect. There are some sensitivity issues with the capacitive buttons, no ICS (yet), camera performs poorly in low-light indoor shooting and the microSIM is annoying. However, at this price, it’s certainly one of the better options compared to the Sensation XE. If you can live with these little issues then we recommend the Xperia S for its beautiful screen, great design, good camera (for outdoor shooting) and feature rich app selection out-of-the-box.