Sony Xperia S Review

Premium design? Check. Premium price tag? Check. Latest OS? Check. High desirability factor? Check. Well, we'd really expect nothing less from Sony's latest flagship phone, the Xperia S. Having used it for a couple of weeks, let me start with what attracted me to the brand new handset in the first place.

Chic factor

The smartphone has tremendous chic potential. It belongs to a category of devices that people buy as much for the utility as for its attractiveness, if not more. The idea that Sony was thinking different while designing its flagship smartphone comes across quite well. The handset is a minimalist block of black with a thin, transparent panel with icons etched within. This now becomes a design trait that will set this high-end handset apart from its competitors.

Everyone who tries it for the first time invariably presumes that the icons etched inside the transparent panel are touch-sensitive. It does feel a little weird in the beginning that you actually have to press the area above the icons to activate them, but it's not something that you can't get used to in a matter of minutes.

Clicking pretty

Narcissists rejoice! The 12 megapixel camera at the rear of the Sony Xperia S is one of the best I've tried out on a handset. The colours were rich and well-saturated with barely a blur on any of the pictures we shot. The flash too is not the more commonly found ‘blinding' types, but fills in the frame well enough by lighting it up evenly.

The clicker comes with Sony proprietary Exmor R sensor which is claimed to be twice as sensitive as a conventional CMOS sensor. It is also supposed to keep the noise low, something that I could probably attest for, given the fact that almost none of the pictures I shot were evidently grainy. Definitely one of the USPs of the Xperia S, the camera rightfully has a dedicated button on the right panel of the handset.

For users who are still kind of clumsy with a touchscreen phone, there's an option to choose your picture capture method. You can choose to take a quick snap by clicking on the camera icon once you've framed your shot, or enable the touch-to-click option. And you can lock out both options and choose use the hardware button to capture an image instead. I found the touch-to-click option the most convenient.

The handset gives you the option of clicking pictures with a ‘3D Camera' app. I could only shoot panoramas with this app. However, there's no way to view the 3D shots on the phone itself (in 3D). To view them, you'll have to connect the Xperia S to a 3D telly with an HDMI cable. The panoramas taken with the ‘3D Camera', however, were far from being razor sharp and had a fair share of noise.

Hardware

When the erstwhile Sony Ericsson launched the Xperia line of smartphones, the handsets were clearly designed to look premium. The new Sony Xperia S, however, takes it to a whole new level. Having said that, prying out the back panel to slide my micro SIM in took a little more effort than I'd like on a brand new smartphone. The super thin (hence, seemingly fragile) panel didn't help matters. The panel also houses the 1,750 mAh battery which for some quirky reason is not removable from its cavity.

The 4.3-inch screen does the trick to create a good first impression when you start using the phone. What's also interesting is the fact that in sleep mode, you can't even differentiate between the display and the bezel.

The haptic feedback on the virtual keyboard is reassuringly soft. The keyboard ‘learns' quickly however, it's not exactly great with correcting typos initially. Hardware controls such as the volume rocker and power button might feel a little too sharp to touch, as might the barely rounded edges of the handset.

Apps

To take care of your productivity needs, the device comes pre-installed with OfficeSuite 5, an app that I won't choose over Documents To Go. Timescape remains the same ol' interface, integrating your Facebook updates as well as Tweets. It'd have been nice if this had seen a facelift considering it is now being featured in Sony's flagship phone. You also have NeoReader to readily scan barcodes or QR codes. Your mobile GPS elf is Wisepilot, letting you recognise a music track is Sony's proprietary TrackID.

The smartphone also supports NFC communication and comes with an inbuilt app ‘Tags' to support this feature. Although this concept is yet to gain momentum in around the country, it's never too early to be clued in to a technology as promising. In case, you come by an NFC tag – which could be a picture, a web link, or even text – you can scan it just by turning the NFC feature on and placing the Xperia S next to the tag.

Our verdict

One deal breaker for smartphone junkies might be the fact that there's only one memory capacity that the Xperia S comes with – 32GB. There's no option to add a memory card as external storage.

The first in the line of Sony's Xperia NXT series, the Xperia S, has definitely set a high benchmark for its peers. The in-call volumes on the handset are reasonable loud with good clarity as is the speakerphone while streaming videos or playing music. The display is one of the best we've seen across brands and the design makes it turn quite a few heads. If you were saving up over the last couple of months to get yourself that sassy new smartphone, you could definitely give the Sony Xperia S a try.

Love: Brilliant screen, good multimedia capabilities

Hate: Average battery life, no external storage

Rs 32,549

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