Hands-on with the Sony Xperia S (Video)

Daniel Bader

January 12, 2012 8:39pm

Aside from the Nokia Lumia 900, which hasn’t been announced for Canada yet, the Sony Ericsson Xperia S was my favourite handset of CES 2012. And I saw a lot of handsets.

A lot has been made of techs and specs, the so-called Android social climber: you either have them or you don’t. Sony Ericsson nee Sony has always been a few months behind the rest of the pack, choosing to release the single-core Xperia arc, Play and ray series at a time when everyone was launching dual-core Android handsets. Say what you will about Sony’s alterations to Android, but it’s difficult to argue that those devices were not extremely fast when they came to market, at least in terms of experience.

The Xperia S is modeled on that same approach: optimizing the software for the hardware, rather than the other way around. Running Android 2.3.7 with an eye to Ice Cream Sandwich in Q2 2012, the Xperia S feels unbelievably smooth. It’s also taken a page from the Nokia Lumia series in that it’s moulded out of a single piece of high-density polycarbonate, a move away from most other manufacturers. It feels substantial in the hands without being slippery or fey.

The 4.3-inch 1280 x 720 pixel screen is absolutely stunning. This is no PenTile display but a true wide viewing angle, deep black and true white LCD. It incorporates Sony’s Bravia Engine like its arc predecessor but also fuses the LCD to the glass (which may be Gorilla Glass, we need to confirm this) for fewer reflections.

Its design is a fairly contiguous evolution from the arc; though thicker, it reveals a consistency with the rest of the Sony line of products with its monolithic appearance when off, and its “light bar” below the screen that acts as a finder, an accompaniment to the touch area just below the display. According to Sony representative Trevor Fernandes, that area also encompasses the phone’s various antennas, keeping them out of reach of your hand’s potential attenuation.

On the back is a whopping 12-megapixel camera which can be accessed, even when the phone is turned off, via the right-side button. This is by far the fastest phone camera I’ve ever used. As we showed you, it can go from zero-to-shutter in less time than a Galaxy Nexus, and despite not having the same “instant shutter” feature, its photo quality is worlds ahead.

Though the dual-core processor will likely be enough to sustain its speed for at least a generation, it’s disappointing to hear that it is a Snapdragon S3 chip being used, and not one of Qualcomm’s more efficient S4 chips. My disappointment extends to the lack of LTE in the Xperia S: that is saved for the Xperia Ion which is launching exclusively on AT&T (though it was hinted that it may come to Canada in Q3). The chip inside the Xperia S should support 21Mbps download speeds, but we’ll confirm that when we get a review unit.

A couple cool extras: its flat bottom allows it to stand up on its own; there is a mini HDMI port on the left side; the 1830mAh battery is non-removable; the Xperia S uses a microSIM.

Right now we can’t comment too much on the software because it will likely be heavily altered and optimized before its March release, but from what I could tell it was pretty smooth. There will be Video Unlimited support bundled with the device, and the Xperia S is also Playstation Certified, so it will have access to a growing number of PSOne games.

We’ll bring you lots more of the Xperia S when its release date and carrier availability are announced for Canada in the coming months.

  • Sean

    This seems like a pretty awesome phone

    “Though it was hinted that it may come to Canada in Q3”


    • bummy

      Xperia S is Q1.
      Xperia Ion is Q2 or Q3.

  • jay

    Does the light bar also act as a notifier of some sort?

    That would be sexy

  • jason

    now for the tough question….

    nexus now or xperia later … maybe

    decisions decisions

  • Pahech

    The sad/awesome thing is that these new high res phones have as many pixels as my laptop.

    If it supports the AWS spectrum, it’s definitely a phone I’ll be willing to get.

    • Michael

      It will, it just passed through the FCC with AT&T and T-Mobile HSPA Bands. 🙂

  • Corks

    Very nice! Wouldn’t get it in white though. Depending which carrier gets this…I may have to buy it. And I agree with Jay, if that were true…this phone would be even better

  • Kai

    “The 4.3-inch 1280 x 800 pixel screen is absolutely stunning. ”
    I thought it was 1280 x 720

    I hope this phone is penta-band

  • Chris

    Great phone, I love to see the worldwide price and time?!
    You guys should take a look at the mobile-review YouTube vid as it has more timescape UI stuff which looks amazing!! Best android integration yet.

  • mongoose

    The guy clearly had little idea about the product he was showcasing.
    The antenna placement is not more of an aesthetic look, it’s an intelligent design choice. While holding a phone during a call, which area is least susceptible to touch or being covered by hand? That’s right, it’s the area near the bottom of the screen.

    And the front camera “right now it’s 1.5MP?”
    So what, are you going to improve it in the future with a software upgrade?

  • Rahul Popuri

    From what I’ve heard the transparent bar also acts as some sort of a notification LED, but this was a while back..

    Since both the X10 and Arc were launched in Canada roughly around April-May I’m hoping this one is launched at the start of Q2 as well.. that would tie in nicely with my contract timing

  • replytothisnews

    The resolution on this page is incorrect. should be 720..
    Or it is updated? I doubt it.

  • rich

    Such a great design. Looks really clean. I just don’t get the point of having a removeable back and not a removeable battery.

    • 69iner

      for the sim card, damn I can renew my contract now or should I wait for this looks like an awesome phone!

  • aK

    now thats a sexy phone!

  • Kully

    Where can I get this phone in Canada? Any pre-order sites? I really want it.

  • Rogerthat

    Amazing!! This is the phone I’ve been waiting for!

  • Martin

    Great looking phone with awesome specs. Is it coming to Rogers any time soon? My x10 is tired and it’s no longer getting Android updates.

  • dede daryanto

    mantap abis hp idaman banget tpi mesti nabung nich buat beli nya hehe

  • Fony Phone.

    In Canada….we are always in the last.

  • Tomatoes

    It is supposed to be a global launch in March but if that excludes Canada, they just lost a sale. I was going to buy this if it came out in March but April and May could be S3 territory. So depending on the situation, I’ll either end up with this, the s3, or a bargain bin S2.

    I think it would be in their best interest to accomplish the global March launch with their weak Qualcomm s3 chipset or risk being completely unappealing in April or May.

  • Nick

    When will this phone be released in Canada?

  • Bitu

    kunjungan balasan.wah hpnya saangt bagus tenan ini.ada tombol-tombol pintas yang terdapat di keypadnya.Xperia saangt banyak dinikmati di kalangan pengguna ponsel.Ponsel ini bisa jadi saingan untuk hp sekelasnya.