Sony Xperia S review

Barry de la Rosa
21 Mar 2012
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
inc VAT

The Xperia S has a great 12.1-megapixel camera, but is let down by its screen and lack of Android 4.0



Android 2.3.7, 4.3in 720x1,280 display

The Xperia S is the first Sony-branded phone we've seen - Sony having bought out Ericsson's part of the Sony Ericsson joint venture in February. It's a hugely powerful smartphone, with a dual-core 1.5GHz processor, a 4.3in screen with a huge 720x1,280 resolution and 12.1-megapixel main camera.

Xperia S screen

With a lack of contrast, some seriously wacky colours and mushy details, this cropped, zoomed-in photo of the Xperia S's screen shows its faults - click to enlarge

We were disappointed by the Xperia S's screen. It's bright and clear, with a massive 720x1,280 resolution, but while it shares its high resolution with the Samsung Galaxy Nexus's screen, it's a TFT rather than OLED panel, and so can't generate the same levels of contrast. In a side-by-side comparison with other flagship phones such as the Motorola RAZR or Nexus, the Xperia S's screen didn't have the same punch, despite both those handsets using PenTile displays that don't have RGB subpixels for every pixel.

Nexus screen

By comparison this zoomed-in crop of the Galaxy Nexus's screen shows more contrast and better colour balance. The pixel structure is more noticeable here, but not so evident in actual use - click to enlarge

While the phone's screen resolution is decidedly next-generation, the phone unfortunately only runs Android 2.3. According to Sony, an upgrade to Android 4.0 is planned for Quarter 2 2012, which seems like a long delay considering the latest version of Google's operating system has been out since October 2011. Sony has tweaked Android, although the customisations aren't as extensive as on previous Xperia phones. You get Sony's Timescape app, which aggregates Facebook and Twitter feeds, plus Sony's Music Unlimited and Video Unlimited apps.

Sony Xperia S

Timescape is interesting in that it supports plugins to extend it to other services, but support isn’t comprehensive - there aren't any plugins for professional network LinkedIn, for example. Instead of the carousel home screen we've seen on previous Xperia handsets, the S has a simpler Feed widget and a Friends widget that shows the status updates of eight favourite people.

Video Unlimited has a selection of films that you can buy or rent - the latest blockbusters cost around £12 to buy or £3.50 to rent, both in SD quality, while older films can start as low as £7 to buy and £2.50 to rent. It's not as good a selection or as good value as Netflix, but it compares well with Google's own Play service, which has a similar selection and charges £3.50 for rental.

Music Unlimited is a subscription-based service which gives you unlimited access to a selection of songs for £10 a month - check out the website at to see if you like the selection.

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