Having only just booted Ericsson out of its phone labs, Sony is - bizarrely enough - a newcomer to the scene. Can the Sony Xperia S square up to the most-anticipated Android smartphone of the year, the Samsung Galaxy S3?
More on the "Next Galaxy" -
To dig below the surface, we've put their specs side-by-side and collated our impressions from our hands-on experiences with both phones. Thinking of buying one of these bad boys? Read on…
Body and looks
Samsung Galaxy S3 - White/brushed effect blue plastic, Gorilla Glass II
Sony Xperia S - Black/white matt plastic, toughened glass
Some peoples have said they find the Samsung Galaxy S3 a bit of a disappointment - and the reason cited is often its build and looks. Although it offers a pair of reasonably snazzy-looking finishes, it is made of glossy plastic, and features the ultra-thin battery cover that turned many off the otherwise-fantastic Samsung Galaxy S2.
The Sony Xperia S features a much bolder design, which attempts to recreate some of the iconic feel that Nokia managed to muster with the Lumia 800. A highly recognisable three-stripe setup with a translucent strip at the bottom, it's some way removed from the boring black slabs that have become the norm in the high-end smartphone space. However, it's not completely a success either.
There are seams that are a little too obvious, and it - like the Samsung Galaxy S3 - it's all-too clear that it's made from plastic. Perhaps we're just being a little too picky, but after the ceramic and metal finishes of the HTC One V and S, we're left craving something a little different. A little tougher-feeling. These days, the impression of toughness is just as important as the real thing to many people.
Dimensions and weight
Samsung Galaxy S3 - 136.6 x 70.6 x 8.6 mm, 133g
Sony Xperia S - 128 x 64 x 10.6 mm, 144g
For all its stylish pretentions, the Sony Xperia S is actually heavier and thicker than most phones in its class. 10.6mm may not sound like a lot, but it puts the Sony well out of the range of ultra-slim phones these days. It is also heavier than most, being weightier than the glass 'n' metal iPhone 4S as well as plastic bodied phones like the Samsung Galaxy S3.
However, as it uses a significantly smaller screen than the S3 - 4.3in rather than 4.8in - those with smaller hands or pocket will still find it easier to live with. Whichever way you look at it, 4.8in is huge - not all that far off the Samsung Galaxy Note, which is considered part-tablet.
Samsung Galaxy S3 - 4.8in Super AMOLED, 720p resolution
Sony Xperia S - 4.3in "Bravia" LCD, 720p resolution
There are many ways to assess screens. The Samsung Galaxy S3 screen is much larger, but as the two use the same resolution, the Xperia S should technically be sharper - especially as the Galaxy S3 uses a sharpness-reducing Pentile subpixel arrangement. This is where the dots that make the image are arranged as RGBG (reg-green-blue-green), rather than standard RGB. You need to get up very close to see it, but in lower res screens than the Galaxy's, it makes text look much less well-defined.
Want the numbers? The Sony Xperia S has a ridiculously-high 346dpi pixel density while the Samsung Galaxy S3 "makes do" with 305dpi.
It may sound like the Sony Xperia S is winning here, but from a more real-world perspective, the Samsung is the victor. Its Super AMOLED display offers much better viewing angles and superior overall image quality - we weren't too impressed by the Sony among its peers at review, its backlight showing through too readily in angled viewing. It's not bad by any means, but doesn't match the Galaxy S3, or HTC One X.
Samsung Galaxy S3 - Quad-core, 1.4GHz Exynos 4212, Mali-400 GPU, 1GB RAM
Sony Xperia S - Dual-core, 1.5GHz Qualcomm MSM8260 Snapdragon, Adreno 220 GPU, 1GB RAM
Sony often lags behind a bit with its processors. When its big-name buddies were rolling into making dual-core phones, Sony Ericsson trundled along with the single-core Arc phones. Now that Ericsson has been booted out, Sony hasn't changed matters. The Sony Xperia S uses a dual-core processor, while the Samsung Galaxy S3 has a quad-core model. Its Mali-400 GPU also routinely outperforms the Xperia S's Adreno 220 chip too.
It's not all bad news, though. The dual-core model has no trouble keeping Android ICS running like a dream. What you may miss out on are the few quad-core optimised games that'll appear this year and beyond, and the ability to play blisteringly high bit-rate movies on-the-go. 720p vids - using the screen's native resolution - should pose no problem, though.
Samsung Galaxy S3 - 16/32/64GB, microSD
Sony Xperia S - 32GB, non-expandable
Like so many top-end phones of this generation, the Sony Xperia S does not let you use memory cards - there's no slot for 'em. If you're not going to be happy with the 32GB of internal memory, you might as well cross the Xperia S off your list right now. For reference's sake, it's enough for about 290 albums or 25 films once the Android system has taken its chunk.
The Samsung Galaxy S3 sticks with the style of the previous Galaxy phones (apart from the Google-branded Galaxy Nexus) by offering a microSD slot. This sits underneath the flimsy plastic battery cover, next to the SIM slot. It also comes with a healthy amount of internal memory, with 16GB, 32GB and 64GB versions on the way.
Having used Android phones since the platform arrived almost five years ago, we've come to the conclusion that 16GB is a good amount if you just want to play games and use apps on your phone. But if you're keen on video or want to use the phone as your primary music player, the more memory the better.