Software - Android OS, Xperia UI
The Sony Xperia Go runs Android, the Gingerbread version (2.3.7). This is not the latest version of the operating system, but Sony plans to give the phone a bump up to Ice Cream Sandwich in the coming months.
However, it's arguable that using an outdated version of Android is less noticeable here because Sony has caked the Xperia Go in its own Timescape user interface. It gives the OS a different look and provides a few more features fresh out of the box.
The interfaces of Xperia phones have always tried to look a little more slick and sophisticated than most, as summed-up by the snazzy, smoke-like live wallpaper seen here. Xperia UI also involved a redesigned lock screen and a new apps menu.
Contrary to the serious, stark style of the Xperia look, the new menus use large navigation icons that are more about easy operation than looking desperately cool. The downside to this approach is that the apps menu feels a bit wasteful - with just three icons of apps per page.
We prefer the look of the latest stock version of Android but, more importantly, Timescape doesn't seem to slow the phone down much. With a dual-core 1GHz NovaThor processor, the Xperia Go has roughly the same amount of power as rivals phones at the same price, and there's very little lag. In the AnTuTu benchmark, the phone scored 4675, comparable to dual-core phones like the HTC Sensation and Motorola Atrix 2.
Timescape also offers more advanced social network integration than standard Android Gingerbread. The Timescape app rakes-in updates from Facebook and Twitter, displaying them as a scrolling array of 3D panes. Although it's not slow like older, lesser-powered Timescape phones, it looks a little overblown. We expect many of you will end up looking for a simpler alternative from the Google Play app store before too long.
Timescape offers more than just Facebook and Twitter for fans of its swanky style, though. Extension plug-ins are available from Google Play that let you add things like Gmail, Flickr and LinkedIn to the Timescape party. There's also a Timescape widget you can jam onto a homescreen, one with a much simpler and more practical look than the app itself.
However, the screen stops reading small-font updates from being too much fun. The Xperia Go's 3.5in display is large enough - near-enough identical in size to the iPhone 4S - but the resolution is poor.
The Sony Xperia Go's screen uses a 320 x 480 pixel resolution, which feels inadequate for a £200-odd phone, even if it does have IP67 water/dustproofing. Text is noticeably blocky at normal viewing distances, making the phone's software look cheap - more what you'd expect of a £100 Android phone rather than a £230 one. Almost every other Android phone at this price offers a higher-resolution screen. Even the £100 Huawei Ascend G300 beats it with more than twice the number of pixels on-screen.
Pure display quality is unremarkable too. Viewing angles are decent, but backlight bleed becomes pretty obvious when the Xperia Go is held at an angle.
If the Sony Xperia Go has a fatal flaw, it's the screen.
The smaller-size screen may make typing feel cramped if you're used to larger phones, but the phone uses a pretty decent, versatile keyboard. It's similar in look to that of the iPhone, but also offers integration of handy Swype-like functionality. This lets you drag a seamless path over the letters in your desired word, often cutting down on the number of mistakes made.
The phone also wins back some points with its fitness cred, something that goes hand-in-hand with basic rugged skills. Sony has preinstalled a number of exercise-y apps on the phone - WalkMate, FigureRunning and Adidas MiCoach.
WalkMate is a pedometer app that counts how many steps you make each day, tracking them over the month as well as calculating calories consumed and how many grammes of carbon dioxide you've "saved". It's a fun little app, and one that many wouldn't think to download.
FigureRunning is a frivolous-but-fun training app. Your local area is the canvas and you're the pen. The aim is to sketch an artwork across town by running, using the Xperia Go's GPS to track your movements.
For real exercise enthusiasts, Adidas Micoach is the only app to use here. It's a runner's app that tracks your runs, works out playlists for your workouts and also gives you voice coaching to let you know when you need to work harder - the latter is totally optional if you want to go at your own pace.
MiCoach and FigureRunning are available to download from the Google Play app store for free - so their inclusion isn't anything to whoop too loudly about. But they form a great beginner's package and stop you from having to scour the store.
Other Apps and Storage
Once Android has taken its bite out of the 8GB of internal memory, around 4GB is left. And you have access to around 1.7GB of that. It's not a great ratio, but is nevertheless enough to fit hundreds of smaller apps into. If you're after a personal music or video player, though, you'll need to get hold of a microSD memory card.
Both the internal memory and SD card storage show up within your computer's file explorer once plugged-in with a microUSB cable, making file transfers simple.