Start using the Sony Xperia S for everyday phone duties and it copes admirably, providing clear audio on all fronts when making a call. Messaging is also a cinch thanks to Android's great messaging app, the phone's large responsive touchscreen and Sony's slightly customised keyboard.
Email, similarly is as good as we've come to expect from Android. It's quick and easy to navigate your emails and graphically rich HTML emails look great on the large high-res screen.
When it comes to contacts management, Sony has added Facebook but not Twitter, which is a strange omission. You don't even get the Twitter apps preinstalled, with a quick trip to the app store required. The integration lets you browse a contact's interests, photos and updates from within their contacts page. It's somewhat useful though nothing revolutionary.
Move onto web browsing and things only get better. We already mentioned how the superb screen makes viewing the world wide web a wonderous experience but there's also the easy interface and of course support for flash video, for a truly full web experience.
Multimedia is well catered for with easy to use apps for music, FM radio and photo viewing, while a quick download of a third party video player will have the phone playing back just about any video you care to try – and they'll both look and sound great. We found 720p mkvs would play back with no bother.
Sadly that most crucial of multimedia features, the camera, isn't as good as we'd expected. In good lighting you can just about notice extra detail over an 8MP model but pictures are incredibly grainy with loads of compression noise when blown up. We also found low light performance particularly poor with the phone both struggling to judge the correct exposure and having a weaker-than-usual flash.
On the flipside, speed is excellent. The Sony Xperia S is able to rattle off six shots in ten seconds. You also have the advantage of a proper camera button for getting to the camera app quickly (you can jump straight to the camera from standby and even have it take a photo straight away) and making it easy for self portraits or any other shots where it's difficult to see the screen to press the capture button.
You also get the nifty panorama mode and 3D panorama mode (not that you can watch the latter on the phone) and a decent selection of scenes and modes. Nonetheless, we can't help but feel disappointed.
Thankfully battery life isn't something to be too concerned about. While the Sony Xperia S doesn't set new records, it passes the basic test of being able to go for a day and a half or so. Our only wish is that this apparently acceptable average were raised a little – even if it meant thicker handsets.
With an HD screen, 12MP camera and a few quirky extras, the Sony Xperia S should be right up there with the best of the rest, but it doesn't quite come together. The screen isn't quite as good as we'd hope and the camera is well below expectations. Meanwhile the design, although quite nice, doesn't really wow us. It is still an decent high-end phone, just not the barnstormer it could've been.