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Sony Xperia S review



Our Score


User Score


  • Simple comfortable design
  • HD screen is great
  • Good overall performance


  • No expandable memory
  • Camera is way below expectations
  • Screen and design don't quite set our hearts alight

Review Price £410.00

Key Features: 4.3in, 720 x 1280 pixel display; 1.5Ghz dual-core processor; 12 megapixel camera

Manufacturer: Sony

So Sony has finally rid itself of Ericsson for its phone division, and the first flagship phone of this new Sony brand is the Sony Xperia S. With a high resolution screen and fancy 12-megapixel camera, it should be a contender for our favourite Android phone, but to our minds it hasn't quite done enough.

The first slip-up is the design. When we first saw the Xperia S back at CES in January we were quite taken with its quirky styling but upon second look we're not so sure. The clear slice of plastic that runs underneath the screen still has a certain funky appeal but the rest of the handset elicits little more than a shrug from us – it's just some phone.

There are gaps running round the edge of the backplate, there are plastic flaps covering some of the ports, and just generally it doesn't look or feel as premium as we'd like. It doesn't help that we have the white model here, which doesn't quite feel coherent with its contrasting matt white plastic back and glass black front – and the gaps show up even more on white – but even the black model we suspect would lack a certain something.

Sony Xperia S 11

The silly thing is that Sony was so close to getting it right. The matt finish looks and feels nice, the features on the back are carefully arranged in a single tidy line and again that clear plastic section is a nice touch. It also feels good in the hand. Despite having a 4.3in screen, the whole phone feels manageable and the gentle curve of the back makes it reasonably comfortable – though we'd prefer slightly more rounded corners.

Sony Xperia S 3

As to that clear section, embedded within it are three white icons to indicate the touch sensitive buttons above (each marked by tiny white dots in their centre) but more importantly, from its depths flows light. Get a call, message notification, or just put the phone on charge and it will glow – it's fun.

However, those touch sensitive buttons, while allowing the front face of the phone to be super minimalist, aren't the most practical choice. Not only does it take quite a bit of time to get used to aiming at the dots and not the white icons, but responsiveness - even when hitting the right spot - isn't great. We regularly found ourselves poking away at the same spot to get a response.

Sony Xperia S

At the other end of the vast expanse of black that makes up the front of this phone is the earpiece and the sharper than usual 1.3MP front facing camera that can record video at 720p HD quality – for the best in pimple peeping video calls.

Explaining the gaps round its edges, the back plate slides off to reveal the SIM slot and… nothing else. No expandable memory via a microSD slot and no removable battery. Quite why Sony felt the need to make the whole back removable for the sake of swapping a SIM card is anybody's guess. You can also pull off the little section that covers the bottom of the phone, but there's nothing to find under there. You get a decent 32GB of inbuilt storage but the lack of a memory slot will be a killer blow for many.

Sony Xperia S 4

Round the edges is a rather better selection of features. The right houses the camera button, volume rocker, and microHDMI socket (instant TV playback is go.. once you buy a microHDMI cable) while the left has the microUSB charging port. Sadly both microUSB and microHDMI are covered by cumbersome plastic flaps that really detract from the usability and the look – when you have to charge a smartphone every night, why cover the charging port?

Sony Xperia S 5

Another minor slipup to our minds is the power/screen lock button. Situated on the top edge along with the headphone jack, it's difficult to reach when operating the phone with one hand. It's not as bad as some even larger phones but with more and more handsets sensibly placing this button on the side, where it's easy to reach, Sony's choice seems more regrettable.

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January 12, 2012, 1:56 am

Are you trying to make me feel ancient? "The first phone in the UK to bear the Sony brand"
I don't think so, not unless alzheimer's is kicking in.


January 12, 2012, 4:05 am

True, I remember Sony handsets being sold in the UK over a decade ago. The J5 with its natty jog-wheel interface was a highlight.

"The first SMARTphone in the UK to bear the Sony brand", perhaps?


March 16, 2012, 10:07 pm

" (instant TV playback is go.. once you buy a microHDMI cable)"
Mine came with one in the box (& a screen protector).

Luan Bach

March 17, 2012, 2:45 pm

Drop in price already ? Wasn't it £450 on release ?


March 17, 2012, 6:46 pm

I have to echo some the conclusions of the review with regards to the screen - The viewing angles are very poor. Colour and contrast shift dramatically if viewed even slightly off centre.

However, I believe that it actually has a sharper screen than the 4S in terms of DPI (342 vs 326 of the IPhone)

Mark Etheridge

April 20, 2012, 5:24 pm

Don't really understand why not having expandable storage is such an issue? This seems to be a recurring theme with TR's smartphone reviews.

This phone has 32Gb RAM internally, connectivity and syncing to Googles cloud services + third party cloud sources. Would someone with a phone as advanced as this one, really miss the use use memory cards or am I missing something?

Jonathon Trot

May 20, 2012, 2:39 am

Sony Xperia S seems nice to me overall.Except some silly problems.its light and handy but now its time to watch out samsung galaxy s3 nothing is gonna compare with this.You should check out all updates about this.Thank you.


May 24, 2012, 10:14 pm

hiya, i just got my Sony Xperia S as an upgrade on Tmobile. have been using the phone the last couple of days. i know it was mentioned in the review about the fit and finish of the phone and there were slight panel gaps. to be honest they arent that bad and it doesnt detract from the quality feel of the handset. the screen is outstanding and even though the review claims the Xperia is slightly on the heavy side i actually feel it has a nice weight to it and sits comfortably in the hand. mine also came with a bundled HDMI cable and a screen protector. so far the phone is very responsive and doesnt lag running multiple apps or playing HD content. 32GB is plenty of space and i am not missing the micro SDHC slot at all. the touch screen responsiveness is very good and the colour reproduction of the screen is lovely. photos and videos really pop on this screen. ill need to use it for more time to find out if it has any quirks but so far its a solid 9/10 from me. a great handset and you wont regret getting it. :)


September 4, 2013, 10:34 pm

At first you will be impressed by this phone, however after
having it just a short while I started to find problems arising everywhere. Let
me categorise -

- The Camera, although being 12MP is awful at taking a
picture with a lot of depth/distance. The detail quality lacks significantly.
It is brilliant however for close-up shots. They advertise a quick start up for
the camera, though I never experienced such a luxury, it takes more around a
minute. Focussing this camera is a huge pain.

- The battery, due to the immense power all the buggy
features consume, this phone will not even last a day. Even if left in standby
in your pocket, the battery will drain far too quickly. Another HUGE drawback
is that the battery is not replaceable… At least not without removing half the
phone and exposing all its inner workings.

- The design is uncomfortably big. Texting is awkward and although
the corners are rounded they still poke into your hands and eventually that can
start to hurt. There are very VERY few cases available for this phone so in
terms of extra protection to save one breaking the massive screen, it’s quite
difficult. Plus the addition of a case makes the phone even bigger than it
needs to be.

- The touch screen sensitivity is poorly calibrated. Before
you think it, it’s not because I’m trying to use it wrong, it’s just very
uneven and doesn’t respond well, especially at certain angles I’ve found with

- Phone often cuts of mid-call. Sometimes refuses to let me
call someone.

- The gallery and the text messages often open saying there
is nothing in them, and take around a minute (depending on how much is in
there) to actually make your pictures or messages appear.

- A REALLY ANNOYING ISSUE is the back of the phone
CONSTANTLY falls off. Considering there is nothing you can do under that cover
except put your sim card in, it comes of stupidly easily. I can simply pick the
phone up off the table and the back will fall off etc.

- Certain apps and a lot of games overload this phone. The
Dual-Core is nothing special at all and almost everything that requires any
type of decent graphical processing crashes or lags badly. Often the simplest
programs crash such as internet, Instagram. IT WILL OFTEN CLOSE SOMETHING MID

- With headphones, the phone sometimes decides to play music
from the speaker instead which is awkward if you are in a public place. And
then you’ll rush to silence it and it’ll freeze up so you’ll end up sitting on
it or snapping it in half with rage.

OVERALL I would highly recommend you look elsewhere for a
phone regardless of what you may think, this phone will cause more problems for
you than you could imagine. There are more problems I could name right now but
I think I’ve said enough for you to realise the truth about the performance of
this phone.

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