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Sony Xperia U - Interface, Camera & Verdict

By Edward Chester



Our Score:


Perhaps the most noticeable Sony addition is the swirling desktop which dances and flows as you tap the screen. There are plenty of other equivalents on other Android devices but this if one of the nicer and more obvious versions we’ve seen.

Sony Xperia U 1 Sony Xperia U 3

Okay, we lied, the most noticeable addition is the flashing clear bar that chops through the bottom of the phone. This glows all manner of different colours depending on what app you’re in, whether you’ve got a message or a call, or if the phone is charging. Perhaps the neatest trick is that the collection of lights will do there best to match whatever’s on screen when using the Gallery app, a bit like a tiny version of Philips’ Ambilight TVs. Otherwise, it’s essentially an oversized version of those little pin-sized LEDs you get on BlackBerrys. It’s a nice, if somewhat superfluous, addition.

Sony Xperia U

On a more practical note, another key Sony addition is that of Timescape, which is a social network feed aggregator that brings together updates from Facebook and Twitter and presents them in one long stream. It’s quite nice in a way but the snaking style of the app makes it a bit impractical. The accompanying widget is quite effective though.

You also get Sony’s Music Unlimited and Video Unlimited streaming services, both of which offer a reasonably competitive selection of content at a reasonable price - films are around £3.49 a pop to rent and £12 to buy while music is delivered based on a flat monthly fee of £9.99. Ultimately, though, there’s little reason to pick either over a rival service.

All told, it’s not the most convincing implementation of Android we’ve seen but it’s easy enough to get along with and includes full access to the vast Google Play Store app library.


The Sony Xperia U has a 5megapixel camera on its back and a 0.9megapixel front facing one. The rear one comes with autofocus and an LED flash so is a reasonably versatile tool. But, like most phones cameras, it’s still fairly limited in terms of picture quality. On a dull day like when we took our test shots, the London skyline looked almost totally devoid of colour, and the overall look is fairly patchy. As ever, the rule of thumb is that it’s fine for small social snaps but doesn’t really stretch to anything more.

Sony Xperia U

The shutter button is also of less use than we’d hope as, like quite a few phones that include this feature, it requires quite a hard press to activate it, greatly increasing the chance of making your shot wobbly. Still, we’d rather have the option than not.

Sony Xperia U - Camera

Detail is reasonable but the Sony Xperia U over emphasises the dullness of this day.

Sony Xperia U - Camera Sample

Touch focus means you can easily pick out the object you'd like to focus on.

Sony Xperia U - Camera Sample

The flash is reasonably powerful but like most it struggles to focus in the pitch dark.

You get a pretty decent selection of scene and shooting modes, including the really easy to use sweep panorama feature where you simply pan the camera left or right to build up an ultra-wide shot. The overall interface isn’t all that slick, though, paling in comparison to HTC’s for instance.

Much the same can be said of the phone’s 720p HD video performance in that it’s fine for grabbing the moment but certainly doesn’t reach new heights.


It doesn’t seem long ago where even £200 was being a bit stingy to get a genuinely satisfactory smartphone experience but in the last few months several top-dog cut-price blowers have hit the market. Nonetheless, the Sony Xperia U offers a great combination of features for its price.

The ZTE Grand X offers a much larger, sharper screen for a little more money while the Huawei Ascend G300 is much cheaper, has a slightly bigger screen and a microSD slot, though it does only have a single core processor. Another alternative is the super stylish and well built HTC One V, though again it’s only single core.


The Sony Xperia U isn’t perfect but then what phone is for little over £150? It’s compact yet has a screen large enough for core smartphone duties, it’s fast thanks to a dual-core processor and it’s just plain easy to use. An easy recommendation for anyone looking for a phone on a budget.

Overall Score


Scores In Detail

  • Camera 6
  • Design 7
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7
  • Screen Quality 7
  • Usability 8
  • Value 10
Carrier pricing updates & information supplied by WhistleOut


February 28, 2012, 2:43 pm

1 overall? Sony must love you!


February 28, 2012, 3:05 pm

A slight slip-up on our part. It'll update on the site soon.


August 25, 2012, 12:23 am

If Sony didn't see fit to exclude the SD slot this would be my next phone! :| Instead I'll have to look elsewhere as I need around 16GB for a decent selection of music along with the usual stuff.

TR, please fix it so this site will remember my login details! Chrome usually does this for me but your JQuery login pop-up stops it.


August 27, 2012, 2:25 pm

I have to agree with PoisonJam, I'm lazy so not having to remember my log-in details would be good (off-topic, sorry).


August 27, 2012, 2:50 pm

You know what, I'd never noticed that before. Unfortunately as we're looking to change our comments system to something half decent asap, we won't be doing any more work on the current system. Hopefully in the next couple of months we should have some significant improvements, though.

Sgt Pepper

August 28, 2012, 4:31 am

Please take the background music out of the recent reviews. It's really distracting and doesn't add anything to them. In this video in particular I've had to replay several times to hear the voice over the music.

Kelvin Brugge

December 28, 2012, 10:30 am

Poor phone, no SD card slot and only 4.0 Gb internal memory. It's like a step backwards with all the manufacturers so scared of Apple they feel they have to copy iPhone.

Galadriel Roc

January 18, 2013, 8:39 pm

This is the worst phone I've had in a long time. It's ridiculously slow and every single application crashes whenever you want to use it every single time. It takes more than 10 minutes just to write an SMS. I have no pictures, no videos, no music and no apps installed aside from the absolutely necessary for the phone to function. Don't waste your money, you are better off with a Nokia 5120, at least it lets you call and send SMS without crashing. WORST PHONE EVER.

Sundeep Dawale

February 26, 2013, 8:36 pm

Hi All!

This is the worst phone I've ever had. This is my first smartphone and I regret I did not go for Samsung which is a trusted name for Android phones. Silly me I just wanted to get a different bad, worst mistake of my life.

Don't get sold on the dual core bullshit, this phone is slower than a turtle fuck. If you keep your wifi or data connection on then the phone will simply freeze. I gifted my wife a Samsung Galaxy Y on her birthday and even that works much better than this awful piece of shit.

The fact that you cannot expand the abysmal 8GB memory is a big minus too.

Within 3 months of buying this phone I had to send it to the service center as the touch screen had died a slow death. First a small portion of the top left corner had become unresponsive and I used to rotate the screen just to hit the right buttons. Then in no time it spread like a cancer and the phone was f****g useless. Since the phone was within warranty the service center replaced it but only after 15 days. This place is like 20 kms away from where I live. Bloody nightmare.

Went back to my old Nokia 5800 until the phone was getting repaired and realised how much I had missed it, so much so that I continued using it for 2 weeks even after I had collected the Sony Xpired U F***k-tart from the service center.

Every time an app on this good-for-nothing phone crashes my heart skips a beat. Just yourself the nightmare guys go for trusted names like Samsung if you want Android, Nokia if you want Windows 8 or iPhone. This phone is so bad that Sony should actually recall it and compensate people for the agony their product has caused.


March 4, 2013, 5:38 pm

I just bought sony xperia U but apparently there seems to be a problem with your software because when I make a call after the call the ringtone for the msg's doesn't exists. I have seen from different forums that people from all around the world have the same problem. I took it back they said it's ok but it's not. I have still the same problem. How can you sell something that isn't working properly.


March 12, 2013, 8:55 am

worst phone..very slow...to make a cal u have to wait for 2..3 min, sensor is also very bad u cant disconect ur phone beecoz sensor doesnt work properly.....i dont knw wht happen to sony brand.


March 23, 2013, 2:23 pm

I’m always amazed out how advanced phones become in the lifespan of a phone contract
24 months, I have to confess in being a Sony fanboy, I love their PSP, Tellies you name it I got it, at this rate you would think id get a Christmas card from Sony every year…Oh well perhaps it’s because I don’t own a Vita yet lol but everyone has their platform but for me it’s the Sony brand, this is the second Sony touch screen I’ve had on contract now with O2 and I’m so impressed with it it’s unreal and the great thing about it is it’s not to big and it packs a super sharp screen which is rare on a budget phone I mean the Xperia U cost me the same as my old Sony Ericson WT19i and that had a low end screen even my Gameboy had a higher res.

My favourite part of the phone is the Music player and the GPS capabilities but Ill talk about the music player first, now in the past Walkman phones have been simply trousers in terms of the way music is present to your ears they seriously lacked any graphic equalizers or DSPs and for Sony “the kings of sound” they should hang their heads in shame…..how ever this is not the case with the Xperia U for a start you get loads of presets and adjustable 5 band equalizer and a slider for how much Bass you want to give your tracks, you also get headphone surround options which are friggin cool, they range from Studio, Club and Concert Hall they all sound completely different I tend to select Club as it widens the sound field no end, I also like the fact Sony had added the very cool track Tranzpotter (Journey) lol anyone with a Sony phone will know how good this track

Now the GPS side of the phone is very good, I was using Sygic on old Sony WT19i so I needed a phone that could carry on using this system and I half to say it’s better and a lot smoother, it takes a matter of seconds to get first fix and your ready to go in no time, I’m never a fan of built in GPS modules because all my other past smart phones by different brands were rubbish Samsung or more like “SamScum” being the worst so the Xperia U and my old WT19i were the first two that were any good so Sony seem to do a good GPS, I’ve heard that TomTom is out on Android now so I might give that a butchers but at the moment Sygic is running incredibility well.

My only gripe about this phone is the lack of SD slot but I suppose it is a budget phone so something’s got a to scarified though not the screen Sony did well here Id rather loose an SD slot in favour of good screen and anyway it’s not like I can’t add extra memory because it have the ability to use a usb stick and ill be glad if they make a flash drive for micro USB slots something that’s tiny so it’s not to obtrusive because there is a feature in the settings to mount and unmount a flash drive, I’m amazed there isn’t any micro USB drives around “perhaps me need to get mass uprising outside Sandisk HQ” with boards saying “gives us micro usb storage you lazy scum!!….or maybe not lol so ok instead you have to use a cable linked to regular sized flash drive which is about as attractive as me naked doing a modelling shoot but never the less it’s a good solution to the lack on onboard memory.

The Xperia U is an outstanding phone, I’m not surprised it’s scoring highly on the leader
board, it’s cheap powerful and offers a range of features for the every day user, I bought the Xperia U largely due to its size and the fact you can swap out the battery. the lovely thing about this phone is that the back cover makes up most of the phone so if you drop it on the corner or scuff the sides or back it’s all inter changeable and a new cover will see it right oh and love the feel of Xperia it’s reminds me of those early IBM think pads with the titanium composite plastic/rubber bodies.


July 2, 2013, 10:07 am

bad not even ordinary stopping after every one minute

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