August 28, 2012 | by Natesh Sood
Evaluated version: Sony Xperia ion (Android 2.3 for AT&T)
Pros: Dual-core 1.5GHz processor, HD display, 12MP camera
Cons: Android 2.3, Mediocre battery performance
The Sony Xperia ion is a solid AT&T Android option for those who consume and display media like it’s nobody’s business. However, the Xperia ion is hampered by a lackluster battery and Android 2.3. When many of the top of Android smartphones run Android 4.0 with a Android 4.1 build in the near future, the Xperia ion continues to run on Gingerbread.
For its cost, however, the Xperia ion is a great option for those looking to save a little on the up front cost of a device and prefer a smartphone with great media capabilities. Before getting too ahead of myself, let’s take a look at the hardware aspect of the Xperia ion and how it matches up with its software side.
The Sony Xperia ion begins with a 4.55 inch touch screen display with a 1280 x 720 resolution, Snapdragon S3 1.5GHz dual-core processor, 1GB of RAM, weighs 5.1 ounces, 16GB of on board memory, 12MP rear facing camera, 1080p video capture, 1.3MP fronta facing camera, NFC, GPS, WiFi, and 4G LTE connectivity.
After turning on the Xperia ion for the first time, I was impressed with its high-end quality display. Since it is only a 4.55 inch display (yes, I do mean only), it fits well in the hand and can be operated with one hand. For those who prefer a smaller sized screen than the Galaxy Note, Galaxy S III, or One X, but still need an HD quality display, the Xperia ion fits the bill. It makes browsing the web, viewing images, displaying videos, and playing games a pleasurable experience.
The Snapdragon S3 1.5GHz dual-core processor completes functions and handles tasks with ease. Multitasking with the phone is not a problem since the processor and RAM are able to keep up. Sure, it doesn’t possess a Snapdragon S4 processor, but I find the S3 gets the job done admirably and will presumably operate even faster when it is upgraded to ICS. In my opinion, Sony markets the the Xperia ion in the upper echelon of mid-range devices, so I am fine with it containing an S3 processor.
The signature aspect of the Xperia ion is its 12MP rear facing camera, which certainly takes some impressive photos. It has a dedicated camera button that won’t launch the app but it will snap a photo. I would prefer it to launch the camera application as well, but I guess I can’t have my cake and eat it too. I personally can’t compare it to the GS3 and One X, since I haven’t spent enough time using those devices, but the Xperia ion takes great photos and can easily replace your personal digital camera.
The Xperia ion features NFC integration and you can purchase Xperia ion SmartTags, which trigger smartphone actions when in contact with your device. Personally, I was unable to use the tags with my loaner Xperia ion, but if they do work correctly, then simply tapping a SmartTag can turn off WiFi, change sound profile, launch Gmail, etc. It’s a nifty integration feature that reminds me of Samsung TecTiles, but unfortunately, it didn’t work for me.
Another neat feature found in the Xperia ion is the fact that it can be operated by your HDTV. Simply attach the device to your HDTV via mini HDMI and it will allow you to control your smartphone with your remote. Essentially, you can choose apps such as YouTube and other video apps to display your content on the TV. Again, this feature will definitely appeal to media junkies who enjoy storing media on their smartphone and then wish to display it on a large screen.
I found the battery life to be less than impressive. While I understand it uses 4G LTE, it will barely get through a day of average use. Starting the day off with a full battery, using the Xperia ion for web browsing, email, music, texting, GPS, and phone calls can each take a hit to the battery. It’s worth noting that intense use for a short period of time can result in the device getting uncharacteristically hot.
As previously mentioned, the Sony Xperia ion operates on Android 2.3.7, also known as Gingerbread. It is expected to receive an upgrade to Android 4.0, but that day has yet to come. After running a custom ICS ROM on my G2X, it’s hard to go back to using Gingerbread. Even though the device operates very smoothly, there’s just something unsettling about using Gingerbread. The home screen and notification bar are very barren and do not open any shortcuts, much to my disappointment.
There is an interesting app pre-loaded with the device called Livewire Manager. It is the app that is used to manage the SmartTags and customize the actions you want each tag to trigger. In addition, it allows a headset, headphones, and a charger to also trigger apps. For example, plugging in the charger can prompt the Gmail app to open. It’s a nifty integration feature that some may find useful.
I fully expect many of the Gingerbread shortcomings to be fixed with the ICS update, but for now, it’s simply a hindrance to what could be a great smartphone experience.
Sony implements an interesting skin on top of Gingerbread that I find to be unobtrusive and user-friendly. There isn’t too much bloat on the device aside from the usual AT&T crap.
If you’re big on social networking, the Xperia ion includes an app known as Timescape which aggregates your various social networks in order for you to view it in a central location. I personally prefer using the standalone apps, but at least the option is there for owners to centralize their networks.
The Sony Xperia ion is a great smartphone on AT&T for those who need to capture some great photos and videos, watch tons of videos, and play games on a speedy phone. The Xperia ion is a quality smartphone available for $99 with AT&T on a two year contract.
My only complaints include the fact that its still on Android 2.3, the battery life isn’t stellar, and NFC didn’t work too well for me. Hopefully Sony can push out the ICS update in the near future, because that will greatly enhance the user experience in my opinion. If you don’t want to shell out your cash for a high end Samsung Galaxy S III for $199 or One X for $99, then you may be able to get the Xperia on the cheap such as from Best Buy.