Some say you can have a smartphone or you can have a rugged device, but never can you have both. The folks over at Sony Ericsson are looking to tap into the market where other devices may have tried before. Remember Motorola’s i1? How about T-Mobile’s Defy? Which I still think is a great device by the way. Well, SE is joining the party with their very own rugged smartphone joining the Xperia lineup dubbed the “Xperia Active”. While the use case is plain as day, there’s still a bit of a puzzling thought as to who the targeted demographic is? Why you ask? Well, though it’s clearly meant for the outdoorsy type, SE went with an extremely small screen size which at times required nothing less than 20/20 vision when reading text on web pages. But more of that in the review. Focusing on the handset itself, we’ve got to say, it’s difficult to ignore the amount of goods given to the device under the hood. With a 1 GHz processor from Qualcomm, Android Gingerbread 2.3, a water resistant and dust proof casing along with pre-installed fitness applications, you’ve got one heck of a device. That is, if you can fully take it all in on the 320 x 480 3-inch display of course. If you missed our initial unboxing and hands-on you can check it out here.
However, that being said, the device definitely gives you your money’s worth. There’s an array of accessories that come with the handset to accommodate both your outdoor active life as well as your indoor classy hang-outs with friends. Beginning with the box, there’s a USB charging/syncing cable, an arm pouch for jogging, stereo ear bud headphones with attachable ear-hooks for excessive work-outs, a 2GB memory card with the ability to expand up to 32 GB’s, a rubber lanyard that fits directly into the carabiner and an interchangeable back cover offering both black/orange and white backplates
What ultimately makes the device stand out? You called it, the screen size. In the midst of monster screen size releases such as the Samsung Galaxy S II at 4.52-inches, the Galaxy Note at 5.3-inches, the Galaxy Nexus at 4.6-inches and the HTC Sensation at 4.3-inches just to name a few, the Active rolls in with its abnormal size of 3-inches. Personally, it was very challenging for me to use the device, let alone allow it to serve as my daily driver for reviewing purposes. However, I did my best to make it work. And surprisingly, it came through for me on a number of occasions.
The device, while compact, is still a little on the thick side coming in at 16.5 mm. We would have liked to have seen the device sport a bigger screen as well as bigger housing, say maybe at 4-inches. Then, maybe they could have thinned the device out a bit. As stated above, the device sports a 3-inch capacitive touch display (320 x 480), only this technology offers what SE calls “wet finger tracking” capabilities for obvious reasons. Should you get water or mud on your device it can still render touch input. Then there’s also SE’s Mobile Bravia Engine which offers a nice visual boost in performance on the handset. The device itself weighs in at 110.8 grams and is overall 55 x 92 x 16.5 mm. Like most of SE’s handsets, the front sports only three buttons instead of the usual four button layout. The Active sports a back button, home button and menu button in that order from left to right and all buttons are capacitive. Typical Sony Ericsson nomenclature can be found on the front side. The device spices it up a bit by offering two different housing cases, one white and one black/orange. The back plate comes off to reveal an inner seal which can also come off to gain access to where the micro sd card (2GB) and SIM slot reside. The bottom portion of the device offers a pretty cool and nifty lanyard strap hole/carabiner clip for those looking to take the device on their next outdoor adventure. Also on the bottom portion of the device is where you’ll find the USB sync port and headphone jack (3.5 mm). The backside of the device sports a 5 meg auto focus camera with a single round LED flash which takes surprisingly nice photos, along with the device’s speaker grill. The right side of the device holds a dedicated camera key as well as the volume rocker. The left side of the device sports the power on/off button. And though I didn’t take this device on a crazy outdoor trip, I was able to ironically distinguish the fact that the screen wasn’t all that bright even when it was maxed out. That made outdoor viewing a little challenging which sort of defeats the purpose for a device like this. On a good note, the device was quite compact and easily fit into the pocket.
The Xperia Active has a decent array of functionality when it comes to the software dept. The device sports Android 2.3 Gingerbread out of the box which accompanies SE’s proprietary UI, TimeScape. We’ve seen TimeScape on several other SE products such as the Xperia Mini, Pro and Arc S devices to name a few. However, we think SE did a great job optimizing the software to run well on the device. This is evident when the device loads up and you see several shortcut screen corners which allow you to add up to four different applications and become visible when you expand the corner. The keyboard is a bit tricky on a device like this as it comes with a T9 layout in portrait mode. However, a full qwerty keyboard layout is available if you tip the device into landscape. We found ourselves using the keyboard in this mode as much as possible for obvious reasons, we don’t have Smurf hands. There were plenty of applications on the device to be as productive as one can be while on the go. Applications and functionality included a monitoring app, DLNA capabilities, LiveWire and TimeScape applications. In addition, the Active sports a plethora of fitness and wellness applications for those constantly keeping up with their New Year’s resolution. Applications like WalkMate, a pedometer app and iMapMyFITNESS all come together to make your workouts more effective and productive. The iMapMyFITNESS application allows you to track and trend your workouts with the ability to connect your device to a separate heart-rate monitor for precision calorie counting. As far as web surfing goes, again, that was a bit of a challenge and frankly, I wouldn’t read too many books on the Kindle app if you know what I mean. However, if you just want to check the scores, scope some quick news and RSS feeds, or even check out a flash video once in a while you should be ok thanks to the 1GHz CPU and Bravia Mobile Engine. The music player is intuitive and user-friendly as well, offering big buttons for easy navigating through your playlists. There’s an equalizer and “xLOUD” options which enhance the output of sound from the device’s speaker. And lastly, the software offers the infinity button which allows you to universally search quickly when it comes to song lyrics, karaoke videos on YouTube and your favorite artist’s biography etc.
For those wondering about the compatibility of the phone, it offers quad-band GSM technology as well as dual-band 3G. Our model worked unlocked on AT&T’s network. Your standard GPS, Bluetooth and WiFi connections are all on board as well.
Camera & Battery:
As we stated before, the camera offers a 5 meg AF camera on the rear with a single LED flash on board. The application offers touch focus, geo tagging, face detect and image stabilization. There’s 720p video recording capabilities and the light works for shooting video in the dark. Like most cameras, shots came out well so long as there was an ample amount of light available. While the flash worked well, it wasn’t as ideal at night. And like the Arc S we just reviewed, though there is only a single lens, the device is capable of rendering 3D photos with the 3D camera app.
Battery life wasn’t what we expected from a small device like this. However, I guess that’s what you can expect from only housing a 1200 mAh battery. The device is supposed to give the user 4.5 hours of talk-time with 14 days of stand-by time which comes in just below average for a handset with these specs. However, with that being said, you could expect close to a day’s use before requiring a recharge.
Navigating through the optimized UI was great as well as the overall usability of the device. With the 1 GHz CPU and the 512 megs of RAM, there’s no issue at all when it comes to the device handling your day to day activities. However, that being said, we regret to have to report that call quality on the device was anything but acceptable. The audio seemed a bit muffled at times and when it was windy, opposing parties had an extremely difficult time hearing us which didn’t make sense for a device targeting the outdoor man/woman. In addition, the volume doesn’t reach a level of satisfactory for some reason and we’re not entirely sure whether or not it’s due to the hardware or the software. I’m leaning towards the latter.
Overall, the Xperia Active comes with a great package out of the box both software and hardware wise. In addition, the device is well manufactured with a rugged exterior and cool features like the lanyard function and interchangeable back plates. The weatherproofing and on-board fitness applications are a major plus as well as the thought out optimization features for such a small display. Our only major downside to the device was the lack of call quality and audio output. One purchasing the device should heavily consider using a Bluetooth headset or the stock headphones that came with the device. But if you’re looking for something small and compact as well as something that comes with the ability to get a little dirty, look no further as the Active is an excellent choice.
If you’ve happened to come across Sony Ericsson’s FB page lately, you’ll be happy to note the company tossed up a teaser of a new and upcoming device. Most are speculating that it could be a highly anticipated follow up to one of their popular Xperia devices, the Arc and Arc S, check out our initial hands-on and review of the Arc S here and here. The pic on FB shows us a similar camera key as that of the original Arc as well as the usual squared-off HDMI out port. The HD camera is still present and SE provided this caption under the pic:
Just a few more days until we can reveal some interesting news – what do you want it to be?
The company is hinting to the fact that we’ll most likely see this bad boy at CES next week. If we were to speculate, it’s possible that a few devices could be proper prospects for the title. It’s possible the handset could be the anticipated 4.3-inch Nozomi device we reported in early December or the Xperia Arc HD that’s been buzzing all over the tech blogosphere. And of course, there’s the leaked Sony Ericsson LT28at “Superphone” sporting LTE, HSPA and a 4.55-inch display. I’m personally rooting for the latter. Definitely stay tuned as we dig a little deeper on the device, whatever it should be, as we rapidly approach CES in Las Vegas next week. Though some of the hardware may initially look different from what SE is touting on their FB change, we could still see a different looking final product by launch time. Feel free to further speculate in the comments below.
Introducing the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S, one of Sony Ericsson’s latest flagship (and unlocked) devices to make its way into the US compatible with AT&T’s network. If you’ll recall, SE already released the Xperia Arc overseas with a single core 1 GHz Snapdragon and was touted as one of the thinnest Android devices to hit the market. Well, SE now gives you the Xperia Arc S, its quick follow up to the original Xperia Arc only this time with a few beefed up changes under the hood. The Arc S is still as slim as its predecessor coming in at 8.7 mm thin giving an overall appearance that it’s even thinner thanks to its convex design. The device is nearly identical to the original Arc and still sports a 4.2-inch capacitive touch display but now offers a slightly higher clocked CPU at 1.4 GHz (still a single core Snapdragon by Qualcomm). There are also a few extra bonuses with this model which we’ll get to later on, such as Sony’s added 3D sweep panorama feature, which allows you to create 3D still shots that you can view on your big screen at home. We’ll see if this is something that can set the Arc S apart from the competition however. If you haven’t checked out our initial hands-on, don’t forget to do so here.
The overall design of the Arc S is pretty satisfying as it comes in at a nicely thin 8.7 mm’s. With a convex design, the device deservedly earns its Arc title. And though the arced chrome arch is a bit of an optical illusion, making the device look even thinner than it is, it did the job and the hardware looks slim, sleek and offers an overall great contemporary design. We reviewed the black model for the site, however, the device is also being offered in a nice white finish or sliver for those getting a bit tired of the everyday black slate. Overall, the hardware of the device was satisfactorily sturdy. The back plate of the device feels a bit “flimsy” at times but overall it was sturdy enough not to really pay attention to it much. On top of the device you’ll find on the left hand side the power button. For some odd reason SE went with a rather small round button (see pic), a little too small for our liking and not protruded enough. We found that our finger had to do a little song and dance to finally push the button all the way down effectively. Still on the top, the right side hides an HDMI out port for video playback on the big screen or any other compatible device. Also on the back plate you’ll find typical SE nomenclature such as the “Xperia” line name and SE’s green and silver logo. While on the back still, we’ll note that there is an 8 mp camera accompanied by a single round LED flash. The front side houses the 4.2-inch capacitive touch display (480 x 854 and (~233 ppi pixel density). In addition, you’ll find “Sony Ericsson” across the top of the device and just under the receiver. The device only sports three buttons at the bottom, shying away from the typical four button device we’re used to seeing. And though it took some getting used to, the three button layout wasn’t all that bad and kept things simple. Though at times I found myself begging for the search button. Back, Home and Menu button’s are all that’s present, excluding the ever popular search button that you can use within specific apps and not just on the web. Under those buttons you’ll see the “Xperia” name. The left side of the device sports a 3.5 mm headphone jack and nothing else to show off its curves while the right side of the handset touts the charging port, volume rocker (kind of small) and dedicated camera key (two stage). The bottom of the device offers a camera loop strap hole and microphone.
Battery life on this device was surprisingly and pleasantly well. It virtually took forever to run the device down for a recharge. I immediately hopped onto my WiFi network upon receiving the handset as service was not readily available by AT&T. The Arc S ships with a 1500 mah Li-Po battery which touts up to 460 hours of stand-by time and just over 7 hours of talk time. During this review I can definitely attest that battery life was not an issue for this device. We think overall on a daily basis the handset should meet your needs and give you a good full day’s charge before having to hop back on the charging port. During testing, I watched several trailers on YouTube (Avengers and John Carter looks awesome), retrieved tons of email, updated social networks and even caught a couple of episodes of “How I Met Your Mother” on Netflix
Call Quality & Speaker Phone:
While we were unable to test the call quality due to a lack of an active SIM by AT&T, we can attest that the speaker quality on the device wasn’t too bad. We found some gritty sounds here and there but otherwise the device played music cleanly and clearly for the most part. I tested the audio using Amazon’s MP3 player app as well as the Google Music app of which I have several pieces of music stored in the cloud. Overall, the device would serve well streaming at the office or at home attached to some hefty house speakers.
Camera & Camcorder
Design, it’s slim, great screen size (4.2-inch), rich media applications and functions.
Well what do we have here? There have been numerous leaks over the last few months regarding Sony Ericsson’s next flagship phone, the Nozomi– also known as the Xperia Arc HD. We now have information on what will be the American cousin of the device. Known as the LT28at, the phone will come with a 4.55-inch 720P Sony Reality Display screen, a stunning 13MP camera and LTE support.
When you dive deeper into the device, we can fit some of the pieces of the mysterious puzzle that is the LT28at. For starters, SE generally adds the “at” suffix for AT&T devices and since AT&T now has LTE, it’s more than likely the device will be headed for AT&T stores. Moreover, while we don’t know which processor the LT28at will carry, it’s a safe bet that it will likely carry a similar dual-core processor to the Nozomi/Xperia Arc HD.
Let’s hope that we’ll see this puppy formally announced hopefully in the next few months. I’m not sure about you, but I can’t wait to see the photos and video from the 13MP camera of the device.
Sony Ericsson is on a roll. First they tell us that some of their phones would get some of that Android 4.0 goodness. Then they go ahead and release a preview of Ice Cream Sandwich for select unlocked Xperia devices. Now they come out and formally announce a specific timeframe of when they will begin to roll out the ICS update. Around the end of March or early April, the Xperia Arc S, Xperia Neo V and Xperia Ray will be the first existing SE devices to get Ice Cream Sandwich. The Xperia Arc, Xperia Play, Xperia Neo, Xperia Mini and Mini Pro, Xperia Active and Sony Ericsson Live with Walkman will follow shortly after with updates beginning in late April or early May.
Sony Ericsson continues to do a lot of right in the Android world. If you do use one of the listed Xperia-line devices due for an update, just sit tight and be patient. The months between March to May is not that far away, so you will able to enjoy the OS soon enough.
Let the party begin! Sony Ericsson has joined the small line of those being the first to offer an Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich ROM for their unlocked Xperia line. They’ve released an Alpha ROM today that supports bootloader-unlocked devices Xperia Arc S, Xperia Neo V and the Xperia Ray devices. Dev’s can now get a quick preview of the ICS goodness that’s to come. The company has already confirmed that they plan to update their entire Xperia lineup over the next several months. We’ll certainly +1 that. As far as the ROM goes, keep in mind that certain functionality is going to be rather limited at start due to legality issues. No Google apps will be included and the ability to make a phone call is excluded at this time as well. So, no daily driver here, of course. If you still want to give it a go despite the limitations, check out the source link as well as a video provided by SE of a walk through on how to flash the ICS ROM. You can check out things like the lock screen, music controls and task switcher.
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