Sony, formerly known as Sony Ericsson, were already the parent company to Ericsson anyway so last year they decided to buy that company out and simply call the company Sony, but with this change also came a shift in the company’s priorities when it came to smartphones.
The company decided to go full on with smartphone development to catch up with its vast competition and to also ensure that its customers who buy their products were more than happy to use them every day.
So with that strategy they built the latest in a line of ‘Bond’ phones named the Sony Xperia T, it made a very brief appearance in the latest Bond film Skyfall but can still be named the bond phone.
So can the New Bond phone live up to the hype and expectation of smartphone fans around the world?
Read on to find out the answer…But first you must watch Matt’s Xperia T unboxing and demo video to know exactly what you will be reading about.
The 10 Second Review:
- Product: Sony Xperia T
- Price: from free on contracts on various networks, £329.99 pay as you go and from £303 sim free.
- Summary: This is a smartphone with great build quality and it feels brilliant in the hand but the placement of the hardware buttons is a mystery and it is stuck on Android 4.0.4 for another month at least. But having said that it’s a gorgeous phone to use day-to-day.
- Best of: Beautiful display, snappy dual-core processor, feel in the hand, camera
- Worst of: Ice Cream Sandwich, very fingerprint happy display, Timescape UI is a love/hate overlay to some, bloatware.
- Buy from: Various networks and outlets on contract, sim free from www.clove.co.uk
- Also consider: HTC One X, Samsung galaxy s3, Nexus 4
What’s in the box?
- Sony Xperia T
- 3-Pin UK Charging Adapter
- USB to MicroUSB sync/charge cable
- Warranty and getting started guides
- Wired headset
- Three information cards (it’s a 3 device)
Sony Xperia T review specification:
- Dimensions – 129.4 x 67.3 x 9.4 mm (5.09 x 2.65 x 0.37 in)
- Weight – 139 g (4.90 oz)
- Display – TFT capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors
- Size – 720 x 1280 pixels, 4.55 inches (~323 ppi pixel density)
- Shatter proof and scratch-resistant glass
- Sony Mobile BRAVIA Engine
- 3.5mm headset jack
- Memory – microSD, up to 32 GB , internal – 16 GB, 1 GB RAM
- HSDPA, 42.2 Mbps; HSUPA, 5.76 Mbps
- Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct, DLNA, Wi-Fi hotspot
- Video – 1080p@30fps, continuous autofocus, video light, video stabilizer
- Front facing camera – 1.3 MP
- Android OS, v4.0.4 (Ice Cream Sandwich), planned upgrade to v4.1 (Jelly Bean)
- CPU – Dual-core 1.5 GHz Krait
- Stereo FM radio with RDS
- GPS with A-GPS support and GLONASS
- Battery – Non-removable Li-Ion 1850 mAh battery
Here’s where you guys find out what the phones design is like, so first off on top of the phone is the 3.5mm headphone jack and a little hole which is a microphone for noise cancellation.
The left side houses the MicroUSB port for Sync/charge, and the rest of the left side if smooth.
Over on the right is where things get a little weird if you ask me, anyway from top to bottom there are the following things: a protective cover which is over both the MicroSD and Micro Sim card ports. Below this is the power and lock button, further down from that is the up/down volume rocker and beneath that is the dedicated camera shutter key.
Now as you can see in the below photo of the this side it is cram packed with stuff and further along in the review I will explain how it is to use.
The bottom of the Xperia T houses nothing but a small hole which is the microphone for speaking into when on a phone call.
Over on the back of the device is the 13 megapixel autofocus camera with single LED flash, below that is a little NFC logo and then at the bottom is the Sony and Xperia logos and also an indentation which is the loudspeaker. You will notice I haven’t mentioned that the back cover has a little hole to enable you to remove it? Well I’m sorry to say that it is non-removable.
Lastly on the front from top to bottom again, you have the sensors, earpiece for voice calls. Below the earpiece is the Sony logo and then to the left of the earpiece is the front facing camera for video calls and self portraits and so on. The biggest feature on the front of the phone is obviously the 4.55 inch TFT display which we will go deeper into in the full review. Below the display is the Xperia logo once more and as the capacitive buttons on Ice Cream Sandwich are in the software Sony have chosen to keep in that way unlike the likes of HTC and Samsung who chose to have their own keys on the hardware itself.
Sony Xperia T review
The build quality and design of a smartphone today are often very important factors for someone wanting to buy one, so as an example of a very good piece of engineering we look at Apple with the iPhone range of devices, they always seem to be so high end and built fantastically out of high quality materials that it’s got manufacturers playing catch up.
So how have Sony done with the Xperia T?
Well firstly I will say that it doesn’t possess the build quality or design of something like the iPhone but I do think that it can hold its own and Sony can pat themselves on the back and say job done, at least on the build quality front. The device has what seems to be 2 different materials in the hardware, on the back of the device is an almost rubberised material that is almost non-slip which makes holding the phone so good, and then the front of the device has a plastic bezel and scratch and smash proof TFT display which I have to admit loves fingerprints.
The feel of the device due to the materials used though is that of a super high end smartphone worthy of being in your hand, when I said that the back of the device was almost non-slip I really did mean it, a great comparison device to use against the Xperia T is my own HTC One X which has a polycarbonate back that is slippery and when in the hand at the same time as the Xperia the difference is great. I find that I have to use a non-slip case on my One X but I could easily see me using a phone like the Xperia T without a case ever because the back of it is brilliant.
As for the size of the device I think it’s fantastic, it fits perfectly in my hand and I found using the device on a day-to-day basis a breeze. The 4.55″ TFT display is a joy to look at and also to use but as I mentioned briefly in the 10 second review, the screen is very finger print happy, I find myself cleaning the device at least twice a day with a lint free cloth because of the severity of the fingerprint clingy screen. That said though because the screen resolution and contrast ratio are so high you often can’t notice fingerprints or smudges unless the phone is locked which is always a good thing.
There is unfortunately one seriously annoying design/build feature that made me wonder what Sony were thinking, the whole right side of the phone is clogged full of things, the sim card and micro SD slots are at the top, then you’ve got the power button, then below that is the volume rocker and finally the camera shutter button! That is a lot to put on one side of a phone and when using the phone every day I found myself getting constantly annoyed with where the volume rocker is as it isn’t a natural position for your fingers to go into when holding the phone with either hand. So Design wise you could say that Sony lost their way a tad when it came to putting the hardware keys etc in the correct places.
Here’s where some of you may get annoyed I’m afraid, because the Xperia T is (for the moment I may add) stuck on android 4.0.4 ice cream sandwich. I say for the moment because UK carriers such as O2 are currently rolling 4.1 jelly bean out to their Sony Xperia devices so fingers crossed that the Three UK versions will also be updated soon, but for this review I am reviewing it as it came with ice cream sandwich but bear in mind that Jelly bean will change a few things when released.
Now that’s out of the way let’s move onto the interface of the phone, if you’ve ever used a Sony Ericsson or Sony device before then the look and feel of the interface won’t be anything new to you, simply because Sony have kept with their own Timescape overlay in favour of a more ‘vanilla’ android and the reason for this decision is something that only Sony know.
I have never been a fan of Sony Ericsson/Sony’s overlay simply because I think it’s more of a hassle to use than vanilla android with all the bells and whistles that they add out of the box. This if anything is much worse with the Xperia T because of the amount of ‘bloatware’ that they have weirdly insisted be installed out of the box, you will see the installed apps shortly but firstly I will show you the screen that greets you when the phone is locked:
You will notice that the lock screen is very similar to that which we see on most if not all of the other Xperia phones on the market today, you unlock the device by simply swiping the lock icon from left to right very similarly to on iOS I might add, and you will also notice that on the right side of the unlock bar is the camera icon. This is so that users can jump straight into the camera application without having to unlock the phone, it works but it’s quite slow to react sometimes so I find it easier to just unlock the phone first.
The lock screen also features a little menu for when you are listening to the Walkman music player, the functions are simply: play/pause, skip and back and it also displays the current artist which is handy for when you are shuffling all of your tracks. You will see that below:
Moving on now to the home screens of the phone, unlike a few other android ice cream sandwich devices which have 7 customisable home screens, this one only has five which for someone like me is more than enough as most of the time I only flit between 2 or 3. This could be frustrating for those who go from HTC or Samsung to Sony because there are 7 home screens on both platforms there.
Anyway enough waffling and onto the screenshots:
Above are all of my current home screens, you will notice that like on many other android devices the middle of them is what is mostly perceived to be the ‘Main Home screen’ so I like to put my mostly used apps and the weather information on there to make my life a little easier. And then from there I decided to have the Timescape twitter feed next to that on the left and calendar updates on the right because like I mentioned before I rarely use anything other than the main screen.
To customise the screens is very simple on the Xperia T courtesy of a little jiggery pokery from Sony as I will show you below, when you press and hold any of the home screens two little buttons appear at the top left and right, one of them allows you to change the wallpaper and themes and then the other when pressed takes you to all of the available widgets, easy as that!
Speaking of the themes, Sony have very kindly provided users with a fair few colour options on the Xperia T, the different themes merely change the colour scheme of the phone for some people this may be a nice feature to have, I prefer to just change my background wallpaper frequently to freshen things up a bit. The colour options are as follows: Silk, Turquoise, Emerald (shown above), Sapphire, Gold, Ruby and Amethyst.
Below is a screenshot of the menu where you change the theme:
As you would expect from an android device there are a selection of application trays at the push of an on screen button, because this is a Sony device the Timescape user interface changes a couple of things from the stock android or even from other overlays such as Sense. The things that are different is the fact that the widgets aren’t accessible from this menu as they are available from pressing the home screens, another feature that is different here is the way in which you ‘sort’ your applications, on the likes of the HTC smartphones where there are a selection of options to show your frequently used apps and just the downloaded apps. On the Xperia T however there is a button with a downward arrow and a small az which has the options as follows: own order, alphabetical, most used and recently installed, but the way in which you move applications is by pressing the four squared logo and then the moveable apps have a red cross above them meaning you can uninstall them or move them. This process is just a little fussy for my liking to be honest, which is why I just didn’t bother.
The last little bit of the software section is as always the settings menu. It is a settings menu like any other really, it isn’t exciting but then again it doesn’t need to be. So with that in mind I will show you a few screenshots instead of rambling on about things that aren’t exciting.
How good a touch screen smartphone is to use is largely down to the quality of the on screen keyboard, there are a lot of touch screen devices on the market today and I would guess that about 50% of those aren’t great to use due to a combination of the screen size and keyboards, so with that in mind here are the Xperia T’s keyboards, of which there are 2 variations of the same one basically. The screenshots below are of the version with the ‘hold to choose numbers’ feature and the other option is the same keyboard but without the numbers above the letters on the top row.
The Xperia T has a rather beautiful 4.6 inch TFT display so you would now imagine that the browsing experience is rather good? Well you would be correct!
Doubled with the snappy dual-core processor and 1 GB RAM the browser performs surprisingly brilliant, the device came to me with two browsers pre-installed. One of them is a stock android ice cream sandwich browser and the other is chrome.
Throughout the review I used both browsers and I decided in the end that the stock browser was better for quicker browsing on the go than chrome was, it’s hard to say why that was but I think I just preferred using it to be honest, I will say though the speed of both browsers was about the same which were similarly impressive, I decided to compare the speed of both browsers against what in my opinion is the fastest and smoothest smartphone browser out there to date: Safari for iPhone 5. My results were that chrome was slower by in tech terms seems like a lot but it really isn’t all that noticeable in day to day use, as for the other browser it performed almost as well as the iPhone 5 but the iPhone was still superbly quick at loading pages but the Xperia T wasn’t too far behind so a pat on the back for Sony here because they’ve managed to squeeze every bit of power and fluidity out of both the processor and the browser to almost match what is perceived to be the best phone for browsing out there.
I will show you some screenshots of both browsers in action now, one thing that I will say before I show you the screenshots is that both browsers are very nice to use but for me I preferred the stock browser to chrome but that’s not to say that it is a bad browser.
On Sony Ericsson devices of the past and indeed this Sony device there is a manufacturer created social networking application called Timescape, which is incidentally what the overall android overlay is called also.
Now the one thing that I remember saying about this app previously is that it’s not worth using and this is still the case today, it is relatively unchanged from when I reviewed the Xperia Ray all those months ago so with that in mind all I will say is stick to other applications such as the official Facebook and Twitter apps and other third party twitter apps such as Ubersocial, and the brand new Carbon for android which is a particular delight to use.
Just for the record though here is the Timescape application:
Now I wouldn’t say that businessmen and women would or should pick this phone up as a business device but I am going to say that I think it would be quite capable of being just that, simply because of how easy the interface is to use and the fact that the Gmail app and native e-mail application are great to use, they fetch e-mails quickly and efficiently with little fuss and they are both also quick to send emails when required.
The Email application allows you to set how frequently you want the app to search for incoming emails from 5 minutes up to 30 minute intervals, or there is an option to have it fetch emails manually, this application also has a really neat feature called ‘preview pane’ which basically means that when switched on and you read an e-mail in landscape mode the screen will be split into two parts, one of them is the list of emails as you would see in portrait mode and the other is a preview of the email in question, there is also an arrow pointing left in the middle of the two panes that allows you to maximise the preview in order to read the email fully. This is a cool feature but in practice it’s not really very useful to someone like me who uses their phone mostly in portrait mode.
Here are some screenshots of both the Gmail and emails apps:
Sony have been a part of the music industry for a lot longer than I’ve been alive so you would anticipate that in their smartphones is some serious tech when it comes to music and video playback? Well you won’t be blown away with immense quality here I am afraid to say because it just isn’t up to scratch by todays very high standards.
HTC have beats audio in all of their phones now, Nokia have their own technology along with Nokia Music and then there is the daddy of music and video.Apple with their iPod range and also the iPads and iPhone so you would have at least expected a bit of fight from the creator of the Walkman brand wouldn’t you? Well unfortunately there just isn’t the wow factor here. Music playback is average at best and the supplied headphones don’t help that matter either but even with a decent set of headphones the sound doesn’t really improve that much, there are some equaliser settings that are supposed to ‘improve’ the quality of the sound dependant on the type of music you are listening to, so for example I was listening to an iron maiden track the other day so I thought I would change the equaliser to ‘Heavy’ and all it seemed to do was dampen the bass and make the track sound dreary. On the music front I am quite disappointed as I was expecting a far better music player from this device.
Here is the music player’s interface:
Way back in the day when I had a ‘normal’ phone I had the Sony Ericsson W810i (such a good phone!) and even back then the device packed an app called Track ID in it, and basically this is an app very much like sound cloud that can recognise the music that you are listening to on the radio etc and fetch information on that track to enable you to either buy it or simply remember what it is, it really worked brilliantly during the time that I tested it and it only failed to recognise 1 track out of around 20 that I made it listen to which I thought was impressive.
Here’s some screenshots for you:
Video playback is something that I don’t often partake in on my smartphone because I have a tablet for that but what I do quite often, every day in fact, is watch YouTube videos about all sorts of random stuff so with that in mind I really did take the Xperia T for a YouTube rollercoaster and watched a lot of videos, and I have to say that the quality is on par with the HTC One X for sure, the screen is fantastic and colours look great on videos, there wasn’t any lag when watching HD content and the app didn’t buffer that often either which is something that the One X suffers from a lot! I didn’t just test YouTube on this device though, I chose to watch a movie that I had previously downloaded from the Google play store, the film was Ice Age 1 in HD and I’ve got to say that the quality was simply brilliant! The only downside to watching video on this device is the loudspeaker which isn’t very loud really, but it’s certainly not the worst loudspeaker I’ve heard.
The Xperia T has what on paper at least seems to be a beast of a camera, but in practice it isn’t all that which you guys will see shortly, the camera is a 13 megapixel autofocus lens with single LED flash which is a little odd pairing such a sensor with a single flash but hey I’m no technical genius so I’m sure Sony had their reasons for this. The interface is a little basic by today’s standard but having said that it could also be seen as a good thing because some manufacturers camera interfaces really are in your face, but with this one isn’t and there also aren’t too many settings to confuse the user which I found particularly great as I prefer simple.
Full HD recording is present in the camera as well as the usual 720p and VGA resolutions too, I found the quality of video to be pretty good actually but I will be honest with you guys, I didn’t go anywhere or do anything interesting enough to video so I thought I would leave that to the imagination and hope that the review convinces you for or against the phone anyway.
Now down to picture quality and like I mentioned earlier the quality isn’t absolutely amazing like I first anticipated upon using the phone for the first time, but it does produce some nice photos which I will show you now:
The camera does support panorama mode but in practice it wasn’t very good so I decided against showing you the results, and as for other options there is only really one that affects the image and that is smile capture and this when used did work quite well capturing a smile as soon as the person did it.
Battery life and performance:
Modern smartphones are becoming more and more powerful whilst the batteries are essentially staying at the same size with maybe a little increase from a few companies on a few of their devices so you won’t be surprised to hear that the Xperia T performs about as well as you would expect. During my time with the phone I charged it at least once a day but that was with minimal to medium use to be honest, I will give you an example of one of the days of use: Five 5 minute YouTube videos, 12 text messages, 2 phone calls, an hour of gaming and around an hour and a half of internet browsing. That lot cost the phone 80% of its battery life in the space of around 6 hours! Not great really but I could put that down to the fact that this is a well-travelled review device or I could simply put it down to the battery itself but I’m not sure which to pin it on so I won’t venture a guess.
The performance of an android smartphone these days is pinned on how well it does in the few benchmarking applications available on the Google Play store and on this occasion I chose to simply use Quadrant Standard Edition because I feel it’s the most balanced.
I firmly believe that benchmarking a smartphone is a great thing to do as it shows the users just how powerful their phone of choice is, but I also firmly believe in the notion that it’s all about how the individual uses their phone every day that determines how well it performs, so I believe that benchmark tests are all well and good but if you are happy with how your phone performs for you then good for you.
My point with the above is that regardless of the Quadrant Standard test result I found the Xperia T to perform brilliantly at every task I threw at it, be it playing the newly released temple run 2 or multitasking with 10 apps open and switching between them all, overall I was very happy with the speed and fluidity of the device and would happily own one for myself as I enjoyed using it that much.
Here’s how the phone faired:
Sony Xperia T review Conclusion:
The Xperia T may have been released a few months before we got our hands on one to review but when I got the chance to I simply couldn’t resist because since its release I’ve wanted to play with it, and not only because it is the coveted ‘Bond phone’ but also because it is a very good looking device and I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the phone and will be sad to see it go.
I think that until the phone receives its Jelly bean update, people may be put off but I say that because jelly bean has been promised to the phone that people should definitely consider this phone an option when looking for a new smartphone because it is at the moment at least the best mid range phone on the market in my opinion.
Review by: Chris