It has been a while since I blog about gadgets. My current Galaxy S II is probably the first gadget for a long while where I have kept it for more than six months; 8 months to be exact. There is really no new smart phones around that would excite me to change. HTC seems to have over sensationalized its sensation products (although I just learnt that its camera capability has improved since the last HTC phone I have used). That said, there are a couple of products that I am looking forward to.
First, there’s Galaxy Nexus, a Google-branded phone made by Samsung. I have always wanted to try “Out of the Box” or “Vanilla” Android phone. Then there’s Sony’s Xperia S, Sony’s first product after their break up with Ericsson. I wonder if the DNA of Xperia S will be “Sony inspired”, or inheriting the mediocre Sony Ericsson genes.
Galaxy Nexus was first released to the market. But the lure of what is considered as Sony’s first Android product in Xperia S, especially upon hearing a reliable news that it’ll be released 2 weeks later, made me decide to wait for the latter instead. On the first day when Xperia S was sold in the retail, I went to the outlet and bought a set without even waiting for other customers’ feedbacks.
The first impression of the minimalist-design hardware gives me a mixed feeling. I like the cool looking clear bar at the bottom of the screen. It reminds me of the design found in Sony’s LCD TV products. However, it is just bells and whistles, as it just display the icons of the touch panel functions above it, and nothing else (edit: I was told it could also act as light notification, but am not sure about it). I wonder what goes behind the mind of the designer. As I figure out eventually, the design is probably meant to align with the new UI design in Google ICS (Ice Cream Sandwich, the latest version of Google Android OS platform). Still, given that the bar takes up a good chunk of the phone form factor, I thought it is a bad design.
The phone feels thicker and heavier than the sleek Sony Ericsson Arc I had used previously. So perhaps it is a sign of Sony trying to get rid of its SonyEricsson DNA, albeit not in the direction I would have expected from a consumer company like Sony. The back battery cover is removable, even though the battery is not and there is no removable storage space. On the other hand, the battery cover fitment is not perfect, leaving an uneven gap all around. In nut shell, the phone does not wow me like the Arc did on first physical encounter.
But I have to say, the phone grows on me after a while, primarily by its superior screen and camera function. First on the screen. The BRAVIA HD technology, along with its high 1280×720 resolution, renders rich colour saturation and image sharpness. The photos and videos look amazingly stunning with the colour vibrants and black deep. While it looks stunning on photos and video playback, I thought in some applications, the screen display looks a bit wash out, perhaps by the brightness and contrast level that is tuned towards HD video playback.
The camera, powered by Sony’s Exmor R for mobile CMOS sensor, reaffirms my belief that Sony produces one of the best, if not best phone camera in the market. A friend of mine did tell me that Apple’s iPhone 4S has the best optic lens in the mobile market, but I think Sony’s Xperia S is not far behind, if not the best. Pitting the camera function of Samsung Galaxy S II against that of Xperia S, makes me realize how Samsung has stagnated in its innovation. I remembered I was most impressed by Samsung Galaxy S’s camera function, thinking on how it had the best mobile camera capability in the market then. Perhaps the DNA of the two consumer giants (Sony and Samsung), plays a big part in this gulf.
Ravishing screen and sublime photographing capability aside, Xperia S still has some unfinished work to do in order to be the leader of its pack. Although none of the phone manufacturers has yet launched an ICS out-of-the-box product, it is still disappointing to see Sony releasing a Gingerbread based Xperia S. The phone still experiences random moments of lags, slight enough for me to notice it, and the Sony’s home launcher force-closes on me a few times. That said, Sony’s home launcher and widgets have gone through some significant improvement, both visually and functionally. But I think they could have channelled their time and resources on improving the overall user experience, instead of bridging the gaps of Gingerbread.
Unfortunately, the deal breaker for me is the Sony Xperia S’s security management. The issue is how the phone handles the “IdleTimeoutFrequencyValue” parameter, part of the security policy enforced by my company’s Exchange Server. Based on my knowledge, the parameter, configurable only by exchange server administrator, implies the longest acceptable time that the device can idle before the phone needs to be locked. I know my company’s administrator had initially set as “1 minute” before settled for “40 minutes”, as many employees felt that the policy was “too strict”. Xperia S takes this parameter literally, and will only lock my phone after 40 minutes of idle. There is no way I can force a lock; For all the previous phones that I have used, I could either set a shorter time-out myself, or force a lock by pressing the power button. With this “bug”, I have to bear the risk of leaving my phone unprotected for as long as 40 minutes. A few years ago, this is probably not a big deal for me. However, ever since I experience the loss of my phone within 5 minutes after misplacing it in a public place, I become more conscious about mobile security, especially with more confidential and/or sensitive information stored in our mobile devices these days.
So it is a “Short eXperience” for me, perhaps that’s what Xperia S stands for me. But if you don’t have a strict company exchange server administrator like mine (that configures every parameters of the policy), can live with some of the niggling issues highlighted above, I am sure it’ll be a “Splendid eXperience” for you.