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Sony Xperia Ion Review [Video]

[note:  I accidentally forgot to take the screenshots from the device off before sending it back, so if you want to see what I was talking about, you’ll have to watch the video. sorry]

So, in my effort to help any buyers out there have all the ammunition they’d need to make a truly informed decision, I realized I haven’t reviewed some phones out there and aimed to rectify that.

One of the phones I missed was the Sony Xperia ion.  It’s a bit of an ‘older’ phone, as my wife rolls her eyes at me, because it didn’t really come out that long ago.  Like June… but in this era of phones, it’s not new, so the ‘elite’ users tend to frown upon it (I know, I’m guilty of it).  But keep in mind, as the numbers SURGE for Android in the market, there are many who are not ‘elite users’ buying phones, and they tend to look at a) price, b) brands they know.

This phone is FREE on contract, and is SONY.  They know Sony, it’s probably their TV… their BluRay player, etc… it’s got some great brand history.  I remember growing up on Walkman.  Excellent stuff.  Anybody remember VEGA… or WEGA (depends on who you talked to as to whether it was one or the other).  I still have a few of their discmans around.

So the phone’s got a lot going for it.  Let’s dive in:

Specs:

4.55” @ 1280×720
1.5GHz x2 w/ 1GB RAM
16GB storage (microSD slot up to 32GB)
12MP camera!! / 1.3MP
4.0 ICS with TimeScape UI
LTE & NFC

So, nothing FANTASTIC or standing out as screaming great specs, but they’re not the lowest thing out there either.  LTE is a growing ‘must have’ feature for a phone.  720 resolution makes for great viewing, and 12MP… okay, that does stand out!  And it is!

BUILD / Physical

It’s got a nice hand feel, as it’s a little heftier, but not by much.  The smooth curved back and rubberized top and bottom allow  you feel okay with it in your hand (not slippery like the S3).

Volume and power buttons are on the same side, thus taking screen shots is a little harder to do.  It also has a camera button… but it doesn’t seem to be consistent with when it works and doesn’t (at least for me).  Also, the power button has a little backing strip just above it, that your hand could confuse for IT to be the button.  I’ve missed it lots.

There’s a sneaky slot for the SIM / SD just above the camera lens on the back.  Push on the rubberized piece and it reveals the slots.

HOLY HUGE CHARGER.  You can’t see it in the video, but I’ll post pictures below.  It’s big.

The microUSB and miniHDMI ports are on the left, and are under a flap.  Normally I’m not against covers for ports, but the USB is something I’d use every day, so I would fear losing that flap.  If it were for the HDMI and the SD card… that’d make sense.

On the bottom of the front we have 4 buttons, which is starting to feel ‘old fashioned’ – and there’s a little light up strip just below them.  It doesn’t light up well enough to let you know which buttons are which.  If you’re new to this button layout (like I was), working in the dark was … well, working in the dark.

Also, I found the soft buttons to be a little… soft – don’t always seem to register.  I don’t know if because this was a demo unit that’s been around the bloggers, that it didn’t quite work like it once did (and if that’s the case, I’m now more concerned), or just the buttons were in a weird spot (like on the Xperia S) that my hands didn’t quite seem to find it.

Last but not least, there’s no notification LED.

Software

Turn on the device and you’re met with the TimeScape UI lock screen.  It’s nice and simple… slide to unlock.  And if you had email notifications or text messages, there’d be a smaller slide to unlock for them.  Simple!

Looking around through the home screens, you have lots of options for TimeScape UI widgets, and each have a very animated feel throughout – I do love my eye candy.

Speaking of widgets… what?  no email widget?  I liked the email app, but I need to have a widget these days to show off to my non Android friends.

I found the Sony Gallery app to be a little confusing’ish.  When I go there from the camera app, it seems to be a different gallery than if I went through the app drawer.  Especially when viewing some of the ‘special’ pics.

I do like the live wallpaper that they provide.  Did I mention I liked eye candy?

As seen in other TimeScape UI environments, you have the social network aggregator “TimeScape” which melds your LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook into one post stream.  Google+ is coming shortly right?

It’s running ICS 4.0.4, and there should be an update to 4.1, just no date yet.

It has NFC inside, which is a must for me, and a neat widget… that doesn’t seem to do anything, at least not that I’ve been able to figure out.  To really make the most of it, you should get the SmartTags (see next product review) and the app SmartConnect.  It’ll set up automation for “if this, then that” type scenarios.  Like “if I scan the blue NFC tag, toggle bluetooth, turn off wifi, go into Navigation”.  Nifty stuff.

Camera

12MP!  In a camera.  You know how many pixels that is?  A lot.  And they’re used quite well.  Photos look amazing, and it looks amazing on screen.

Using the button on the side is a little problematic.  At least for me.  I’m just not used to having it, so I’ve not gotten used to it.  Use it from when the phone’s off (you’ll have to hold it down for a few seconds), it’ll pop the screen up and take a picture.  But it’s taken so long to get to the point to take the picture you’ve probably moved it off your subject(s), or they’ve stopped smiling… that’s when it takes the shot.  I’ve got a lot of ground shots.

You also use the button to help get the camera to focus, which I’ve found to be rough.  I’m too used to tapping where I want to focus, rather than having to let the camera use the focal points.

3D options are a little confusing (but I don’t have a 3D tv)


Overall

Really nice looking screen – very vibrant colours (bravia engine), the video doesn’t do it justice.  The pictures look FABULOUS on the screen, reproduces very well.

Battery life has been decent.  It’s not super long lasting, but I didn’t see it drain quicker than any other either.

Pros

 – screen, NFC, 12MP camera, $0

Cons

 – a little sluggish (compared to top end phones), not so responsive buttons, dedicated camera button

Video

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