We managed to snag us a Sony Xperia Ion and played with it for a bit this week. The phone came out on AT&T the end of June and many people are wondering how it stacks up with some of the other devices in AT&T’s stable. Read on to find out!
As usual, I’ll be breaking down the review on the points I liked and the issues I didn’t feel comfortable with or wish could be changed.
As soon as I pulled this puppy from my pocket, no less than two people around me approached me to ask me what type of phone I had. I gladly told them what it was and what I was doing with it. I was really surprised, because I don’t usually get that strong of a reaction when I’m holding a phone. Granted, it could have been dumb luck, but I can definitely see why someone might be intrigued with this device. It really does have a sleek, elegant beauty to it – yet you can tell it’s functional. Sony has a way of making electronic devices look and feel really high-grade and the Ion is no different. there is nothing flimsy about this phone which I find really important if I’m going to spend a couple hundred on any piece of equipment.
There is the standard 3.5mm headphone jack at the top, and your volume rocker as well as power-button and dedicated camera button which I’ll talk about in a bit. Nothing but a mic on the bottom, and the HDMI, and Micro USB on the left.
The Camera is a whopping 12 MP with 16x zoom. It can also record full 1080p video – which looks pretty great on my HD TV. Was quite surprised with the quality of the crappy video I took of my living room on the big screen. The camera is also capable of a 3D Panorama shot. I did find it slightly cool for the first 5 minutes, but then it started to feel a little gimmicky. I couldn’t really think of very many reasons to use it – however, I’m sure there are a few of you who can come up with some ideas. There’s also a front facing camera (1.3 MP) for video chatting with Skype or whatever your favorite video telephony app is. I also liked the fact that you could jump right into not only the camera app, but taking a picture instantly by depressing the hardware camera button.
AT&T’s LTE network really flies when it wants to. I can’t speak for those in Manhattan in the middle of the day, but when I was using it – downloading apps and playing video was a breeze. I could definitely get used to that.
Now to the disappointment. Androids next iteration of its mobile operating system,Jellybean, has already been announced and is being pushed out to Galaxy Nexus owners as we speak. Ice-Cream Sandwhich is now old. This device is running Android 2.3, a.k.a Gingerbread. Now the OS skinning seems to be a double edged sword. There are UI refinements that were refinements when Gingerbread was the main OS for android, but it also slows down updates. It’s really up to you, but in my humble opinion – this is where the device falls short. I also noticed a bit of lag when moving from screen to scree, however, others haven’t noticed it so perhaps it was my device. At any rate, navigating the older OS, even though it is heavily skinned, was a little annoying knowing that there was something two generations better out there.
There is also the smart dock – which I didn’t have, but got around by just connecting the DMI cord directly to the tv. It’s a pretty nifty idea, and it can be fun playing games on the phone and displaying the image on the big screen. You can also, of course, play movies or music – basically any media on your device on your HD TV. However, I put this under dislikes because there are tons of other ways to get the media from your device to your TV. For example, if you have an HD TV, chances are you have either some apps, or a game system, or some other way to consume third party media. So why go through the trouble to connect your phone? To watch home movies taken from the phone? Yes, but that’s pretty much it. You can also purchase a remote, but it works best with a Sony TV. When playing games on the HD TV, you can’t really take your eyes off of the mobile screen because then you can’t control your character so its really for everyone else’s enjoyment which I found frustrating. I found myself wishing the phone just displayed controls while I played the actual game on the tv.
Not a very big deal here, but I found the device slightly on the chunky side. It’s so slick and cool looking that I just wished it were a little thinner, but those are really my personal aesthetics at this point. Most may not find this to be an issue and it’s definitely not a deal breaker.
All-in-all, I enjoyed the device. I will warn you though, there isn’t a specific date announced as to when the device will get an ice-cream sandwich update. A rep told me “later this year”, but that’s all I got. And then when it does, it will only be behind by one update. Other than that, I really can’t find too many other glaring issues with the device. It has a solid build, and a great camera with decent specs.