The first true Sony smartphone is here: Sony’s Xperia S

Sony’s first smartphone to drop the “Ericsson” branding not only seeks to revamp its handsets, but also make it cream of the crop, with features such as a 12 megapixel camera, NFC, and a display that promises better clarity than Apple’s own Retina screens.

Features

Sony’s first handset is a departure from what we’ve seen in the Sony Ericsson collaboration,  the Xperia S relying more on a subdued look with less of the glossy slippery gradients seen on the Arc S and Neo handsets.

Here in the Xperia S, the chassis is made of black plastic covered in an anti-stain material to make it easy to wipe things off. Like previous handsets, Sony is trying to get across the look of a black monolith, although now there’s a transparent strip that not only lights up to show you the three soft buttons – “back,” “home,” and “menu” – but also houses the phone’s antenna.

Most of that big black monolithic front is taken up by the 4.3 inch LED-backlit touchscreen, a display that runs a 1280×720 resolution and offers a Retina busting 341 ppi. A pixel-per-inch number that high means the text, websites, and graphics on display on the Xperia S will look just as good – if not better – than what the high-grade 330 ppi screen on the Apple iPhone 4S can show. The screen is also coated in scratch-resistant glass, offering just a little bit more protection in case you do the unthinkable and drop the phone.

It’s not just the outside that has been given a different look, as Sony has finally added a dual-core processor to its smartphone range, something mobile buyers missed out on in Sony’s products last year.

The Xperia S features a dual-core 1.5GHz processor, dedicated Adreno 220 graphics chip, and 32GB of storage built into the handset. Sadly, there’s no way to upgrade the memory, as Sony has ditched the microSD port we’re so used to seeing on Android handsets.

Speaking of Android, Google’s operating system does run on the Xperia S, but in the release model, you’ll only find last year’s version: 2.3, Gingerbread. Sony says that an upgrade to 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich” is on the way, but doesn’t say much more beyond an expected mid-year release timeframe.

The multimedia capabilities of this handset look fairly impressive, with Sony throwing in a 12 megapixel autofocus camera on the back with LED flash, geotagging, face detection, 3D sweep panorama, and support for 1080p Full HD video capture. A front camera is included, with 1.3 megapixels on offer and support for 720p HD video conferencing.

Connectivity looks to be strong on the Xperia S too, with GPS, WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, DLNA, WiFi hotspot, Bluetooth 2.1, and even Near-Field Communication supported on the Xperia S. The maximum downlink capable from the Xperia S is 14.4 Mbps, not as fast as the 21 Mbps smartphones we see.

The Sony Ericsson branding is still here on the phone... provided you take the back off.

And in a first for Sony, the Xperia S also ditches the regular SIM and forces you to grab one of those smaller micro SIM cards.

Also of note is the battery, which is completely integrated in the Xperia S handset. The only reason the black plastic back needs to slide off is to let you install the SIM card.

As with most modern smartphones, there are few physical buttons to be seen and felt on the Xperia S, with a power button on the very top, and a volume rocker and camera button on the right. Two ports can be found on either side of the handset, with a micro USB charge and data transfer port on the left and a micro HDMI port on the right. A 3.5mm headset jack sits on the very top of the phone.

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