At CES, Sony announced this fantastic new flagship LTE device called the Xperia Ion. We got excited. Then HTC announced and launched the One X. Then Samsung announced and launched the Galaxy S III. Sony, where are you? Six months later Sony finally launched the Xperia Ion. Is this device a true flagship device for Sony? Read on to find out.
The Sony Xperia Ion is available for $99.00 with a new two-year contract on AT&T. It is an LTE device that has a 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon S3 CPU, a 720p webcam, a 12-megapixel rear camera with Exmor R sensor, PlayStation Certification, 16GB of storage, 1GB RAM, a 1,900mAh battery, NFC, and a 4.55-inch 1280-by-720-pixel TFT LCD screen. The display, powered by Sony’s own Bravia display engine, is impressive. Below the screen there are the usual four soft buttons for Android actions. The headphone jack is on top, and there is a dedicated camera key on the side. The device measures in at 5.2 by 2.7 by .4 inches (HWD) and weighs 5.1 ounces. It is an all black device with a curved metal back. The top and bottom of the back of the device are soft-touch plastic. Other than the device teetering when you set it on its back, it has a very solid feel to it. You cannot remove the battery, but the top part of the back cover is removable wherein you can put in a MicroSIM card and a MicroSD memory card.
The Sony Xperia Ion comes loaded with Gingerbread 2.3.7. Okay, time for my rant. I don’t get this at all. Maybe it is the dual processor and Gingerbread is all that it can handle? I don’t think so. There is no reason that this device should not have ICS. None. If Sony wants to come at us saying that this device is a “flagship” device with the latest and greatest, then put the latest and greatest OS on it. After launching the device, Sony caught a lot of grief for the device not having ICS. Last week, Sony finally responded and announced that they “might” release an upgrade to ICS for the Xperia Ion. Might? Sony just doesn’t get it.
In an attempt to run the device through its paces, I found the interface was generally responsive, but the buttons at the bottom of the screen sometimes did not respond. Sony’s software is actually not too bad but a bit on the light side. There is some bloatware, but again, nothing too bad. One useful tool was the power manager app that turns off other apps that drain the battery when the battery gets low.
There is a Facebook integration that allows you to add your Facebook contacts and calendars appointments to the device’s contact and calendar apps.
One very cool feature is Sony’s LiveWare. This is a built in utility that will automatically launch an app when you connect an accessory. For example: plug in your headphones and LiveWare will launce the music player. Very cool. This feature also works with the new NFC-enabled stickers called Xperia Smart Tags. The Smart Tag stickers can be configured to launch apps or change the device’s settings when you tap the phone to them. Again, a very cool feature with numerous possibilities.
Now for the downside to NFC. You know that little app called Google Wallet? Yeah, it is not available for the Xperia Ion. Not cool.
The phone function of the device is not that great. Even at full volume, I still had issues being able to hear that well. The speakerphone is not much better either. When you are able to hear, the noise cancellation is almost non-existent. It was not until I switch to earphones and then later to a Bluetooth handset that I was finally able to hear at a normal volume.
The battery life is okay. With moderate use, the battery should last the entire day. If you are a heavy user, you better have a charger with you.
The Sony Xperia Ion is a LTE device available on AT&T with national and global HSPA+ roaming, but it does not support T-Mobile’s 3G band. Currently, AT&T only has LTE in 39 cities, but they are expanding. If you are one of the lucky ones that have LTE in your market, you can expect great speeds that usually exceed 10Mbps down. The Ion also works as a Wi-Fi hotspot.
The Xperia Ion has a 12-megapixel rear camera and a 720p front-facing camera. As usual with most camera phones, the rear camera does okay in “good lighting” and with close up shots, but not so well in low lighting. Overall, despite it being a12-megapixel camera, it is a decent camera, but nothing to write home about.
In addition to the standard tap-to-focus, there are several other camera options that you normally don’t have with most camera phones, such as adjust metering, exposure, and image stabilization. The interface on the app requires tapping the menu button to maneuver through the options. The interface is very easy use.
The “TV Out” is another cool feature for the Xperia Ion. The Ion has a two-way HDMI connection, which means that you can connect the Ion to the TV and then set the Ion to the side. Once you connect the HDMI cable, a special TV mode turns on that provides a couple of large icons for media apps along the bottom. Your TV remote takes over from there. With your remote being able to move the cursor, you are able to go back into the main home screen. About the only thing you can’t do is work an on-screen keyboard.
Is the Sony Xperia Ion on the same level as the HTC One X, Samsung Galaxy S III, or the iPhone? Unfortunately, no, it is not. If you are looking for a media hub as your phone, then the Xperia Ion is your device. It does offer some great features if you want to hook you phone to your TV. Otherwise, you are basically looking at a mid-level device that is running an outdated OS. On the positive side, if all you are interested in is listening to music, playing handheld games, and a decent point-and-shoot camera, the Xperia Ion will do you well.