Sony Ericsson have been releasing quite a bit of smartphones in the past few weeks and considering they have decided to focus only on smartphones from now on, it makes sense to fill the market with a phone or two for every category and niche. The Xperia Active reminds me of a bar of soap with a handle. As much as I tried to describe how it looks, I kept going back to that. This is not to say that it’s not elegant or looks ugly but it certainly isn’t your typical smartphone. I guess that’s a given considering not only the fact that it’s water resistant but that its name suggests it’s meant for much more. The Xperia Active takes a lot of its looks from the Xperia Mini, and it’s a good design for the purpose it serves.
The 3-inch screen is surrounded by a metallic band with the words “Xperia” inscribed at the bottom near the lanyard holder. At first I wondered if the holder could also serve as a bottle opener, the phone sure looks sturdy enough to open a few bottles in an emergency. The phone’s physical buttons are orange in color which adds to the sporty theme Sony Ericsson tried to get going here. I had an issue with the power/unlock button that’s on the left side of the phone. Unlike the volume and camera buttons on the other side, the power button doesn’t protrude as much and I found it hard to use. It wasn’t like there were times when I couldn’t press the button but after about a week of using the phone I still don’t like the power button. At the back of the phone you have the loudspeaker next to the camera lens and above that is the flash and the secondary mic. The USB and 3.5mm audio connector are at the bottom near the lanyard holder. They’re covered to ensure the phone is completely water resistant should it come into contact with water. In fact if you disconnect the earphones and check the screen it often reminds you to recover the connector to keep the phone water resistant.
On the front there is no secondary camera for video calls which seems a little odd considering this phone pretty much has everything else squeezed into it. It comes with a proximity sensor next to the speaker as well as a small led for notifications. At the bottom of the screen you get capacitive buttons for Back, Home and Menu and a mic. The build quality is excellent as you should expect from a phone that can survive a drop in water and it certainly looks like it can survive a drop on the floor as well within a reasonable height. To access the sim card, battery and microSD slot you have to remove two covers. The second cover is under the first and acts as an insulator to protect the internals from the elements.
Included in the box is a microUSB cable, charger, earphones with mic and call/end button, ear hooks, manuals, wrist strap and an armband. A microSD card might also be in the retail package but my review phone did not come with one nor did it come with the ear hooks, wrist strap or the armband. The Xperia Active has a 3 inch screen with a resolution of 320 x 480 which is pretty impressive for its size. Thanks to the Reality display and the Bravia mobile engine, pictures are crisp and clear on the screen. Despite its size this phone is no slouch, it’s running on a 1 GHz Scorpion CPU with the Adreno 205 for graphics. It also has 512MB of RAM and 1GB built-in storage but only about 320MB will be usable. The 5 megapixel camera has autofocus and image stabilization and can take videos at 720p. GPS, WiFi and DLNA are also included so this phone by no means is a “budget” Android phone, Sony Ericsson have included virtually all the bells and whistles on this one. When I installed the PC software for it I was prompted to update my phone so I ended up running Gingerbread 2.3.4 which while not the latest comes with several improvements such as a 3D panoramic camera options and swipe with T9. Using SunSpider I was able to get 3424.8ms which is on par with the Xperia Pro that had similar internals but trails behind the Arc S and its upgraded CPU’s score of 2607ms.