A decent phone that’s marred by occasional performance issues.
User Interface and Apps
Unlike other Android phones, Sony have opted to make mostly cosmetic changes to the Android interface. Glossy icons replace the stock Android ones, and the phone also features many of the standard Xperia apps such as Timescape which acts as your social media aggregator, and Liveware Manager which lets you manage other accessories connected to your phone. The Xperia Ion also features tighter integration into Facebook, so from within certain apps you’re able to share or post content directly to Facebook as well as see information on synced contacts.
There’s of course a healthy selection of stock and Xperia widgets to choose from, with everything to weather, traffic, email, and Google+ all being available on your home screens. The trouble is that the Ion doesn’t seem to like widgets too much, so if you’ve got every screen loaded with updating widgets, you’re going to notice that swiping through each screen becomes a little cumbersome. When I zoomed in to see an overview of all of my active widgets, the animations slowed down considerably and there was definitely some frames being skipped.
Screen, Camera, and Sound Quality
The screen is probably the highlight of the Xperia Ion, even if it is still a bit terrible when viewed outdoors. The Bravia engine gives colors and contrast a tremendous boost, and watching videos is an absolute dream whether off the device or streaming online. The one downside of the screen is that it’s billed as ‘scratch-resistant’ but in reality it can actually pick up scratches quite easily, so I recommend that you buy a screen protector just in case.
Continuing to stress on the entertainment factor of the Xperia Ion, Sony have upped the ante over other Android phones by improving the way the phone connects via HDMI. Plug in the micro-HDMI cable and you can enjoy all of your content and phone features on a larger screen or projector without any hassle. There’s even an optional docking accessory that does the same thing, but also allows you to plug in USB devices such as a keyboard or mouse or an external HDD.
Sony made a lot of claims about the Ion’s camera during their press event, so I was keen to see how it would perform when actually taking photos. The 12 megapixel camera is certainly different from the traditional 8 megapixel camera that’s usually on Android phones, but more megapixels doesn’t necessarily mean better images. Surprisingly, the phone did quite well in capturing a number of shots in different levels of light – it was only in very low lighting that it struggled to pick up proper details. Still, the camera app is quite customizable and features a number of options such as smile detection and panorama shots. And since the phone has a dedicated camera button, there’s less on-screen fumbling when taking photos or trying to focus – the volume rocker even functions as the zoom feature. Even if your phone screen is locked, you can hold down the camera button to automatically launch the camera app and take a quick photo. I tired this out and the phone woke up directly into the camera app in a little less than two seconds. The downside however was the photo that it took was not always focused properly, so you may want to quickly take another photo if you can. Video recording on the Xperia Ion was somewhat average with the phone capturing excellent audio but falling slightly below par when it comes to image quality and stability.
The sound on the Xperia Ion is quite shrill, so while it’s okay for watching the occasional video or for conference calls, don’t expect to be blasting music from this for long periods of time, as the bass can be almost nonexistent at times.
Heat levels and Battery Life
For the most part the phone remained cool to touch and only turned slightly warm after 30 minutes of HD video viewing. Battery life was also quite good with the phone lasting pretty much through my entire workday with about 20% remaining at the end of the day. This was with two email accounts syncing, Wi-fi and Bluetooth always on, and Twitter and Facebook set to update at occasional intervals.
The Sony Xperia Ion is a curious phone; one that doesn’t quite blow you away but still manages to hold your attention. While it does have an occasional hiccup with the touch buttons, it’s a decent Android phone running Ice Cream Sandwich that for the most part will satisfy any media junkie on the go.