Okay, hands up if you’ve ever lost a mobile phone to the elements. I meant dropped your phone in a puddle of water, or taken it to the beach to find the sand going everywhere. Or if you thought you could listen to the music on your phone while lounging by the pool only to find that seconds later your phone is aimlessly drifting to the bottom of said pool. Yes, in this day and age of our electronic wizardry, we try our best to shield our precious phones from harm. We buy covers, screen protectors and the like to make sure that our little investments are safe and sound. So imagine my surprise when the Sony XPERIA acro S made its way to my desk – here was a phone that was supposedly dust and water proof, and I couldn’t wait to test that claim.
Build quality & design
The XPERIA acro S echoes the design of the XPERIA series, with a combination of black matte plastic and rubber gracing most of the phone’s body. The phone feels considerably bulkier than past phones I’ve looked at, probably due to its rather hefty battery.
Since this is supposed to be a dust and water-proof phone, Sony have deliberately covered the phone’s ports with flaps, so the HDMI connector, headphone jack, charging connector, and card slots are all covered up, and require a bit of prying to open up.
On the right side of the phone you have the power button, volume rocker, and a dedicated camera button – these buttons vary in resistance, which makes them a bit odd to handle. The power button is a bit stiff for my liking, while the camera button can be at times a bit hard to press down without slightly shaking the phone and blurring your photo.
Finally near the bottom of the phone are the three capacitive buttons for Back, Home, and Menu – these are not backlit but have a very small glowing dot at the bottom of each button. You need to tap above this dot to activate the button, so things can get a bit fiddly in low light or if you’re groping for your phone in the dark.
The XPERIA acro S sports the Snapdragon S3, and while this isn’t the speediest member on the block, it’s still fast enough to power the phone with little to no lag. The on-board 16GB of storage is enough to hoard plenty of photos and apps, but you can always splurge for a microSD card if you need to beef things up.
Benchmarks and Performance
In our benchmarks the XPERIA acro S did fairly well, zipping through 3D tests with decent frame rates, so it should be able to handle most of the 3D games and apps that are available in the Google Play store.
Swapping through apps and navigating through the phone was generally quite responsive, even with multiple apps running in the background. Though as with many Android phones, if you’re running multiple widgets on your home screens, you’re going to notice a slight lag when minimizing apps or swiping between screens.
UI and Apps
The XPERIA acro S runs Android Ice Cream Sandwich, along with Sony’s own interface slapped on. Sony haven’t tried to do anything drastic with the interface, which is a good thing. You’ll get a few of Sony’s apps such as the social-media app Timescape which is great for managing Facebook and Twitter feeds. There are also apps for navigation, news, as well as Sony’s Music Unlimited service.
What did take be a bit of time to get used to was the on-screen keyboard. At first it felt a bit typing, but after using it for a few days I was able to correctly position my taps so that I was typing out the right letters. The software is fairly forgiving in that way, and will often correctly suggest words to replace anything you’ve misspelled.
Screen and Camera
As with other XPERIA phones, the display on the XPERIA acro S is gorgeous. The 720x1280 screen makes pictures really come alive, and the mobile Bravia engine certainly kicks into high gear when watching HD video. While colors weren’t as flushed out as on the XPERIA ion, they still looked quite impressive to the naked eye, and held their own when viewed outdoors.
The camera on the XPERIA acro S had its ups and downs. Sony preach that it takes less than a second for the phone to launch the camera app once the camera button is pressed, but I had mixed experiences with this. Some times the app launched, and some times all I got was the lock screen, where I had to manually launch the camera app. Having said that, on the moments when it did work flawlessly, the camera app did fire app and take a photo almost instantaneously, ensuring that you can always capture things just in time instead of wasting time trying to unlock your phone and find the camera app.
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The photos taken by the XPERIA acro S vary in quality – outdoor shots and macro photography are no match for the phone, but indoor shots tend to have plenty of noise added to them, especially when using softer light sources. The camera is able to automatically detect what kind of scene you’re shooting, but I suggest turning off this feature as often the camera can misjudge the scene so you end up using the wrong settings. But complaints aside, capturing images and video with the XPERIA acro S is a snap, though results will depend heavily on the kind of lighting you’re using.
Since Sony touts the XPERIA acro S as being dust and water proof, I simply had to test out this claim. I asked my nephew to bury the phone on the beach, and half an hour later we dug it back out. Though the phone was warm from the hot sand, it was in perfect working condition and a simple shake got rid of any sand. I then poured water over the phone while it was playing some music, and again it continued working without a hiccup.
Sound, Call Quality & Battery Life
Being a Sony phone, the bundled Walkman app is great for listening to music with. Every single note and pitch is produced perfectly, and even the loudspeaker does an excellent job of playing back music without jarring. The inbuilt equalizer is also great for fine-tuning your listening experience, so audiophiles will certainly enjoy listening to music on this phone.
Call quality was also good on the XPERIA acro S, with no calls being dropped or any problem with audio quality. The phone’s loudspeaker is also good for conference calls, and a secondary mike also acts to cancel out unwanted noise.
Battery life on the XPERIA acro S was decent, clocking in at about 6 and a half hours before the battery indicator flashed red. That’s with Wifi and Bluetooth on, Timescape set to update social media on the main screen, and two email accounts syncing. I’m sure you can squeeze out a bit more life if you tweak some of the settings, but as long as you’re not too far away from a micro-USB charger, you’ll be fine. I did notice that after a while the back of the phone got a bit warm, so this may be something for Sony to keep an eye on.
It’s difficult to say who the XPERIA acro S is targeted to, but it’s certainly for those who fear water and dirt destroying their phone. With a fairly snappy OS and UI, the XPERIA acro S makes for a decent Android phone with some good points for the camera and screen. It’s certainly not the most powerful phone in the market, but it’s a phone that won’t quit on you when you next stumble into the pool.