On my trip to L.A., I was able to spend time with AT&T representative and my gracious and hospitable host Meredith Red where I was able to spend some hands-on time with the Sony Xperia Ion for AT&T’s 4G network. The Sony-made Android Gingerbread smartphone was originally announced earlier this year at the Consumer Electronics Show and will be arriving on AT&T’s 4G network starting on June 24th for $99 with a two-year contract.
We’ll have a full review in the coming days, but I wanted to share my initial impressions with the phone. The 720p HD Reality Display with Mobile BRAVIA Engine looks great, and the phone is very competitive against other heavy hitters on AT&T’s lineup, including the HTC One X and the Samsung Galaxy S III. The unit features a dual-core Snapdragon S3 processor and feels snappy, but the real Sony DNA is with the software.
Sony’s Timescape application offers a nice visual way for users to interact with their social network feeds and a well tuned music players offers users the ability to to get more out of their listening experience, including looking up artist information on Wikipedia, searching for music video on YouTube of the track that’s currently playing, looking up lyrics on Google, and searching for the karaoke edition of the video as well.
There are a number of carrier pre-installed apps, but not a whole lot of customized software. Sony’s UI doesn’t over-dominate the Android experience, and the included software suite is very well done. Users can choose a simple single-column email experience with the Sony email app or opt for a two-column desktop-like view, which allows for a column listing all the email messages and a second column with a preview of the message. There’s a similar two-column arrangement for the calendar app to take advantage of the 720p HD display, but contacts do not benefit from a tablet-like experience.
What’s most impressive about this device is the camera. With a 12-megapixel camera, the shots captured by the Xperia Ion look fantastic and have a lot of detail and character, though pictures appears a little bit warmer than they do in real life. That’s not always a bad thing.