The Sony Xperia P, Sony’s second non-Ericsson handset, was launched this week at Mobile World Congress. It’s not the all-singing, all-dancing flagship that the Xperia S, but rather a mid-range effort that still packs in many of the same features. Is a shrunken Xperia S what we really need? We went hands on to find out.
As the stunning HTC One S is a smaller sibling to the One X, so the Sony Xperia P keeps most of its bigger brother’s angular, Walkman-esque stylings in a smaller chassis. Its 4-inch 960×540 screen is smaller, and the camera is an eight megapixel job, rather than twelve, but it can still record full HD video courtesy of a none-too-shabby ST-Ericsson dual-core 1GHz processor.
The display – a “Reality” one, as Sony likes to call it – immediately pales in comparison to the Super AMOLED screen on the One S. It’s extremely bright and trumps it for outdoor viewing, but that bright white light bleeds into everything. Blacks are a dull grey, and contrasts aren’t wide.
Even for a mid-range phone, its dimensions, 122×59.5×10.5mm, aren’t too flattering – the lack of curved edges only leaves it looking even thicker than tapered rivals. Still, there’s a certain, rigid, ye olde Sony charm to its looks, and it’s nice to see Sony extend its looks across it portfolio.
One thing that’s different and rather confusing: where the home, back and menu buttons are capacitive buttons above the striking transparent strip on the Xperia S, they’re built into the strip on the P. It’s rather confusing, and in the prototype we tested, not particularly responsive either.
One welcome feature that’s present on both: the HDMI-dock. Plugging the Sony Xperia P into your telly doesn’t just share its screen, or let you control it with your remote if the TV is HDMI-CEC compatible. It launches a specialised TV launcher interface with a number of icons for apps you’re most likely to use from the sofa – YouTube and Videos Unlimited, for instance. You can add your own, and even remap the controls on your remote: it’s by far the most accomplished TV interface we’ve ever seen on a phone, and one we could genuinely see ourselves using.
Things come crashing down however with the software build: the Sony Xperia P is running Android 2.3 with a similar skin to last year’s models like the Arc, leaving out all the wonderful extras you get with Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich”, now starting to appear on rival manufacturers’ devices.
A spokesperson suggested that the Sony Xperia P might yet ship with Android 4.0 out of the box, but Sony Mobile’s website says to expect Android 2.3 Gingerbread however, with an update to follow.
We really hope that isn’t the case come launch in April, as Sony Ericsson’s track record with delivering software updates wasn’t just bad, but something closer to a hate crime. Add in the inevitable delays as your network puts the the update through its own testing, and who knows when you’ll actually get it.
It’s a real shame, as otherwise, this has the potential to be a great follow up to the Xperia Arc and Xperia Neo. Check out the pictures in the gallery above, and let us know what you make of it in the comments.