back to article Review: Sony Xperia SP

Sony’s flagship Android smartphones have been a bit of a disappointment to me. But if the Xperia S and Xperia T didn’t quite cut the Colman’s, the cheaper follow-ups, the Xperias P and V, were more convincing. Sony, it seems, is better in the middle than at the top. Now the new Xperia Z - another high-end Sony that didn't …

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  1. Superavi

    Cloudmobile

    How would you rate it against Acer's Cloudmobile that got rave reviews on this website? Now available for £170.

    1. Al Taylor
      Alert

      Re: Cloudmobile

      For the price I'd take the Acer because at the end of the day £130 is £130. But the Sony has a larger screen, is more powerful, has a bigger battery, a physical camera key and those excellent media apps. If I was buying on contract I'd certainly go for the Sony.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Cloudmobile

      Where did you see it for £170? I see it on eBay for £178 but from a seller with <95% feedback which judging from previous experiences is a pretty bad sign.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Cloudmobile

        Ah, ok. I've now spotted it via pricerunner.co.uk for £169.99 and the seller is still expansys. Their trustpilot reviews are absolutely, shockingly bad. Checked on idealo.co.uk as well and they have expansys and other offers, the latter starting from £249. So, yes, you can get it for £170 but I'm not sure I'd buy from them.

  2. auburnman
    Unhappy

    When did a £300 phone become a mid-price model? F me.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Babbit55

      Most mid range Sim free phones would be that expensive, high end phones are more than double that price, for example the S4 is almost £600!

      on a contract you could get that for free on some of the lower tariffs.

    3. Al Taylor
      Boffin

      Galaxy S4, HTC One and iPhone 5 prices start well north of £500. For smartphones I reckon £100 - £200 = low, £200 - £400 = medium and £400+ = high.That makes the SP the epitome of mid price in my book.

    4. Hairy Spod

      @@ auburnman

      at roundabout the same time that they started packing higher specced screens and similar processing abilities to laptops from a couple of years ago.

      all this with comms abilty and some miniaturisation chucked in for free!

      1. phuzz Silver badge
        IT Angle

        As a comparison, how much was a mid-range nokia or ericcson back in the day? (I've just had a quick google but it's surprisingly difficult to find out).

        I seem to remember paying £100 for a nokia 7110, on a fairly pricey contract back in about 2000, which is approximately what you'd expect to pay for a high end handset today.

    5. Paul 135

      This occurred when the media coverage of the mobile technology industry became Americanised, even by British journalists. Americans have little choice but to pay $1000s for phone contracts, and with all the hype around their rip-off iPhone and similarly priced competitors I feel the non-American tech media has often lost all form of reason and sanity in acting as if American price expectations are somehow reasonable.

      It's about time the British tech media started speaking more prominently of devices in this price range as being the only ones worth even considering sanely, rather than harping on and on as if devices unnecessarily costing double are somehow the only ones worth talking about.

      1. ted frater

        I couldnt agree more.

        today's journalists covering the mobile industry would need to have a private income to tell it like it really is.

        regrettably if they wrote what they really thought they wouldnt get any phones to write about from the manufacturers. So all articles about mobiles are really comparing like with like .

        Pity really.

        1. Danny 14 Silver badge

          It all depends what you want out of your phone, it is a midrange phone not a top end one. £300 for an unlocked phone of this spec is pretty reasonable. some people simply look at the specs and WANT the higher end S4 class phones when in reality a rather long tooth S2 class will be just fine. I still have my "from launch" S2 and for the time being im not upgrading due to the cost. that being said if you have an older class phone this looks like a decent phone.

          OH has a "from launch" xperia mini pro that she likes but was looking at swapping. She likes the sony interface and although I was prodding her down the S3 direction im guessing this will be the phone for her. At £300 most people will be better buying it on their credit card and facing interest rather than contract (once you factor in somthing like a virgin 30 day rolling sim with 1gb data etc). It has some decent options, she'll love the physical camera button and uSD card too.

          seems decent spec for a midrange phone.

  3. Chris 125

    A 30 second browse around shows it to be available for free on contracts from £26, and I'm sure you could knock that down a bit by going outside the usual characters. That makes it pretty mid-range when newer, flasher handsets are only free when you get to £31 or £36 a month (which remember is anything up to £240 over the life of the contract).

    I'm considering getting shot of my SIII and buying one of these on PAYG to live out my contract - not sure if that says more about the poor SIII quality or my desire for gadgets. The Sony is definitely more phone than twice the price could buy a year ago though.

    1. Eradicate all BB entrants

      But for £19.99 .....

      ....you can have the Xperia Z and an unlimited data contract for £26 a month, like I did, saving me £220 over a free phone for £36pm (and the £36 was 1GB data limit).

      Really, check it out, paying a bit towards the phone gets you much better deals :)

      And the Xperia Z has exceeded my expectations (From full charge Friday morning and light use over the weekend still had 26% battery left Sunday evening, without using stamina mode)

      1. thesykes

        Re: But for £19.99 .....

        Do Sony still bundle loads of useless apps on their phones? I'm thinking... 3D Album, 3D Camera, Connected devices, Data monitor, Facebook, Games & apps, Get apps, Get games, Livewire manager, Music & videos (Facebook), News and weather, OfficeSuite, Setup guide, Support, Sync, Timescape, TrackID, Update centre, Wisepilot.

        All of these are littering my Xperia, cluttering up the app draw, constantly loading even though they are never used, and thanks to Sony Ericsson deciding to load them into the system storage and lock the bootloader, I cannot get rid of the bloody things.

        Also, does the Sony app draw still refuse to show the apps in alphabetic order? Seems hell bent on showing them in "Own order"... What the hell order that is I have yet to decipher.

        Nice phone, ruined by the bloatware.

        1. johnnytruant

          @thesykes

          So unlock the bootloader, root the phone and delete them. Or just load a slimmed-down stock ROM onto there, sans bloat.

          It's not hard. Sony deliberately make it easy. Takes longer to download the Android SDK than it does to unlock the phone with it.

          1. thesykes

            Re: @johnnytruant

            Nice thought but... the bootloader is locked and cannot be unlocked. So, no root, no freedom. This is Sony Ericsson, not Sony, seems to be a big difference. May be O2 sticking it's nose in too.

            However, the point of my question is... I've been there, done that, with unlocking, rooting etc. with my old Orange San Francisco, which was sorted within an hour of it leaving the shop. So, I've no fear of doing it but I don't want to, I just want to take it out of the box, turn it on and have it working without tons of crap getting in the way. Dumping apps such as Facebook, Google Maps, Gmail etc into the system area means that valuable storage is wasted, space that cannot be clawed back.

            The Nexus 4 looks OK, but, I don't want a glass-backed phone (and there are plenty of stories of them breaking far too easily) and I don't really like the look of it.

            1. Marcelo Rodrigues
              Linux

              Re: @johnnytruant

              Probably O2. The Xperia SP is listed as unlockable (does this word exists?).

              Here the link:

              http://unlockbootloader.sonymobile.com/supported-devices

              1. Danny 14 Silver badge

                Re: @johnnytruant

                a phone on contract normally comes with more junk than ones sim free and you might have difficulty installing "stock" firmware updates too. I have found ONE caveat to that. Ive always bought my phones from buymobilephones. Not *one* of those phones have been sim locked! Thats from an old omnia, omnia 2, xperia pro mini and an S2. Not saying that all their phones are like that but from my experience they have come without bloat and unlocked as standard (no physical branding either)!

                However, its not available from buymobilephones yet so i'll hang on to see what they charge.

        2. Al Taylor
          Alert

          Re: But for £19.99 .....

          The SP did have some bloat (WisePilot, TrackID, OfficeSuite to name but three) on it, but all could be uninstalled. I suspect a factory reset will re-install them and that the apks are probably still buried in there somewhere. Facebook you are stuck with though, the only option is to uninstall updates. It's not as bad as Xperias of years gone by which where were swamped with the stuff.

          As for the app drawer, you can now order apps by name, most used, most recently installed or in a custom order

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: But for £19.99 .....

          Most of those can be uninstalled. The rest frozen (in App settings, disable).

          Job done, no root required.

  4. Pie
    Joke

    If only it came with

    WIndows Phone 8 as the OS ;)

  5. Jon Massey
    Meh

    Nexus 4

    Why bother when an N4 is twenty quid cheaper?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Nexus 4

      No SD card slot and the battery life ain't great.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: Nexus 4

        As above, SD card and a huge battery are surely worth that.

        Although with the Nexus you do get Android updates. Can anyone tell me what they think of Sony's Android skin/launcher/whatever? I'm helping a friend sort out his phone/email/computer and he's been offered one of these. So it was perfect to see this review. The battery life looks especially nice.

        I'll probably steer him to the Galaxy Note I or II for the S-Pen - for sketching dimensions on site photos. But it's worth looking at what else is around.

        1. Tachikoma

          Re: Nexus 4

          [i]Can anyone tell me what they think of Sony's Android skin/launcher/whatever? [/i]

          It's all personal preference, but I love the apps and launcher, I use the Sony Gallery and Walkman app on my SGSIII over the Samsung offerings.

        2. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Re: Nexus 4

          The latest versions of the Sony launcher are quite customisable, the earlier versions aren't (hopefully one day the Xperia S update will come out). The thing that prevents you replacing the Sony launcher with Apex, Nova, or something else are the widgets which are extremely useful and which can't be used from other launchers.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Sp anyday

      Battery life, sd card..

      Msm8960t is the underused hero of current chipsets.

      1080p and quad core are simply battery sucking, cost inflating spec sheet things

  6. Kubla Cant Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Battery

    My HTC phone is on its fourth, maybe fifth, battery. OK, it's three years old. Maybe batteries have improved in that time, but I don't suppose they've become immortal.

    I like the look of this phone, but I don't fancy spending £300 on a phone that turns to junk when the battery dies.

    1. Marcelo Rodrigues
      WTF?

      Re: Battery

      "My HTC phone is on its fourth, maybe fifth, battery. OK, it's three years old. Maybe batteries have improved in that time, but I don't suppose they've become immortal."

      What do you do with your batteries? I have a Nokia E66, and its (first) battery is still good. My "old" Xperia Arc is dead (corrosion), but its (18 month and first) battery was just fine. No noticeable drop on capacity whatsoever.

      My girlfriend’s Galaxy S2 (about 18 months too, and first battery) works just fine.

  7. Shagbag
    Thumb Down

    It's a Sony

    DRM Root-Kit

    PS3 "OtherOS"

    No thanks. Fuck 'em.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's a Sony

      And all the other manufacturers are such angels, how on earth do you choose between them?

    2. Paul 135

      Re: It's a Sony

      The Sweden-based Sony Mobile software team has had little to do with the decisions you speak of. They in fact are probably the most open to the community of any mainstream phone manufacturer, winning last year's XDA OEM of the year for their work with the open source development community.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's a Sony

      Your loss then....

      Enjoy your crappy Lumia..

    4. phuzz Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: It's a Sony

      Would this be the same Sony that have a page listing the phones that you can unlock the bootloader on (including the SP)?

      http://unlockbootloader.sonymobile.com/supported-devices

      Allowing customers to do what they want with their phones? What a bunch of arseholes amirite?

  8. Paradroid

    As a piece of hardware...

    It looks spot on. I'd be thinking buy that, run the stock ROM till Cyanogen support comes out and then switch over.

    Not sure about that big light though, WTF is that about? I really like phones with a small notification LED (HTC-style), never understood why it didn't become a universal feature.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: As a piece of hardware...

      >Not sure about that big light though, WTF is that about?

      So you can leave your phone on charge in the corner of the room, and be alerted to incoming messages or charge status.

    2. Ramiro
      Alien

      Re: As a piece of hardware...

      You can tape it to the top of your head and pretend to be a Cylon.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Epic Citadel scores ...

    > In Epic Citadel, the SP scores the same as the Galaxy S4, albeit at 720p rather than 1080p

    Doesn't say much about about either GPU. I'd predict 57 FPS is the fastest speed the display panel will run at, and the performance is capped at that.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've just tried the Citadel benchmark on my Nexus 4 and the result was 53.2fps while my Nexus 7 managed 54.8- so the performance of the SP does seem to be worth note.

  11. Jim Wilkinson
    Thumb Up

    No-one mentioned the audio...

    I have a P model which I love. Does everything I need but, best of all, plays fine detailed music - the best I've heard on any portable device (including one from the 'malum'** company). Power consumption is good as long as the WiFi is switched off.

    ** hint... latin name

    1. Paul 135

      Re: No-one mentioned the audio...

      Unfortunately ST-Ericsson (the makers of the SoC with audio circuitry in your P) are no more.

      PS: speak in English and not in riddles. It's ¢rAp££€ to the rest of us!

  12. Dick Emery
    Thumb Down

    Shit port placements

    So the charger is still on the side (This time the left side) instead of on the bottom where it should fucking be!). Where is the headphone port? On the side too? Stupid fucking design if it is. My Xperia S pisses me off because of this. I can't comfortably put it in my pocket with headphone on even if I use a L shaped headphone adapter.

    1. Al Taylor
      Alert

      Re: Shit port placements

      Headphone jack is on the top.You can just see it in the picture on page 3.

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Shit port placements

      I've got an Xperia S. Not many complaints but this is the first phone I've had with the USB/charge port in that position and it'll be the last. The L-shaped USB connector making the short cable that they supply the phone with point upwards doesn't help either. The unfortunate design becomes apparent when you answer a call with the phone on charge and promptly wrap the cable round your head - all that effort they've gone to to make the phone look cool and it's wiped out as soon as you pick up the phone.

  13. Dick Emery

    Also £300 sim free

    Where?

    1. Al Taylor
      Alert

      Re: Also £300 sim free

      Clove.

  14. Nathan Askew

    issues...

    "...for a few quid less you can get a Google Nexus 4 but that has storage and battery issues."

    I have never run out of space on my Nexus 4, the cloud is a wonderful thing you know. And the battery lasts for 2 days. Not too shabby I think.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: issues...

      "And the battery lasts for 2 days. Not too shabby I think."

      Looks like you got lucky then. Mine hardly lasts a day and I usually don't make phone calls or text, all I normally do is reading a PDF on auto-brightness on the train (2x15min) and during the daily fag breaks (perhaps 5x6min). In fairness I'm too lazy to switch Wifi/3G off while I don't need it so I could perhaps stretch it to a full day with Wifi off.

      I RMA-ed the phone because it had rubbish reception on GiffGaff (=O2) compared to my previous phone (a £100 Huawei Ascend G300) and the replacement is no better with respect to either issue.

      Since I've now got two chargers until I send the first phone back (they allow you 21 days), one at work and one at home, I have only charged the newer phone with the official chargers which is what they recommend since it apparently optimises battery function. Alas, I don't see any improvement whatsoever.

  15. CaptJ

    Looks good but why compare it against a Lumia 720?

    This certainly looks to be a well-judged phone and I'd certainly consider buying it. At £300 you can't compare it against a Lumia 720 which is a far cheaper phone. Compare it against a Lumia 820 that's a fair comparison and one I'd like to see.

    I note that it has a large battery which cerainly sells it to me. I'm fed up with poor battery life. Interestingly that is the one facet on which the Lumia 720 compares well to any phone. It has a good battery life.

    1. Al Taylor
      Alert

      Re: Looks good but why compare it against a Lumia 720?

      The cheapest I've found the Nokia 720 unlocked for is £300. As for PAYG the best high street price I can find is £299 from O2 making it £50 more expensive than the SP on Orange PAYG.

      I'm not sure the 820 would do that much better in comparison - it's more powerful than the 720 granted but it's more expensive than the SP (£325 unlocked) and it only has a 480 x 800 pixel, 4.3 inch screen.

  16. S.G.

    Camera quality

    The review states that the quality of the camera is "meh".

    I have a Xperia Pro from 2011 which has a camera that I think is good quality.

    Anyone here compared the camera of a Z/ZL/SP with a 2011 model?

    1. Bodhi
      Pint

      Re: Camera quality

      Can't compare it directly to a 2011 model but I have gone from an X10 -> Xperia S -> Xperia Z and there has been a step up in quality each time. Only negative I can think of on the Z's camera is the lack of dedicated camera key, but this is to be expected with the efforts taken to waterproof the phone.

      Can't say I agree with the reviewer's assertion the Z was nothing to write home about, I've had one for 3 months now and it has been absolutely bloody superb. The screen may not be the brightest, but it is the sharpest, and the lack of AMOLED means colours actually look like they were supposed to. I've spent some time setting up a colleague's Sammy S4, and was thoroughly whelmed by the experience. Sure the screen is bright but Touchwiz looks like it was designed by a 3 year old who's just been bought a Crayola selection.

      Beer, becuase it never gets boring dunking your mobile in it and watching people's faces.

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