Archive | January 2012

Get(ting) Smart(er)

The announcement of Xperia S is supported by the launch of three new Smart Extras(TM) accessories to enhance the experience on Android and to bring content to consumers’ smartphones in an entirely new way. The new ‘Smart’ range from Xperia really shows Sony and Sony Ericsson have really stepped up to the plate in terms of offering higher quality accessories. Links to the YouTube video promos are embedded in the titles – just click and go!

SmartWatch
Some of you may remember SE’s first forays into Bluetooth watches from back in 2007/2008. They were nice devices, but hideously expensive and they didn’t really do much. Apart from being expensive.
Moving a little closer to the present, the LiveView was released November 2010 and while anticipation for the device was good the finished product was not. The first release was buggy as hell; indeed, reading through reviews on the Amazon website, the LiveView gets a bit of a kicking. A subsequent software update corrected many of these faults and one of my Test Lab colleagues gets on very well with his.
I myself purchased a LiveView from eBay back in Summer 2011 and found it to be a neat little device…for the 24 hours I used it. Reaching into my pocket to retrieve my phone, after LiveView had buzzed on my wrist to tell me I had a call, the device was knocked from it’s wrist mount and bounced on the floor – permanently disabling the right shoulder button and rendering the device useless!
Fingers crossed then the SmartWatch will be able to withstand a 3-foot drop. Sporting a slim-line body and an glossy aluminium finish, the SmartWatch certainly looks the part. The screen has been updated to an even better OLED screen than on previous versions and I can quite happily say I want one – provided, that is, if the foibles and problems from before have been ironed out. The watch is rumoured to be packaged with unbranded handsets as well, so there’s plenty to hope for with this item! Official Sony gumpf here.


Smart Wireless Pro
Moving onto the next new device, the Smart Wireless Pro, I’ve got a feeling this is designed to replace the MW600 and it’s associated range. I actually won and still own (in working order, no less) one of these and it’s a nifty little device that again, should’ve done more than was offered. There’s no reason why the MW600, with its pretty LED screen, shouldn’t have at least offered the ability to read texts. After all, it can receive radio signals and interpret them as music, so why not text?
This years offering then does just this…and a whole lot more. It’s again a Bluetooth wireless headset that will indeed allow users to listen to music, read text messages, view incoming calls and access calendar alerts. When not connected to the phone it also functions as a radio player AND an independent MP3 player, coming complete with MicroSD support and shipping with a 2GB card – 2 gadgets for the price of 1? Aces! I want! I want!
With a veritable slew of spare MicroSD cards at home, including a 16GB card that won’t be required if/when I get the Xperia S (XS) I can see the Wireless Pro fast becoming the ideal spare music player should my phone or iPod pack up. Particularly as it won’t be bogged down with an overly complicated OS, I should get at least 14.5 GB of music on there. Aces – even more so!
Once can only hope this excellent little device has support for three-ring 3.5mm earphone jacks, otherwise a lot of LiveSound users – myself included – will be more than a little peeved. Looking at the literature provided though, the earphones pictured to appear to be LiveSounds…but I’ll guess we’ll just have to wait and see. Official Sony gumpf here.


SmartTags
These little keyrings, similar to the pound-coin-shaped keyrings for supermarkets, interact with the NFC capability of the NXT Xperia’s via GPS-based apps.
For example:
*You keep a SmartTag in your car. Get in the car; touch the phone to the SmartTag and the phone will launch a preconfigured profile in the phone –perhaps to open Navigation and the Music Player.
*Or you could have one attached to your desk at work. You wander into the office; your phone isn’t on silent. Sure, you could turn the volume down yourself…OR…you can setup a silent profile on the phone, tap the phone on the Tag and NFC takes care of it for you, quieting the phone…and maybe switching to auto-sync so you can keep up to date with Facebook/Twitter/email, you know, to help the working day go faster!
That’s a pretty nifty use of a comparatively new technology, at least for Xperia phones. If only I could setup a profile to get my phone to make tea (or at least activate a tea-making mechanism) I’d be quids in! NFC tagging – it’s the future! Official Sony gumpf here.


It’s shaping up to be a fantastic year for Sony Mobile Communications!

CES 2012 & Xperia S(exy)!

The International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is a major technology-related trade show held each January in Las Vegas. Not open to the public, the show typically hosts previews of products and new product announcements.
This year Sony have a 30,000sq ft ‘booth’ in which to show off their wares for this year, and, with the acqusition of the remaning 50% of Sony Ericsson, they are showing off their very latest developments in mobiles. And how!
Coming out guns blazing, Sony have unleashed the dazzling beast known as the Xperia S. Strange naming aside – I thought it would’ve been called the HD, personally – it’s a fantastic piece of kit that lives up to the rumours and hype I’ve been dishing out on here for the last couple months.
In terms of mouth-watering specifications, the S sports:
* 1.5 GHz dual-core processor
* 32GB of flash memory
* 1 to 1.5GB of internal memory
* 1GB of RAM – finally!
* 4.3 inch HD Reality display
* 12MP rear camera with…
* …1080p HD video recording
* 1.3MP front camera with…
* …720p HD video
* 1750mAh battery
* HDMI out
* NFC
* PlayStation certified

Promo video for the XS can be found here.


Based on these specs, it seems Sony has answered a call to arms from it’s fanbase and is a direct shot across the bows to the iPhone and its proponents. Sure, there are a few niggles; no MicroSD support and a sealed battery, but this really is no different to the iPhone. In fact, I’m going to go so far as to say, now the details are confirmed, this will quite neatly piss over the competiton this year AND it’s not the only handset of this calibre that’s being released!
The end of Q1 and the next Test Lab meet can’t get here fast enough – using and reviewing this handset is going to be an absolute treat! And it’s going to get even better when Ice Cream Sandwich arrives in Q2!

Arc S

Happy 2012, dear readers!

The LT15 Arc certainly turned heads upon release in April 2011; sleek – and dare I say it, sexy – the phone won rave reviews and awards by the dozen. Following on as it did from 2010, a less than illustrious year with Android for SE, this was praise indeed and a remarkable turnaround for Sony Ericsson.

Building upon this success then, the Arc S was announced in August and released in October, effectively retiring the original Arc which has been discontinued after just 6 months…

Continuing with the same curvy, glossy frame, the Arc S sports only a couple noticeable modifications. One is cosmetic: the tiny power button has been replaced by one that is a teeny little bit bigger and little more accessible. The other lies in the guts of the device and SE replacing the 1GHz processor for a 1.4GHz processor. According to the SE press release for the Arc S, this upgrade apparently enables a 25% faster camera start up and media conversion, along with 20% faster web page rendering compared to the Arc, based on internal SE testing.

For me, the performance increase is only really noticeable when opening more memory-intense features like the music player, which now updates itself quite quickly after installing/deleting tracks. That’s not to say it only works on the memory intensive things; my original Arc was always pretty nippy, but I’m sure the extra (up to) 25% performance boost is opening things a couple nanoseconds faster than before.

It’s also noticeable with the camera. The extra speed in this model brings up the camera extremely quickly. The camera button on this model remains as clumsy and stiff as on its predecessor, so I keep the camera icon on my homescreen so I don’t ever have to touch that silly button. And thank goodness for touch capture, that’s all I can say!

I’m at a bit of a loss though as to why this phone didn’t come with 1080p video -the processor is powerful enough to handle it, although perhaps dual-core is really the key to full HD video recording, as it can more efficiently handle the large of amount data required/generated by this process. Still, 1080p isn’t far off now; the 2012 range of Xperia phones are rumoured to have full HD video capture capabilities and I believe at least one of these mooted handsets has at least a 720p screen. Wowzers indeed.

Anyway, before I digress too far, back to the Arc S. As the original Arc has been discontinued, the Arc S is obviously now SE’s preferred variation of the handset. As far as upgrades to existing handsets go, this is definitely an improvement; the modifications do make a difference and 6 months of development have slashed around £130 from the price of this phone compared to the old Arc.

As if that weren’t enough, SE has yet again surprised their consumer base with the release of an alpha ROM for Ice Cream Sandwich. Of course, this update isn’t without problems as it’s an alpha release; the original release of this ROM by SE doesn’t have any comms features, which is disappointing but not surprising. Cue some stellar work by Bin4ry and DoomLord over on the XDA forums to ‘activate’ this ROM for communications and you’ve got yourself a working ICS ROM about 4-5 months before the official version from SE will be out!

Not too shabby at all, but you will need to open the bootloader and thus potentially void your warranty to take advantage of this. No stranger to this sort of tinkering, I’ve indulged in the ICS ROM from XDA and will be posting about it as soon as I’ve finished running some live battery tests!

If you were thinking of getting one of these phones, a price difference of £130 RRP between the old Arc and the newer Arc S is a considerable bonus when you think of how much phone you’re getting for £319.99. Factor in an early update to Ice Cream Sandwich (if you’re game) and it’s got some even greater potential under the hood. It’s definitely worth considering – either to purchase or as an upgrade – you won’t be disappointed.