Sony Xperia Ion
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Sony Xperia Ion -- Behind the Times

A great display and camera are paired with outdated software.

GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 / LTE 700
Form Factor:
Block / Google Android OS v2.3
132 x 68 x 11 mm
Touch Screen
Battery Type:
Talk Time:
10 hours
Standby Time:
16.7 days
16.0 GB
microSD / TransFlash
Radiation (SAR):
Below Average Radiation (0.78 W/kg)

Main Screen:
TFT (Bravia Engine / Accelerometer / Scratch-Resistant)
16,700,000 colors (720 x 1280 px)
Secondary Screen:
12.1 MP / Exmor R CMOS Sensor / LED Flash / Zoom / Auto-Focus / Face Detection / Image Stabilizer / Red-Eye Reduction / Geotagging / Video Recorder / 0.3 MP Video Chat

MP3 Player:
AT&T Music (MP3 / AAC / PlayNow / TrackID / xLOUD)
FM Radio:

720 x 1280 px
Screen Savers:
720 x 1280 px
Android Market
Streaming Multimedia:

POP3 / IMAP4 / SMTP / Gmail
AOL / Google / Windows Live / Yahoo
Predictive Text:
Handwriting Recognition

Google Calendar
To-Do List:
2.0 (Webkit / Google Search)
Voice Commands:

Infrared Port:
High-Speed Data:
802.11 b/g / DLNA
AT&T Navigator (Google Maps / Wisepilot)
PC Sync:
USB 2.0 / HDMI

Product Website

Compare With Similar Phones:

Google Nexus 5 Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Apple IPhone 5C Apple IPhone 5S Motorola Moto X
Google Nexus 5 Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Apple IPhone 5C Apple IPhone 5S Motorola Moto X

Oh, Sony. The Xperia Ion has such a great screen and camera, and yet it's a phone I definitely don't want. It's a hot mess of different ideas of what a phone should be. It's supposed to be a flagship phone like the One X and Galaxy S3, but the disappointing software makes it hard to compete.

Sony paid attention to design. The aluminum body is sleek and solid, but also a little industrial looking -- it's what I imagine the upper-class in the movie "Blade Runner" use -- a device with sharp angles and a brushed metal look. The curved back panel looks a tad out-of-place on the otherwise straight up-and-down look, but it's an ergonomic touch that makes it easier to use. At a hair under five ounces, it's heavy, and you'll feel it in your pocket. Overall, the aggressive, mechanized style is attractive in a masculine way, but it's definitely not for everyone.

The 4.6-inch screen is a highlight. Large and expansive -- the same size as the Galaxy Nexus -- the HD "reality" display, as Sony's marketing team calls it, comes packed with pixels -- a 342-ppi density to be exact -- so images and video are incredibly detailed -- on par with high-definition TVs. How does Sony do it? It crafted the display with the pixels closer to the surface, which amps up the definition of the view. In addition, Sony uses its "Mobile Bravia Engine" -- another marketing term -- to improve color saturation. The engine runs filters and color correction to produce vibrant, accurate pigments. It's a software enhancement, so if you think the colors are too bright or vivid, you can turn it off for a slightly dimmer, more muted, view. I can't imagine you'd want to, but it's always nice to be given options, I suppose. In short, the display is one of the best.

The 12-megapixel camera is also superb. The lens, helped by Sony's Exmor R sensor, takes wonderfully sharp photos. Sony has always been on the forefront of digital cameras, so the outstanding photo quality should come as no surprise. But despite the sensor and high megapixel count, in low-light, photos came out with a bit of noise. You can use the flash, but that bleaches out the color. Either way, photos are best in ample lighting. The Ion includes options from the useful "panorama" shot for beautiful, wide-angle scenescapes, to the more novelty "smile" shot to detect the right moment to take a picture of some friends. One nice feature: you can hold down the camera button to launch the camera quickly -- so you don't miss the unexpected shot. You can record 1080p video, which is satisfactory, but unexceptional, and a 1.3-megapixel front-facing lens suffices for video chat or the occasional self-portrait, but it isn't particularly impressive.

So far so good, right? So what's wrong with it then? Well, in a word: software. The Ion runs on Gingerbread, which is a problem in and of itself, since it should be running ICS -- at the very least. You can buy a version with ICS, but not through AT&T, so you're stuck with outdated software. That means stale software and worse keyboards, no NFC integration and a more cluttered interface. Even the excellent 12-megapixel camera suffers because you don't have the editing suite on ICS.

Meanwhile, Sony's skin, called "Timescape," does little to enhance the outdated feel. If you're used to an up-to-date version of Android, like I am, using it is a huge frustration. It's not as obnoxious as other skins -- a few features look like vanilla Android -- but Sony's apps and widgets, also confusingly called "Timescape," is a disaster. It's supposed to pull together your social media and e-mail for a convenient view, but it's strangely organized into a series of floating tiles that convoluted and confusing.

Since it runs on Android, you'll have plenty of apps to choose from, but first you need to acquaint yourself with the confusing preloaded apps. There are three different messaging apps: Sony's default "messaging" service, AT&T's Messages and Google Messenger. You really only need one -- or none, if you prefer a third-party client like WhatsApp -- but instead these three clog up the menu. At least you can uninstall most of the apps.

The 1,900 mAh battery life is mediocre at best. If you use it heavily, you'll run out before the end of the day. You can prolong the demise by switching to "power saver" mode, which turns off power-draining features like the radio, but you won't squeeze out much juice. It's just worse than average. The 1.5-gigahertz dual-core chip and 1-gigabytes of RAM, meanwhile, is a noticeable step down from the market. I was frustrated when I tried to open apps and play games -- the lag wasn't bad, but it was considerably slower than the X and S3.

The Ion comes with 16-gigabytes of storage, which is so-so. You won't complain but you'll have to manage memory. But if you watch movies or listen to music, consider picking up a microSD card to add up to 32-gigabytes. Oh, by the way, the Ion is PlayStation-certified, so you can download PlayStation titles. The choices aren't particularly robust, and most likely you'll get games from Android -- but Crash Bandicoot is amazing.

Overall, the Ion sports a great screen and camera and awful software. But the price is right -- cheap. The weak processor and short battery life, though, means whatever movies or games you try to enjoy will be slow or cut short. If you just look at the specs and price, it seems silly not to recommend it. But it's just bad device at any price. Look elsewhere.

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User Reviews

Rating: 5 of 5 Great Phone, Great Price

Chris Turner on June 20, 2012

The Ion's 12-megapixel camera is outstanding. It takes crystal clear photos in outdoor and well-lit situations. It's slightly worse in low-light but that's to be expected. The colors are vibrant and the lens is fast -- it takes me less than a second to start-up, even in lock mode.

The design is absolutely gorgeous. Sony makes beautiful electronics, and the Ion is no exception. It's solidly built -- the front is nearly all glass, while the back is made of aluminum -- materials that don't feel cheap like on some other devices. It kind of looks like a Bravia TV, in fact.

On the inside, it runs Android 2.3.7 Gingerbread, rather than the newer ICS -- but Sony said it'll get an update. So it's not a big deal. Multimedia is better than on most phones because Sony integrated it with the PlayStation 3. If you own a PS3, you can buy movies online and sync it with the phone. The picture quality is fantastic and the sounds are amazing. There's also this neat feature where you can program apps to launch when an accessory is plugged in. I do it with the music unlimited app, which sounds great with headphones.

All the standard features are here too: connect with Facebook and Twitter or use Sony's Timescape.

The buttons aren't that sensitive compared to Android phones. But you'll get used to it. They work, you just have to press more firmly. Other than that, and Android Gingerbread, I can't say enough great things about the Ion. Highly recommended!

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Rating: 4 of 5 Great Camera, Old Software

Jerry L. on June 20, 2012

The Xperia Ion is great. I haven't seen a better camera. Sure, Sony has fallen from its peak. But one thing it does well is digital cameras. And the Ion doesn't disappoint. The best part? It takes less than a second to snap a photo in lock mode, so I'm always ready for a shot. The glass design and aluminum back is elegant too -- not cheap at all. Also, if you own a PS3, the Ion can sync with it for Unlimited Video service. So if you've bought movies, you can take it and watch it on the phone. Works great with headphones. Bonus points.

Timescape is supposed to integrate your social media, but I really don't find a use for it. Nowadays, everyone just downloads the apps. It's nice and all, but kind of pointless. Maybe a few years ago. As noted, the Ion runs an old version of Android. Apps and games run smoothly, but I kind of wish I could upgrade to ICS. But it's still a great phone, nonetheless. Go try it out!

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Rating: 0 of 5 Will Never Go Sony Again

Clifton Paul Bycroft on August 08, 2012

I thought I was going to like the phone until I had it a few days and I have always thought Sony was solid, until now.

I had this phone for a little over a week and it was in my pocket when I fell. I didn't even fall on it, but when I pulled the phone out of my pocket the screen was cracked in the lower right had corner. That made it so it would not work at all, and now it has a crack up the screen more. I have never had a phone so weak. The phone I had before I got this one, I had dropped, knocked off things and walked around with in my pocket at work and it was great. And of course I had not added the black tie insurance yet was told I had 30 days.

I planned to add it when I got paid and this happened. So I have a worthless two week old phone. Also found out when I tried to take it to have the screen fixed, I couldn't get it fixed because they don't make a replacement screen yet. Worthless. I will never have a Sony again. And I'm telling everyone too.

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