Sony Xperia sola review: Light 'em up

Posted on Wednesday, May 30 2012 on 09:00 AM

Sony are busy extending their Xperia line, after the Japanese behemoth bought out their Ericsson counterpart, and the Xperia sola lies squarely in the middle of the pack. The flagship Xperia S has set the ceiling and the Xperia U will set the floor of what to expect from the company's Android offerings. The Xperia sola, for its part, must be keen to bolster the impression that Sony is in pretty good shape since going solo.

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Although technically not a part of the NXT series, the Xperia sola shares some of the design choices of its 2012 Xperia siblings. It offers a few notable features to make up for its lack of Ice Cream Sandwich (the Android 4.0 update is scheduled for summer 2012). These include a super-crisp Reality display with Floating Touch and a powerful dual-core processor, which promises tp run Gingerbread perfectly smooth. It also has NFC, and the retail package comes with a couple of NFC tags to play around with.




Quad-band GSM /GPRS/EDGE support

3.7" 16M-color capacitive touchscreen of Full WVGA resolution (854 x 480 pixels) with Sony Mobile BRAVIA engine; Floating touch display

Android OS v2.3.7 Gingerbread, planned Android 4.0 ICS update

Dual-core 1 GHz Cortex-A9 CPU, 512 MB RAM, NovaThor U8500 chipset

5 MP autofocus camera with LED flash and geo-tagging, Multi Angle shot

720p video recording @ 30fps with continuous autofocus and stereo sound

Wi-Fi b/g/n and DLNA

GPS with A-GPS

8 GB built-in storage (5 GB user-accessible)

microUSB port (charging) and stereo Bluetooth v2.1

Standard 3.5 mm audio jack

Stereo FM radio with RDS

Voice dialing

Adobe Flash 11 support

Deep Facebook integration

Accelerometer and proximity sensor

NFC connectivity and included NFC tags





The visually customized phonebook of the Xperia sola can store extensive information about all your contacts. A tabbed interface presents contact details, recent calls and info from social networking services.


The contact list can be sorted by either first or last name. There are two contact search options - a dedicated search field on top of the contact list, and an alphabet scroll to jump to names starting with a specific letter.

You can sync with multiple accounts, including Exchange and Facebook, and you can selectively show or hide contacts from some accounts (you can fine-sift specific groups from an account), or set the phonebook to display only contacts with phone numbers.


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If a contact has accounts in multiple services, you can "join" their details to keep everything in one place. Their Facebook photos and interests (part of the Facebook integration) will show as extra tabs.

Quick contacts are enabled - a tap on the contact's photo brings up shortcuts for calling, texting or emailing the contact.




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We had no problems calling and receiving calls on the Xperia sola. The built-in secondary microphone is used for active noise-cancellation so calls are loud and clear even in noisy environments.


The Xperia sola offers smart dialing. It searches for matches in both the contacts' phones and names. There's voice dialing too (the quickest way to activate it is the dedicated homescreen widget).


There's a Favorite tab that displays starred contacts, but you can add other contacts to the list too. The tab displays a grid of contact photos with their first name underneath.




All texts and MMS are organized into threads. Each thread is laid out as an IM chat session, the latest message at the bottom. You can manage individual messages (forward, copy, delete) and even lock them against deletion.

Search is enabled to locate a specific message in all conversations and you can also activate delivery reports.


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Adding multimedia (photos, videos, sounds, etc.) will convert the message to an MMS.


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Moving on to email, the Gmail app supports batch operations, which allow multiple emails to be archived, labeled or deleted. The app supports multiple Gmail accounts, but there's no unified inbox for other email services.


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Google Talk handles Instant Messaging. The GTalk network is compatible with a variety of popular clients like Pidgin, Kopete, iChat and Ovi Contacts.

As for text input, the Xperia sola offers a customized on-screen full QWERTY keyboard. Typing on the portrait keyboard isn't very comfortable - keys are tall and thin, making for a lot of typos. They're just not as well spaced as on the bigger Xperia S display.


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The Xperia sola uses the traditional droid Gallery, which hasn't really seen much change in Gingerbread. It has good functionality, cool 3D looks and nice transition effects, and this time shows full resolution images.



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The Sony Xperia sola is equipped with an FM radio, which has a really neat and simple interface. It automatically scans the area for the available stations and places "notches" on the frequency dial for easier scrolling to the next station. There's a Force mono option to use in case of poor reception.


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The TrackID service is also available and works within the radio app. You can even like a song on Facebook.





There're five capture modes to choose from: Normal, Scene recognition, Sweep Panorama, Sweep Multi Angle and 3D Sweep Panorama. In Normal, you pick the Scene settings manually or you can enable Scene recognition and let the Xperia S take a guess (it's fairly good at it).




The 3D Sweep Panorama is business as usual - you press the shutter key and pan the phone across the scene. The resulting panoramic photo can be viewed in both 2D and 3D (on a compatible TV).

The Sweep Multi Angle is much more impressive - you take a photo in the exact same way, but the result is very different. It produces something like a lenticular card.

Tilting the phone lets you look at the object from different sides. A shot of a moving object looks like an animated GIF or creates interesting distortions, which can be pretty funny too.


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The Sony Xperia sola has quad-band 2G and 3G. Mobile data speeds are boosted by 14.4Mbps HSDPA and 5.76Mbps HSUPA.

Local connectivity is covered by Wi-Fi b/g/n with DLNA, so you can easily play media (photos, videos, music) from DLNA-enabled storage devices or push content from your phone to a DLNA TV or music player.


A dedicated app, Media Remote, will serve as a remote control for DLNA-capable BRAVIA TVs and Sony DVD/Blu-ray players too. It has a few versions of the interface ranging from simply changing the channels to mouse input and viewing disc history.


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The Floating Touch display of the Xperia sola can detect fingers hovering over it and the only app that actually uses this feature is the browser. All it can do is highlight links on webpages, adding an extra level of precision, which makes sense on a relatively small 3.7" screen.




Our Xperia sola came with a Wisepilot trial with 30 days' worth of full navigation license. The app offers info on weather, traffic, speed cameras and alerts.

Wisepilot uses online maps by default, so you'll need a data connection - but it works even in countries where Google Maps Drive doesn't. You can purchase offline maps if you like - a 2-year license for the whole of Europe is 5 Euro and North America is 5 Dollars.


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The Android Market is now called the Play Store, but other than the name, it's the same old app store.


It's organized in a few scrollable tabs - categories, featured, top paid, top free, top grossing, top new paid, top new free and trending. The in-app section is untouched though and it's very informative - a description, latest changes, number of downloads and comments with rating. There is usually a demo video and several screenshots for most apps too.


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The Sony Xperia sola is a routine exercise in midrange smartphone making but Sony won't do without those if they're to quickly get where they want to be. This isn't about HD screens, quad-core CPUs and umpteen megapixel cameras - the Xperia sola goes by the 80-20 rule. That is, it tries to deliver 80% of the functionality for 20% of the price (okay, it's more like 50% here, but that's how technology works).



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