Your view of the Sony Xperia T will be dependant on what phone you are using now, what you think of Android and how important choice is to you when it comes to purchasing a smartphone. It is the flagship Sony smartphone of the moment and with that comes a serious number of impressive specifications and an attention to detail that is obvious throughout the hardware and software. Not all of this attention appears to be aimed in the right direction, however, but I will explain more as I go along.
In the box
Everything about the packaging and the box contents is above average. From the inclusion of a screen protector, a nice touch, to the clever UK plug, it all feels just right and consistent with the design of the phone. Even the headphones are quite good and offered a fit and sound quality that I am not used to with any smartphone bundle. Attention to detail is high in this area and despite it not meaning much once the box is on the shelf and the accessories have been worn in a bit, it's good to see Sony taking the time to think about the small details.
Now this is a difficult area because my current daily device is an iPhone 5 and so to compare almost any other smartphone directly would be to say that it is heavy, too big and not as beautiful to look at. This is unfair because many people will not like the iPhone design and the sense of fragility it brings with it. They will also prefer a bigger screen and a more robust sense when going about their daily tasks. The Xperia T does feel very solid and the rubberised backing adds to the grippy feel and the reassurance that you are unlikely to drop it.
Strangely, the buttons on the sides of the device are all located together. The on/off, volume keys and camera button are all on the right-hand side and on the lower panel. This sort of makes sense until you realise that they would be better higher up and ideally space further apart. They could also be larger. The microUSB port is on the left-hand side and quite high up which isn't ideal and the headphone jack is on the top which 'does' make sense. I am sure that when building these phones, a lot of thought must go into the placement of important buttons and features but I guess they can't please everyone all of the time.
The actual design of the Xperia T follows the Arc phones in that there is a shallow curve on the back. However, unlike the Arcs this phone is noticeably thicker and so the arc is not so apparent. It adds some sense of style to the form, but I'm not convinced it is necessary because from the front the phone looks completely flat with very little to set it apart from other phones if they were all laid down together. The 4.55" display has to take up the bulk of the front and the bezels on the sides are small with more space given at the top and bottom. Still, this is yet another smartphone that is all display from the front and that is rarely a negative. The Xperia T may not be a design classic, but I don't thin it was ever meant to be. It has been designed to be a workhorse and to shine in specific areas.
At first glance the 1.5GHz dual-core processors and 16Gb of internal storage so not scream top of the range. However, I have often questioned the need for anything more than this processor speed and at no point have I suffered any slow-downs or freezes at all. The fact that Ice Cream Sandwich is loaded at launch means that you won't see the super smoothness on offer with Jelly Bean and this will be seen as disappointing to those who would expect the latest Android OS on a new flagship smartphone, and I am one of those people who would expect to see JB onboard. It will of course arrive soon and when it does, performance can be expected to be even better than it already is.
The screen is very impressive and at 1280x720 pixels, Android and all of the complexity within it pops out in almost all brightness conditions. Remember that this screen is offering a 323ppi density which is Retina when you consider that the newer iPhones are running at 326ppi and this screen is bigger. It is noticeable as well from the first moment you use the phone in every app and every media function. The touch sensitivity is good as well which is not always the case with Android phones and I have no complaints at all in this area.
I was expecting good things from the battery because of the 1850mAh capacity, but like most other phones a day's use is about the most you will get before a charge is required. This appears to be the standard and acceptable to most people, but you know how I feel about these things. Give me two days of battery and that's acceptable, three and I am happy. Sadly there are very few devices capable of more than one day.
13 megapixels is amazing for a smartphone, but those of you who understand photography may wonder if this is just an attempt to fool those who do not understand that this is an 'amazing' camera.
Well, it actually is a very, very good camera and the quality of almost every shot I took was impressive. A panorama feature is included which works almost as well as that found in iOS 6 and low-light shots are also very similar to those of the iPhone 5.
Video capture is good, but I found that the stabilisation could be better and that the zooming function was not as smooth as I would have expected. The camera is the stand out feature of the Xperia T in terms of specifications and it lives up to it for photos, but not quite for video.
Most of you know Android well, but there are vast differences in the implementation on each device. Sony has added many expected software features such as Timescape, Sony Select and PlayNow, but I also found many more apps pop up when I first turned the device on. I wiped the device clean and checked again; 69 apps. Yes, there are 69 separate icons on the home screens of this device of which only 6 seemed to be introduced by Vodafone. Apps like Wisepilot, when we already have Google Navigation, make little sense and neither do many of the others which are designed to specifically promote Sony services.
I understand the need to introduce users to what is available, an area that has historically been overlooked, but more than 60 icons on a new phone will be very daunting for those who are using Android for the first time.
It's odd that Sony has becomes more subtle in the way it tweaks Android, but then thrown as much as possible into the build. The good news is that the majority can be easily uninstalled.
Top marks for the external speaker which is brilliant, seriously loud and clear. The same can be said for sound quality from headphones and the way the Sony software deals with music navigation. This is one of the very best smartphones I have used for music.
For video, the experience is similarly impressive and the high density screen and excellent sound make movies watching sublime. Seriously, there are very few phones that can match the Xperia T in this areas and it's top marks from me. Impressed way more than I expected to be.
Sound quality for voice calls is excellent and signal quality and consistency was higher than I usually experience at home. In 2 days of testing, the Xperia T outperforms the iPhone 5 for mobile connectivity in every area. Wi-Fi connections are immediate and stable and it all just worked which is good news because this hasn't always been a strong area for Sony.
I am in two minds about the Xperia T. The good points are very good and the lesser points are not so obvious, but they are noticeable. The overall design does not offer the immediate aesthetic appeal that the Arc and Arc S did and there is a slight sense of 'chunky' about the build. However, on the positive side it feels remarkably robust and you will not be too concerned about damaging it.
The screen is lovely and so is the media experience which when married to all of the potential Android offers, most users will be more than happy with the result. This is a flagship product, of that there is little doubt, but I do wonder if it does enough to compete with the Galaxy S III. The Galaxy is different from the rest of the Android bunch in many ways and the Xperia T is perhaps just a little too similar to stand out, even from its predecessor.
The Xperia T is a very good phone and is value for money. The question remains as to how well it competes in a very crowded market. On that note, I am still undecided.
Available now from Vodafone.