The Sony Xperia Ion is a sweet phone for a great price that's just not getting enough love. For $99 on contract with ATT, you get an award winning design with a sleek glass front and curved metal back, LTE 4G and a 12MP camera. And you thought the $99 Nokia Lumia was a good deal? The Ion tops it for hardware specs. The phone has a 4.6" 720p display with Sony's various marketing names heaped on (Bravia, HD Reality Display) that's simply stunning, and it has HDMI out with an intuitive TV app.
So what's the catch? It runs Android OS 2.3.7 Gingerbread rather than 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. That's doubly vexing when Sony recently updated older Xperia models to ICS. As a consolation, they say the Ion will get ICS too. In the meantime, the Sony UI on top of Android is light, and you get a fairly fresh Android experience.
While the latest top dog phones like the HTC One X and Samsung Galaxy S III run on the fourth generation Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 CPU, the Sony Xperia Ion runs on a third gen Snapdragon S3 clocked at 1.5GHz. It has Adreno 220 graphics, and honestly it's no slouch. Human nature and a fear of obsolesce drive us toward the fastest thing we can buy, but the S3 was this spring's top performer and it's still respectable with a Quadrant score of 3100.
Voice quality is excellent: we noted landline clarity on both ends and good volume. Reception is similar to the competition (One X and Samsung Galaxy S III) and data speeds are excellent on AT&T's LTE network.
The star of the show is no doubt the 12 megapixel rear camera with flash. It has a fast f2.4 lens and a Sony Exmor R sensor that can shoot 1080p video and some of the nicest photos we've seen from a phone. Colors are particularly impressive: rich and accurate. We took some light life street shots and were impressed with the camera's low light color and contrast capture. We'll have samples in our full review.
4.6", 1280 x 720 LCD (Mobile Bravia) 1.5GHz Qualcomm S3 dual core CPU with Adreno 220 graphics Micro HDMI and micro USB ports 16 gigs storage MicroSD card slot Quad band GSM, triband 3G, LTE 4G 12MP rear camera with Sony Exmor R sensor and f2.4 lens and flash, 16 digital zoom, 1080p video recording, 3D sweep panorama recording 1.3MP front camera Android OS 2.3.7, upgradable to 4.0 ICS WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS NFC $99 with contract, $449 without contract
Here's our Sony Xperia Ion video review. Our full written review will follow in the coming days.