A year ago I might have said the Sony Xperia ion is a good phone. Now it's just outdated.
The main problem with the phone is its software. It's got an awesome design, good hardware and a nice size, but because it runs on the Android Gingerbread operating system, now two generations outdated, the phone is simply not a good purchase.
The Xperia ion is the first Sony-branded smartphone to arrive in the U.S. It has a 4.55-inch, 1,280 by 720 HD LCD screen. That's pretty good, but it's not the best. Though you can run apps and watch movies and be satisfied, there are times where the colors look a little off.
Powering the phone is a 1.5 Ghz Qualcomm Snapdragon S3 dual-core processor with 1 GB of RAM, which runs well though feels like it has a bit of a lag. This isn't all the hardware's fault though -- the blame again here goes to Gingerbread.
Besides the standard power and volume buttons, the phone has a mini-USB port for its charger, a mini-HDMI port to connect to your TV and a dedicated camera button. But it won't launch the camera for you; you have to open the camera app first.
The camera, which is 12 megapixels and has an LED flash, takes photos that you could proudly upload to Facebook, but don't count on it for much more than that. The front-facing camera is on par with other smartphones' and should only be used for video calls.
The phone is beautiful to look at. The bold black is signature Sony, and its curved, metallic-feeling back are aesthetically pleasing. But in the end the design is outdated as well. Though the phone will fit in palm and pocket, others, notably the Samsung Galaxy S III, simply fit better, take up less space and don't weigh as much.
As far as its connectivity, the Xperia runs on AT&T's 4G LTE network, but in the locations I used it the phone usually reverted to the carrier's standard 4G network. Connecting to Wi-Fi networks was more painstaking than it should have been.
Sony messed with the Gingerbread interface slightly, but it doesn't hamper the experience. It added a cool app called Timescape, which also happens to be the name of the interface, that presents feeds from your social networks including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Foursquare in a helpful widget that doesn't intrude on the rest of the main screen.
The company also tossed in a feature that essentially will turn your TV into a smart TV when you connect your phone to it over HDMI. Once hooked up, you can enjoy all your content and open any app, and none of the views are compromised or changed. That's pretty awesome.
What isn't awesome is that, although the Xperia ion will eventually move up to Ice Cream Sandwich and be just one Android version behind, no date for that update has been set.
The Xperia ion is available for $99 on a two-year contract with AT&T. That's not a bad price to pay for a phone that, for the most part, will keep you in the same league as your friends with better phones. What is bad is the two-year contract.