Sony’s last few handsets have not impressed greatly. They’ve both been budget offerings, and very similar to each other. The Xperia miro is selling for around £160 while the Xperia tipo is around £120. Neither phone had any features that would make me choose them over others in a similar price bracket, and the same has to be said for the Xperia J, unfortunately for Sony.
In price terms, the Xperia J sits above the miro and tipo and Clove Technology is selling the Xperia J for £190.80 at I write this review. That’s a pretty serious price, and the headline features look alluring. There’s a 1GHz processor, for example, and Android 4.0 is on board, too, with a promised upgrade to 4.1 soon. These might lure you in. There’s also likely to be some interest from those who fancy the Xperia T because of its association with James Bond but don’t fancy its £380-ish price.
Certainly when you look at the Sony Xperia J there are some encouraging signs. The front of the phone has a characteristic tall thin appearance that is quite distinctively Sony’s style. The bottom and top edges are angled rather than flat, and this somehow makes the phone look a bit overly tall to me.
Still, the slopes, which are actually different angles at the top and bottom, stop at the silver trim that separates front from backplate. While the bottom edge is clear, the design means it's still possible for the headset connector to sit on the top edge in its most ergonomic location. The micro-USB connector is on the left edge and my own USB charge/connect cable that is used for numerous devices was not a very snug fit. Sony’s is a lot better.
That silver trim I mentioned is plastic like the rest of the phone, but it’s designed to look like chromed metal. It is echoed in the small right side power button, volume rocker, as a frame for the camera lens on the back, and inside the phone where it makes a rather gaudy visual accompaniment to the black battery.
Despite the fact that the Xperia J runs Android 4.0, Sony has opted for the old fashioned style shortcut buttons array beneath the screen, offering Back, Home and Menu/Settings buttons. To get to the newer multi-tasking feature, which is part of Android 4.0, you long-press the Home button.
The 4in screen delivers 854 x 480 pixels and it is bright and clear. There’s an array of colour-based themes to choose from for the phone. Your choice dictates the colour of an alert light that supplements the one sitting above the screen. This secondary light is on the very bottom edge of the phone, and apparently it pulses to deliver notifications. I say apparently because it didn’t want to work for me.
I was really worried about the screen’s touch sensitivity at first, as it was abysmal for the first few minutes after turning the handset on, failing to register where or what I wanted to. But it soon settled down and after subsequent reboots it worked well.
The same can’t be said for general performance though. There were clear pauses as I flicked between the five home screens resulting in a very jerky scrolling experience. When I went into the web browser and typed in a website address the search bar took ages to catch up with what I typed out on the keyboard.
Scrolling through loaded web pages was jerky too. That one example typifies performance generally, and added to that apps seemed slower to load than I’d expect from a 1GHz single-core processor. Probably the 512MB of supporting RAM doesn’t help, but Sony’s own skinning might also be part of the problem. Whatever the reason, it is no fun looking at a black screen while you wait for an app to run.
At least video rendered well, both when played from a microSD card and when streamed from YouTube. Sound volume is loud thanks to Sony’s xLoud system, but quality is not that good at the higher volume level.
Sony has skinned Android 4.0 and while I am not a fan of Sony’s Android skin in general, there are some nice elements. The lock screen lets you jump straight to the camera, which is very neat though like other apps it is slow to load. It’s a pity, too, that the camera itself has a bit of shutter lag and doesn’t do very well at all indoors. To add insult to injury video capture tops out at VGA resolution.
A Tools widget gives you quick access to toggles for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, screen brightness, GPS and so on and it’s vital as there are no pull-down settings for these on the notifications menu.
Best of all, perhaps, is Top Contacts, which comes in a range of sizes and automatically puts the people you have the most contact with just a screen tap away.
Like all new Sony handsets, Sony’s neat LiveWare app is here. This can be configured to automatically run an app when headset, headphones or charger are plugged in and it’s a super feature.
Sony lets its users down when it comes to internal storage, though. The specifications at Sony’s website say there is 4GB of internal storage, but only 2GB is user accessible and half of that is already occupied, so you’ll need a microSD card pretty quickly. And no, cards aren’t hot swappable. The slot is under the backplate and while it is not under the battery you will still need to remove the battery to get to it.
To end on a high, though, the 1,700mAh battery does a good job and most users ought to get through a day without recourse to the mains.
The Sony Xperia J is good in the looks department, and has some strong points on the features front including a couple of neat widgets and good battery life. But it is seriously let down by very poor speed and jerky performance. The promised upgrade from Android 4.0 to 4.1 might solve the problem, but I’m not sure I’d be happy to take a punt on that.
Manufacturer and model
Sony Xperia J
4GB (2GB user-accessible) / 512MB RAM
4in, 854 x 480 pixels
124.3 x 61.2 x 9.2 mm