Hands on: Sony Xperia Ion smartphone

With Ericcson joint venture disbanded, Sony shows off device with slick styling and multimedia features

The Sony Xperia Ion
Sony's new Experia Ion smartphone will be sold exclusively by AT&T in the U.S. starting in the second quarter. (Matt Hamblen/Computerworld)

LAS VEGAS -- Sony showed off its new Xperia Ion smartphone in the middle of its massive booth at CES here, drawing attention to its multimedia features and sleek styling.

The Xperia Ion is the first LTE smartphone from Sony, and will be sold exclusively by AT&T in the U.S. starting in the second quarter.

The phone on display at CES was labeled Sony Ericsson, though Ericsson is no longer part of the company. The label is expected to be changed to simply "Sony" once it receives regulatory approval, a booth agent said.

Kevin Burden, an analyst at ABI Research, said he liked the phone --"because it's just Sony now."

Many industry observers have said the Sony Ericsson partnership failed in some product areas, such as smartphones. There's been a feeling among some analysts that Sony has a strong reputation for its historic connection to music, movies and TV that will work better without Ericsson.

The new Xperia Ion pushes those multimedia capabilities with home screen controls of music and video. A 4.6-in. high definition display (1280 x 720 pixels) offers 720p video play. A 12 megapixel rear-facing still camera puts it in the upper range of what new smartphones offer, and Sony has made the rear-facing video capture 1080p, with the front camera at 720p.

All of those video capabilities should be well served by the faster AT&T LTE network, with the possibility of 10 Mbps downloads, and the phone's 1.5 Ghz dual core processor. An HDMI port will allow users to play the phone's movies, photos and video on a TV.

In the hand, the phone feels sleek. An aluminum back to the phone gives it durability and distinguishes it from many new multimedia-centric phones on the market that have a plastic composite back. One potential drawback is that there's no removable battery, something that Sony seems to have adopted from the iPhone.

The phone will launch with Android 2.3, but there's been no word on upgrade possibilities to Android 4.0, also called Ice Cream Sandwich, or pricing. By comparison, Verizon Wireless sells the new Samsung Galaxy Nexus which runs Android 4.0 for $300 with a contract.

Want more on CES? See our roundup of everything you need to know from CES and our interactive chart of top CES product launches.

Follow our staffers live from CES in Las Vegas Jan. 9-12 on Twitter @Computerworld/CES or via our CES 2012 RSS feed.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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