43 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on November 17, 2012
At around $250 (update: but the price seems to go up and down), the Sony Xperia Advance is a great value. Why, you might ask, since one can pick up a brand new iPhone 5 for $199 and various other smartphones for next to nothing? The answer -- and the key to appreciating this phone -- is that the Sony is unlocked. That means you aren't buying a subsidized phone that ties you to a two-year wireless contract at premium rates.
With an unlocked phone, you can avoid dealing with the major carriers direct. Instead, you can go to one of the companies that resell their services at a huge discount. Expect to pay around $45 a month -- with no extras -- for unlimited talk and text, plus as much data as anyone could be likely to use on a phone without doing much in the way of streaming. Over two years, you stand to save a lot of money by taking the unlocked route. (With this Sony, it's best to go to the AT&T resellers like Straight Talk and Pure Talk. It seems that you only get Edge data speeds if you use it on T-Mobile's network through one of their resellers and it won't even work with a Verizon or Sprint reseller.)
The other benefit of an unlocked phone is that you can use it with a local SIM when you travel overseas, or with a global SIM such as those sold by Telestial.
If you're sold on the unlocked concept, this is a great price for a pretty nice Android phone. It ships with the Gingerbread version of Android, but you can easily upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich (not the very latest Android version, but close). To upgrade, you need to connect it to a PC or Mac with Sony's (free) phone utility software. This upgrade method didn't seem intuitive at first, but once I figured that's what I had to do, it was seamless.
Sony's marketing makes much of the phone's rugged qualities. It can withstand water and dust in ways that most phones can't (not that I've ever regarded dust as a particular threat to my phones). The screen is claimed to be scratch-proof. And the plastic housing results in less scope for damage if you drop the phone. I haven't tested the limits of the ruggedness, and wouldn't advise doing so, but it's not one of those devices that seems to invite accidental damage.
So what's it like to use? With the disclaimer that I've only been using it for a few days, here are my impressions:
The screen is no retina display. But it's fine. Cell signal quality is excellent. WiFi reception seems about average. Call quality is good. The speaker is reasonably loud, and when I talk on the speakerphone, people don't complain about how I sound. The camera seems OK, although I haven't used it much yet (and there's no front-facing one for video calls). (Update: It is a bit slow, however.) One welcome feature that isn't mentioned on the Amazon page is a built-in FM radio, which I like to use while running. Battery life has also appeared OK. The back is a little hard to take off and put back on when you need to access the SIM card or SD slot.
Despite what you might expect of a phone marketed for its rugged qualities, the Sony Xperia Advance is quite thin and it weighs very little. Although I haven't put side-by-side with an iPhone, I'd say it's no bigger than an iPhone 4s and actually a bit thinner and lighter.
The iPhone 4s is a fancier unit in a number of ways, and the iPhone 5 is even more so. But unlocked versions of those units go for about $550 and $650 respectively (the unlocked version of the iPhone 5 hadn't begun to ship in the US when I wrote this review). And with phones that cost that much, you'll probably want to spend an extra $100 for the accidental-damage warranty. So you're paying up to three times as much as you would for this Sony. And an unlocked iPhone isn't ideal on wireless services like Straight Talk -- unless you jailbreak the unit, it's tough to get MMS messaging to work.
An obvious alternative to this Sony would be the unlocked Google Nexus 4, which launched at about the same time. That starts at $295, plus you usually have to pay for shipping (you can only buy it from Google direct). The Nexus 4 has a much larger screen than the Sony, which may be a plus or a minus, and has a fancier set of features overall (although it lacks an FM radio). It, too, is an outstanding value. But it is almost certainly less rugged. You'd probably want a case for the Nexus, which you should be able to do without on the Sony (I'm not even aware of a case being available). And, personally, I find buying from Amazon easier than from Google (the latter has an annoyingly unautomated returns system, for example). But either of these phones can make a lot of sense.
Although the Xperia Advance was new to the US in the fall of 2012, I gather it's more or less the same as a model that has been sold for a while longer in other parts of the world as the Sony Xperia Go. So if you're checking out other reviews, comments about the Go may also apply to this one.
In short, the Sony Xperia Advance is a great buy for someone looking for a very competitively priced, and somewhat rugged, unlocked phone from a first-class manufacturer and running a fairly up-to-date version of Android. It's not such an obvious choice for people who want the coolest or most feature-rich phone, or for people who want a very large screen. It seems to work well for me. I'm not shy of returning electronic items that disappoint. But this one is a keeper.
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on December 21, 2012
I've had the black Xperia Advance for a week and am quite happy with it (it's called the Xperia Go outside the US if you're looking for more reviews). It looks stylish, is light and truly pocket-sized, feels solid and satisfying in the hand, has a great-looking display (despite the relatively low resolution, see below), and sounds good for calls and media. I also like the Sony interface for Android (it's running Ice Cream Sandwich), which I find elegant in a technological way, and smooth. The phone froze once when using the camera, on the first day, but went back to normal after a quick restart and has been fine since. The battery life is great for my (pretty low) intensity of use: it looks like it would last a couple of weeks in standby and about a day with constant use, just like the specs say.
The niche market for the Advance isn't just people who get wet or dusty a lot, as most reviewers seem to suggest. Sure, the phone's most distinctive feature is its IP67 rating (which means it's sealed against dust and against water up to 3 feet deep for 30 min), but that isn't what drew me to the phone.
If you want a small and light smartphone (i.e. 3.5" screen) with a passable camera, up-to-date smarts, and no phone service contract (i.e. it's unlocked), then there are literally only 3 options (a search by specification on a phone review website will confirm this): the iPhone 4S ($550), the Sony Xperia U ($225), and the Sony Xperia Advance ($250). The iPhone is of course the best but costs twice as much. The latter two are nearly identical phones. The only drawbacks of the Advance are its lower screen resolution (see below) and lack of a front-facing camera (so no video calls). On the other hand, the Advance has a memory card slot, is IP67 rated, and records high quality video--unlike the U (see below).
According to the various websites that do direct comparisons, the 5 megapixel camera on the Advance compares favorably against other midrange smartphones. Here's my experience. 5MP is more than enough for everything but printing enlargements, so the resolution is fine. Sony has opted for minimal noise reduction, so the Advance photos retain fine detail at the expense of some graininess (or a heck of a lot of graininess in low light). I like that choice, because I can always smooth the images afterward in an editor to make them look like what comes out of an HTC One V, for example. Color reproduction is good when the phone gets the white balance right, but that's a mixed bag indoors, as with most digital cameras. Manually selecting an appropriate white balance rather than using the auto setting can often help but limits spontaneity. (And strangely, the camera doesn't understand the effect of its own LED flash on the white balance: my shots with the flash tend to come out yellowy.) The biggest problem with all phone cameras, however (and especially indoors) is their slow focussing: it is literally impossible to snap a picture of my toddler in action in the living room, so don't be fooled by the Sony promo showing a girl snapping a shot of her dog jumping behind the counter. Unless you have blazing studio lighting in your kitchen, that won't happen. Even then you'd have to focus on the counter rather than the dog.
So just beware that the Advance, like pretty much all smartphones, isn't quite as good as a middle-of-the-road point-and-shoot camera. On the other hand, when there's good light and predictable white balance, it does take nice photos that will look good on your computer or HD TV.
The 720p, 29fps video on the Advance is great, and according to samples and reviews all over the web, it's as good as it gets in smartphones (for 720p). Like the still shots, it's a bit on the grainy side if you're pixel-peeping, because Sony opted for minimal noise reduction, but there's great detail and it's smooth without stutters or much in the way of compression artifacts. The video bitrate is 12 Mbit/s, which I understand to be very high (good) for 720p video. Interestingly, despite having the same camera, the Xperia U produces terrible 720p video owing simply to excessive video compression (maybe intended to compensate for its 4GB storage cap with no memory card slot). The video quality is actually the reason I chose the Advance over the U -- not the IP67. If I'm trying to capture a surprise toddler moment with my Advance, video is the way to go.
Interestingly, the video capture on the Advance is better than on my middle-of-the-road point-and-shoot camera (which is a few years old though).
The Advance touchscreen has 165 pixels per inch, which is low by today's smartphone standards (it's the same as the iPhone 3). The U has 280 ppi and the iPhone 4S has over 300 ppi. The low pixel density is probably the major reason a potential customer might choose not to buy it, and it nearly turned me off. However, when viewed at 1.5 to 2 feet from your face, you literally can't tell the difference; your eyes just don't have the retinal resolution. The extra pixels on the U or iPhone come into play only when you hold the phone around 1 foot from your face. If you want to watch movies (other than YouTube) or browse the web with your phone 1 foot from your face (as many people do), then the extra pixels really will make a big difference. If you aren't going to browse or watch movies, then they're wasted. (Laptops are typically viewed from farther away than phones, so the fancy new MacBook Pro with Retina Display has just 220 ppi.) More important is the contrast ratio and color, and in these regards the Advance screen is great. It's really a pleasure to look at. The bright red, crisp hang-up button in the dialer made me fall in love with my Advance as much as anything else.
I mention this because before buying my Advance, I saw a couple of reviews that said the unusual plastic material used for the back cover (and sides and 'chin') felt cheap and took a week to get used to, and then I saw another review that said it felt very high-quality and gave good grip even when wet. Well, it's all about expectations and personal taste, and I guess phone reviewers handle dozens of phones that all feel the same. The plastic on the Advance has been described as like very fine grade sandpaper. I think it feels almost exactly like the coarse paper commonly used for printing novels, and I like it a lot. I almost wonder whether the eReader people should get this material from Sony to appeal to nostalgic bibliophiles.
I do have to say that the back cover (which simply snaps onto the main body) creaks a bit when I squeeze the sides: it's just the sound of the edges of the back cover moving ever so slightly against the main body. I checked for creaking when I first got the phone because I'd read about it in another review, but it didn't start until day 3 (no idea why -- maybe I just started squeezing it more). The phone feels very solid nonetheless, and the motion causing the creaking is almost microscopic.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on November 20, 2012
My previous phone was an iPhone 3GS which was getting a little slow...
The ST27A is snappy! I have found an Android counterpart for all the apps I use and learning the OS was quick. I walk and ride my bike in the rain a lot (Pacific North West) so I love that this phone is water resistant, and manageable in size.
It does everything I need: calls, texts, email, online banking and music playing. I know others use their phone for a whole lot more, but I am in front of a computer 12 hours a day so my phone does not have to act as full fledged computer for me.
The one down side for me is the smallish battery capacity so I need to charge every other day, or if I use it a lot every day. Reducing the display intensity will add a lot to your talk time! For me the compactness outweighs battery life. The phone even slips into my shirt pocket without sticking out.
My carrier is StraightTalk and the Unlimited service works really well with this phone. You need the ST27A (NOT the ST27i) and the AT&T compatible SIM card from StraightTalk make things work together.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on May 28, 2013
I got this phone because I really liked the idea of it being water ressistant. I have taken it to the pool and the beach, it is great not to worry about it getting a bit wet. I have also taken pictures and videos underwater, you just have to set the timer for the pictures or start recording outside the water since the touch screen will not work while submerged.
WIth the Jellybean update, It works even better. Everything opens quickly, Google Now is great help and you are now able to put apps in the tray into folders, so keeping everything in order is very easy. Also, it comes with Xperia with Facebook which allows you to upload pictures to facebook and sync the calendar, without the need of the facebook app. I went ahead and deleted the facebook app since it works much better from the internet browser.
Battery life is average, I get a day and a half of regular use, a day of intense use.
+ IP67 certified
+ Compact size
+ Great video cammera quality
+ Good build quality
- Low res screen
- Ram on the low side
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on January 30, 2013
I really loved my first Sony phone - the W810i, which is like the Windows Millennium Edition of phones. It was the only model at the time that didn't have A2DP Bluetooth Streaming Audio, but I liked everything else about it, so I kept it.
Fast forward four years and I finally upgraded to another Sony - the Xperia Mini Pro. It was great for about three months then the keyboard died.
I decided to give Sony one more chance, having some latent feelings of attachment toward that little green dot or something. I don't know.
What I do know is this phone does not work on the AT&T network where I live in South Carolina. Calls to tech support went about as well as you can imagine, and Googling for tips didn't solve my issue either. Some folks were lucky enough to get theirs to work, but mine would never get data.
However, I might have been able to live without data. Everything else worked, including WiFi, and I'm a very light data user.
But the specs on this phone are tragic. I had a limited grasp of what processor speeds and memory size meant for a phone, so I didn't pay too much attention to the reviews that said it was "sluggish". I wasn't sure what frame of reference they were measuring it by, so I figured, I'm not picky, I'll give it a try.
Holy. Crap. I updated it to Ice Cream Sandwich, since it still ships with Gingerbread. That probably should have been my first warning, actually, but hindsight, etc.
It took 34 minutes to upgrade, and after that, it was noticeably slower. I'm talking countable seconds between touching an app and the time it actually opened.
Now, please be aware that it's very possible that I got some kind of dud phone made on a Friday. Maybe your experience will be different. I'm just relating mine.
Between the slowness of the operating system and the fact that I couldn't get data to work, I ended up returning this phone.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on June 5, 2013
Perfect for my active lifestyle. I bike swim and workout on a daily basis and this phone keeps up. Now my iPhone 4S has broken, still usable but this phone is better. Keep in mind I do not play games, music, or any social networking on my phones. I simply text, occasionally surf the web, and mainly I use the phone to talk.
The phones plastic housing was made to maintain grip ability when wet so keep that build design in mind.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 13, 2014
I chose this phone due to its price, android platform and also due to the fact that it's water resist. Since I work around water equipment and irrigation it's a great convenience to have. Even for those days at the beach. Don't have to hide it in a towel!!
The issue I have with it is that it doesn't pack a very powerful processor and not very much RAM so it can get very sluggish after you've started to run a few apps. Since I am always on the go I need to be able to run these apps when needed, not tapping my foot for a minute waiting for an app to load. Feeling the phone vibrate for an incoming call and to pull your phone to a blank screen and blinking blue light will make anyone cringe. Especially after a few seconds when the persons' number shows up without their id. Even if you answer the call with the slider the phone continues to vibrate till the call drops out. You're then handed the embarrassing ordeal of calling back that number to explain to your friend/client that your phone wouldn't allow you to answer the call. I bet you they're laughing inside thinking what sort of phone is that?
Making calls can be stressful too. If I need to take more than minute to make a call from the first number on my call log list can get very annoying.
Even the Bluetooth connection to my headset disconnects and reconnects randomly.
Apps to avoid on this phone:
The phone works great after a hard reset but within a few hours it's back to its sluggish nature.
Like I said in my title, you get what you pay for. I am disappointed with this phone and I would not recommend it for app heavy users. For basic uses on an android platform seems to work great. If you're app heavy and still wanting a small water resist phone then the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact may be the better bet (Don't have it yet but the reviews are good). The price point for that phone is also more than 3 times the cost of this phone. Yea, I know, my jaw dropped too.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 7, 2013
Great phone if you work in a dusty or wet environment! Left it on my backyard table all night and a bad rainstorm came through. Found it 5' from the table the next morning, no problems whatsoever!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 25, 2013
I've had lots of problems with this phone since day one. It is way to slow and if you have 2 or 3 apps running at the same time and you get an incoming call, forget about it, you'll never be able to answer, the screen goes black and the option to answer doesn't appear.
wouldn't recommend it to a friend.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 20, 2013
this product is useful to me and I received it in good condition and recommend the optimal level of responsibility and seriousness of the store