This week I finally gave up on my year old phone, an HTC One V. I cracked the (so-called Gorilla glass) screen some time ago. The USB socket had been loose ever since I got it, making recharging a hit or miss affair. But even more annoying were the software glitches: larger app updates downloading but refusing to install, and, worst of all, a very sluggish address book, which seemed to take forever to populate. Whatever else modern phones may be used for, if they don’t fulfil the basic function of making phone calls, they are next to useless. The final straw was that when I received a call I could hardly hear the caller and could find no way of increasing the volume.
So I needed a new phone. But with a whole year left to run on my two year contract my only option was to buy one – either unlocked or PAYG on T-Mobile, my network operator. I therefore started to look at what was available, both online and high street shops. This is what I was looking for:
- Android 4.1 or better (Android for a shared OS environment with my Nexus 7 tablet, and Google calendar and address book) – which ruled out Windows phones and therefore Nokias.
- Screen size between 4.0 and 4.5 inches – I like to carry my phone in my pocket and therefore don’t like large phones.
- At least 1 GB ram for speedier performance.
- Camera specs not particularly important – If I want to take photos I’ll use my compact zoom camera.
- Onboard storage not particularly important either, though at least 8Gb would be handy. I don’t run a lot of apps on my phone – that’s what my tablet is for. A slot for my micro-SD would be helpful though, so I could transfer the card from my own phone.
- Last but not least, total cost £150-200.
In short I was looking for a low to mid range phone.
One phone I had ruled out as being over my budget was the Nexus 4, but which had been widely regarded as setting the standard for mid-range phones. Imagine my surprise and joy when it was announced that Google had suddenly dropped the price of the Nexus 4 to £169. I immediately placed an order on the Google Play site and received a message back that my phone would be despatched on 10th September. Imagine also my surprise and annoyance when I checked Google Wallet a few days later and discovered that my order had been unilaterally cancelled by Google, on the basis that I had exceeded the maximum order. (I had ordered one!) In desperate need of a new phone, I reluctantly decided not to bother reordering from Google.
In the end, I bought a Sony Xperia M for £180 from Carphone Warehouse. This is a newly launched model, joining the rapidly growing (and confusing) Xperia range. So far initial impressions have been very positive. A similar size and weight to my old One V, the Xperia has a slightly larger screen size, albeit it at a slightly lower pixel density. The display of the Sony does however seem more vibrant. The rubberised plastic case of the Sony doesn’t measure up to the solid feel of the aluminium unibody case of the HTC; on the other hand metal cases chip easily and soon show their age (I had a similar problem with my last camera). The main advantage of the Xperia is speed – with double the RAM of the HTC scrolling is smoother and web pages load faster. I prefer Sony’s take on Android compared to HTC’s Sense UI – and especially important, the address book works!
Technology has of course moved on in a year. The Xperia has DLNA connectivity for streaming media and NFC connectivity for contactless transactions, which would be handy if I could figure out how to use them. It also has a dedicated, physical camera button – why don’t all smartphones have one of these?
There have been a couple of negatives: the T-Mobile SIM card from my One V was too large for the Xperia, though that was easily remedied with a pair of scissors. More serious is the removal of the ability to move apps to the SD card. Of the 4GB internal storage, only 2GB is available to the user, limiting the number of apps that can be stored. So far this has not been a problem, though.
My initial impression of the Xperia M is that it is a attractive and competent phone. It obviously lacks the features and the finish of top of the range phones such as the HTC One X, Samsung Galaxy S4 and Sony’s own Xperia Z, but then all these cost three times as much as the M. And unlike these phones, the Xperia M fits in my jacket pocket. It should certainly do for the remainder of my present contract.