Sony’s Xperia Tipo is the most recent dinky smart phone from the Japanese tech giant, this time aimed squarely at those of you with small hands gripped tightly around tiny purses.
It lays claim to being a bother-free, easy-to-use bargain. But if penning the slapdash, glitchy software for the Tipo (pronounced “Typo”?), did Sony’s programmers leave auto-correct switched off?
You can bag the Tipo on prepaid for £100 or pocket it free on two-year pay-monthly contracts starting at £7.50 a month.
Should i purchase the Sony Xperia Tipo?
No. As a minimum, not until Sony releases some serious bug fixes to shore up software stability at the device. I had no end of trouble with it — with glitches proliferating and causing more disruption than gremlins at a pool party. Because it stands, it’s simply not reliable enough to be worth your investment, notwithstanding how affordable it sounds.
It’s also worth noting that while cheap, £100 can now bag you a prepaid ‘droid with a 1GHz chip and a 4-inch screen, provided you do not mind owning a Huawei handset, in preference to a Sony-branded blower.
The Huawei Ascend G300 offers a miles superior Android experience to the Tipo, because of an excellent software base and higher hardware. If it is the promise of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) that attracted you to the Tipo, it’s worth noting that the Gingerbread-flavoured G300 is additionally due an ICS update soon.
If the G300 doesn’t take your fancy, there are other, more reliable contenders in your cash equivalent to the marginally cheaper T-Mobile Vivacity or, for a couple of quid more, the Samsung Galaxy Mini 2.
Android 4.0, apps and bugs
As mentioned above, the Tipo is powered by Android 4.0 ICS. That’s now not the newest version of Google’s operating system — that honour goes to Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. Nevertheless it at the least sounds very modern for a phone with any such low cost tag.
You’re not given each of the features of ICS though. Notably, you aren’t getting to unlock the handset through facial recognition because the Tipo doesn’t have a front-facing camera. And because the telephone is skinned with a layer of Sony’s software, you fail to notice the Tron-esque feel and look — probably the most noticeable changes ushered in with ICS.
All of this suggests the variation between bagging a Gingerbread ‘droid and the Tipo, with its nipped and tucked ICS, isn’t as great as you would think.
Having ICS for £100 may sound like a bargain but hold your horses. I encountered plenty of bugs during my time with it — some so serious I needed to reset the device repeatedly simply to restore basic functions. The sort of instability was routinely related to early versions of Google’s OS, so it’s disappointing to revisit the bad old ‘droid days with a tool that runs ICS.
To add insult to injury, Sony is marketing the Tipo with the unlucky slogan, ‘your hassle free Android smart phone’. Hassle free? Reassess.
I encountered more bugs using the Tipo than on another glitchy budget blower I reviewed recently — the lowly Gingerbread-powered LG Optimus L3. Just like the L3, the Tipo had trouble with Google’s Play store. Initially it was fine, and that i was in a position to download various apps. Then the shop suddenly stopped working.
The phone claimed there has been a ‘connection error’, despite having both Wi-Fi and 3G networks available. At this point, the Gallery also stopped functioning and just a factory reset restored function to both. The Gallery flaked out several times during testing and continued to be flaky after several factory resets.
I also bumped into other issues of the Tipo. Initially, it didn’t sync Gmail, while various apps crashed and/or were generally troublesome. As an instance, the USB file transfer link to get media off the telephone and onto a computer also stopped working — requiring an extra factory data reset for functionality to be restored.
In short, the Tipo’s software stability sucks and Sony must perform a little serious patching to realize a suitable level of stability.
On top of ICS, Sony has added its custom Android interface tailored slightly to slot the Tipo’s tiny screen. This skin provides you with the standard multiple home screens to fill with apps and widgets. But because the screen is so small, the scope for information-packed widgets is restricted.
Elsewhere, the Tipo comes pre-loaded with Sony services reminiscent of its PlayNow store, where you could download apps, music, games, wallpapers and so forth — just like Google’s Play Store (also pre-loaded but not always working). For much more media choice, you furthermore mght get Sony’s Music Unlimited service and — confusingly — two galleries: Sony’s Xperia Gallery and a traditional Android gallery.
Quite why Sony thinks it’s useful to have two how you can view photos at the Tipo is beyond me — especially because the phone then prompts you to inform it which way you need to view photos (until you decide a default viewer). Hassle free? Hardly.
The 3.2-inch screen is another big low point, with a lowly resolution and a distinctly unresponsive feel.
Resolution is 320×480 pixels, which equates to a trifling 180 pixels per inch. It isn’t the worst resolution I’ve encountered. For instance, it’s easier at the eye than even cheaper ‘droids corresponding to the LG Optimus L3 or the Samsung Galaxy Y. But it’s low enough to make staring at it for longer than about a moments more of a chore than a delight.
Still, with a screen this size, you were never going to be doing rich web browsing or watching full-length films. This pane’s size is adapted to texting, a place of app-based social networking and light-weight gaming.
Arguably, much more annoying than the low pixel count is the unresponsive feel of the Tipo’s pane. i discovered i wished to press quite hard to get it to register my taps and swipes. Apply even relatively light pressure to the pane and you will have to monitor your finger marks fade off the skin of the TFT panel where they’ve just been imprinted.
Apply less pressure and you can stop the pane flexing into the skin of the screen — thus avoiding finger marks. But with lighter presses, i discovered myself having to tap away multiple times before the telephone would fan the flames of the app i used to be attempting to open. Again: hassle free? Not a little bit it.
Power and performance
Even when it isn’t crashing or flaking out or feeling irritatingly unresponsive, don’t expect great feats from the tiny Tipo with regards to power and function. It’s driven by a single-core 800MHz processor, so this isn’t a phone for blasting through graphically demanding games. Not that it might be worth seeking to do this in this tiny, low-res screen.
It’s not all bad though. The Tipo can offer okay performance for basic stuff like calls, texts, checking Facebook, playing about a simple games and snacking on mobile websites. When the glitchy gremlins are hiding, the Tipo can feel pretty nippy for this kind of tiddler, letting you swoop through menus and skim mobile websites without lashings of exasperating lag. It’s certainly slicker than another budget ICS blower — HTC’s awfully sluggish Desire C, which only packs a 600MHz chip.
But the Tipo is lots more buggy. Lean more heavily on it and it will soon decelerate (if it doesn’t fall down).
In graphics and CPU benchmarks, the Tipo was a barrel scraper — scoring just one,527 on Quadrant’s test and a pair of,766 on Antutu’s benchmark.
If you’re wondering about its music credentials, the Tipo can pump out reasonably loud noise considering how tiddly it really is. i did not hear any distortion on the prime quality.
Sony has added its xLoud tech to the telephone, which apparently enhances the loudness of the rear speaker. i could not hear an enormous difference but it surely sounded slightly louder with xLoud on.
Call quality is average to poor, with voices sounding muffled and a background hum in evidence. On one test call, the individual i used to be talking to had trouble hearing me for portions of the decision.
Battery life is at the very least not something you’d have to worry about. Sony’s marketing bumpf claims the Tipo’s long-life battery can last a whopping 24 hours’ use on a single charge. That sounds unbelievably long — considering the official usage stats are a bit of more modest: as much as 5 hours of talk time, as much as 3 hours of video playback or as much as 30 hours of music listening. Standby time is pegged at as much as 470 hours.
I found battery performance to be pretty good. When you are a normal phone user that you must easily get a day’s use out of the Tipo before needing to charge it.
Design and build
The Tipo is quite small — certainly by today’s phablet standards. The display measures a trifling 3.2 inches at the diagonal, so in case you have big hands or fat fingers, typing at the Tipo will inevitably lead to it living as much as its typo-sounding name.
Of course, then again, small-handed folk do not have trouble grappling with this phone. It’s palm sized and will be tucked away into all however the tiniest of pockets.
The back of the telephone has a tactile, soft, round-edged matte coating that feels slightly rubberised, making it pleasingly pebble-want to hold. It is also very lightweight (99.4g) and reasonably thin (13mm), considering its small footprint.
The Tipo’s next most distinguishing feature is a sloping, recessed chin that sits beneath the touchscreen. This does not do anything aside from rope off a VIP area for the Xperia logo to take a seat on nevertheless it breaks up the elemental slab shape slightly.
Build quality feels average for a predominantly plastic blower. Apply some pressure to the removable back and it’ll flex, creak and pull open on the sides so it truly is definitely not a rock-solid slab.
Sony is offering the Tipo in a decision of 2 bright colours — red or blue — together with two less inspiring choices — black or white.
As well as three touch-keys at the front of the telephone, used to navigate round the OS — back, home and menu — there is a power key on top, which i discovered a touch hard to press because it’s extremely low lying, and a volume rocker at the side.
Ports wise, you get a micro-USB port at the side for charging the telephone and ferrying media from side to side, and a three.5mm headphone jack up top. Crack off the back and take away the battery and you may get to the SIM and microSD card slots.
Internal cupboard space stretches to two.5GB but it is easy to expand this by sticking your personal SD card within the phone.
Around the back of the Tipo is a three.2-megapixel camera. The very first thing to notice is there is no flash, so abandon all thoughts of papping your buddies after dark. The second one thing to notice is there is a fixed focus — expect a lot of your shots to be blurry.
Even in daylight, shots from the Tipo look blotchy, noisy and slightly surreal, with brighter colours bleeding out and more muted tones appearing scrubbed in their detail. If you are after a lens that may capture crisp images, this is not it. The perfect you are able to hope for from the Tipo is a few really poor quality Facebook snaps.
Likewise, don’t expect anything better than YouTube quality clips if you are shooting a video in this phone.
The Sony Xperia Tipo doesn’t cost much but its diminutive price ticket isn’t sufficiently small to catch up on awfully buggy software — so my advice is to influence well away from this phone.
A glitchy implementation of Android drizzled over uninspiring hardware is not any one’s idea of a delectable smart phone.
Even if Sony puts out software patches to enhance stability, the Tipo won’t ever get a more in-depth screen or a more powerful processor. Even supposing your budget isn’t big, there are better ‘droids on the market. Spending £100 can bag you a 1GHz chip and a transparent, roomy 4-inch screen within the sort of Huawei’s excellent Ascend G300. Additionally it is worth considering emptying the contents of your piggy bank for the T-Mobile Vivacity or the Samsung Galaxy Mini 2.
Additional writing and reviewing by Luke Westaway.