LAS VEGAS--I bet when you think of AT&T, chances are the words "bleeding-edge smartphone" don't immediately spring to mind.
Sony plans to reboot customer perceptions with its new Xperia Ion handset, the company's first 4G LTE device and phone to bear the Sony moniker.
Besides breaking new ground as one of the few handsets to access AT&T's burgeoning LTE infrastructure, the Xperia Ion is the first launched under the Sony brand name, rather than Sony Ericsson. Also impressive are the phone's massive 4.6-inch (1,280x720-pixel) HD resolution screen, 1.5GHz dual-core CPU, and roomy 16GB of internal memory.
Designed to put multimedia center stage, the Xperia Ion features another mobile milestone, a pair of HD cameras. The main, rear capture device is equipped with an ultrasharp 12-megapixel sensor and LED flash. Sony representatives here at CES 2012 assured me that all the imaging bells and whistles are here, such as face recognition, smile capture, and panorama, plus a host of other shooting modes. It's also built for speed with the phone being designed to snap pics back-to-back in less than 2 seconds. The Xperia Ion's front-facing camera is noteworthy too, able to record stills and video in 720p HD resolution.
Another novelty is the handset's PlayStation certification, meaning the Xperia Ion can play a selection of specially ported PlayStation game titles. Additionally, the phone supports the Sony Entertainment Network, which includes the Music Unlimited and Video Unlimited content streaming and rental services. I'll reserve judgment as to how compelling these features are though until I test them personally. For sharing media among home entertainment products in the living room, the Xperia Ion sports a handy HDMI port as well.
What's not so nice about the Xperia Ion is its older Android 2.3 Gingerbread operating system. Sony reps, however, did confess that a future upgrade to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich is in the cards. Salivating for an Xperia Ion yet? You'll have to wait until the second quarter of 2012, since that's when Sony expects the device to hit AT&T store shelves.