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Sony Ericsson Xperia Neo V leads Android 2.3.4 upgrade charge

Sony Ericsson's latest awkwardly named smart phone is its first to feature Android 2.3.4 software, which adds a bunch of handy features.

Following Monday's Live with Walkman, Sony Ericsson has revealed its second awkwardly named phone of the week, the Xperia Neo V. The Neo V -- as in the Roman numeral for 5 -- is intended as a replacement for the Xperia Neo from earlier this year.

Sony Ericsson also promised new software for all of its Xperia phones released in 2011. That's the Xperia Play, Arc, Neo, Pro, Mini, Mini Pro, Active and Ray. These lucky phones will be getting an update to Android 2.3.4, which will be preinstalled on the new Neo V. The major changes include a new '3D sweep panorama' mode, a version of Google Talk with video chat enabled, and T9 Trace, a keyboard similar to Swype.

Not such good news if you have an X10, X10 Mini or X10 Mini Pro, or the X8 -- the X10 was updated to 2.3 recently but won't go any further, and the rest are stuck on even staler versions of Android.

You might assume that the Neo V has been improved from the original Neo. While the two phones look virtually identical, however, the only thing that separates them, aside from a change of colour, is the camera. Sadly, it's been downgraded rather than improved, making the new Neo V more of a PSP E-1000 than an iPhone 3GS.

When we reviewed the original Xperia Neo, one of the things that impressed us most was its 8-megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor, which produced stunning images even in low light conditions. In the Neo V, this has been replaced with a 5-megapixel unit, probably the same one found in other Sony Ericsson phones such as the Mini. So, we can expect image quality and low light performance to drop, though it will still support 720p HD video.

This may seem a strange move by Sony Ericsson, but its hand might have been forced. GSMArena suggests the Japanese earthquakes earlier this year have caused difficulties in the manufacturing of the 8-megapixel sensor and its saving its limited stock for the flagship Xperia Arc.

Nothing has been said, however, about when this update will be available. Likewise, there was no mention of a release date or pricing for the new Xperia Neo V, though we can assume that, with a downgraded camera, it will be priced less than the original Neo.

Do you think the Neo V is a smart move by Sony Ericsson? Is its release really a necessity? We'd love to hear your opinions, so let us know in the comments section below or on our Facebook wall.