The Sony Ericsson Xperia Active is a tough smart phone running Android 2.3. It's water-resistant and dustproof, and boasts microSD expansion and a 5-megapixel camera capable of shooting 720p HD video.
Contract prices for the Xperia Active weren’t available at the time this review was compiled, but SIM-free the phone will cost you around £250.
Should I buy the Sony Ericsson Xperia Active?
Most modern smart phones tend to conform to pretty rigid stereotypes. The race to produce the thinnest and lightest device shows no signs of abating, but it’s often forgotten that not everyone desires a svelte handset.
As theproved a few months back, there’s room in the market for a smart phone that can withstand the rough and tumble of the outdoor world. The Xperia Active takes this to the next level, and small screen aside, it trumps Motorola's rugged Android phone in almost every regard.
It's chunky, but otherwise perfectly pocket sized. We're also impressed with the fact that it's running, as well as the latest version of Sony Ericsson's much-improved Timescape user interface.
Add in 720p video recording and a super-responsive touchscreen, which works even when covered in water, and you've got the dream smart phone for lovers of the great outdoors.
After a poor start with the, Sony Ericsson has been surprisingly quick to ensure its phones are running the latest version of Android. The Xperia Active comes with Gingerbread installed, and what's more, it's a very recent iteration -- 2.3.4, to be exact.
This update includes the ability to make video calls using the Google Talk app and the phone's front-facing camera, as well as other minor bug fixes and enhancements.
As well as Android 2.3, the Xperia Active is running a modified version of Sony Ericsson's own Timescape user interface. We've already seen this on the Xperia Arc S, and we came away very impressed with the improvements.and
For example, the inclusion of swipe-to-type functionality in the onscreen keyboard is a real bonus. On the Active -- which has a quite a small display -- this proves to be invaluable. We also like the fact that you can now take a screenshot of your phone's display via a menu command. Apple'sand have boasted such a feature for ages, but very few Android devices have it.
Speaking of the small 3-inch screen, we're pleased to report Sony Ericsson has made some changes to the user interface to make it more manageable. The 'smart corners' concept -- first seen on the-- is back with a vengeance, and it allows you to tag four different application shortcuts to each of the display's four corners.
It's a fantastic system that not only saves time, but makes the phone's UI feel more intuitive. You can have all of your communication shortcuts -- such as text messages, email and your dialer -- tied to the top-left corner, while your media links -- music, YouTube, gallery and camera -- can be pinned to the top-right.
That means you can have access to 16 different apps using the smart corners interface alone -- and that's not to mention the number of shortcuts and live widgets you can spread across the handset’s five home screens.
Like the Motorola Defy, the Xperia Active is a smart phone that has been designed to survive the trials and tribulations of the outdoor world. It has the coveted IP67 certification, which means that it’s water resistant and dustproof.
Unsurprisingly, this level of protection from the elements has resulted in a pretty chubby handset. While the Xperia Active isn't a beast in terms of overall size, its thickness is a whopping 16.5mm.
This is largely due to the three-stage battery cover, which is designed to keep out water and dust particles. The rubberised back cover reveals a secondary cover when it's removed, and this provides a watertight seal around the handset's delicate innards.
The USB socket and headphone port are protected by sealed covers when they're not in use. Impressively, the phone prompts you to check these covers are in place after you've removed your USB cable or headphones, to ensure they don't get left open accidentally.
While it's almost twice the thickness of the, the Xperia Active doesn't feel like a porker. In fact, it rests quite comfortably in the hand, and will slip into most pockets without too much fuss.
We're slightly less keen on the fluorescent orange trim, which runs around the edge of the phone. It calls to mind some of the questionable design choices Sony Ericsson made when its Walkman phone range was first doing the rounds many moons ago.
While you're unable to rid yourself of that slightly obnoxious orange plastic, you can change the battery cover. The Xperia Active comes with a pearl white cover in the box, but it doesn't feel as rubberised as the black one. We preferred the default cover, but it's all down to personal preference.