While we don't want to pigeon-hole anyone, it's clear that the Xperia
Ray will appeal to users who are new to smartphones. That's a good
thing though, and Sony Ericsson has really thought about its audience
and has designed the phone to appeal to those people.
For example, there are several colours available, from a bog-standard
black, to a tasty champagne sort of shade, which is the colour we got
as a review sample. We liked this, it's a bit different and the phone is
incredibly good-looking as a result.
There are three buttons on the front surface. Two are soft-keys for
back and the context sensitive menu control. The third is a hardware
home key, which is located between the other two controls. This layout
breaks a little from the standard Android form, but we like it, and it
works well. The home key is surrounded by a notification light too, that
glows green or red, to keep you updated as to what the phone status is.
For normal use though, it just glows with a standard backlight
blue/white colour. The home key can also be used to wake the phone up,
as can the power button, which is located at the top of the handset,
next to the headphone jack.
The only real design flaw we could find, early on, was that the
screen is slightly raised, and not flush with the case. This was a
worry, because we thouhgt we'd catch our fingers on it, and enjoy a less
than fluid touchscreen experience. We needn't have worried though, we
never noticed it when we actually started using the phone.
The thing we were most worried about, after the ridge on the screen,
was the display size. We're used to smartphones with massive screens,
and the Ray has a pretty tiny one. In practice though, and like Ericsson
phones of old, the fact that the screen has such a high resolution
means that you never really notice that it's physically smaller.
Indeed, the Xperia Ray has a 297ppi display, thanks to 854 x 480
pixel squished into a 3.3-inch unit. That's just 29ppi fewer than the
iPhone 4 with its Retina display. It shows too, because the Sony
Ericsson has one of the crispest, most detailed screens we've seen. It's
actually very impressive when you take your first look at it. Compare
it with most Android handsets, and it will immediately stand-out from
the other devices.
The only slight issue we did have, was that because the screen is
physically small, that can mean typing on it is hard. Honestly, this is
likely to be more of a problem for men, with larger fingers. If you're a
lady or gentleman with dainty digits, this will not be a problem.
It's also worth pointing out that, although the screen has a very
high resolution, that doesn't prevent the phone from feeling a little
cramped when you're browsing a webpage. This is inevitable with smaller
screens and there's no amount of extra resolution that can really help.
One big surprise was that Sony Ericsson has fitted the Xperia Ray
with a 1500mAh battery. This is the same capacity as you'd find in
phones with much larger screens and it is this that gives the Ray a
boost in battery life.
With over an hour of phone calls, we still got around 14 hours or so
from the phone. We could tweak the backlight a little, or cut down on
web browsing, or other applications that use background data. But, we
were pretty happy with the amount of time the Xperia could keep going
Sony installed gubbins
The Xperia Ray, like other Sony Ericsson handsets comes with a few
nods to its coporate overlords. And to be honest, as with all Sony's
ventures, it's here things go a little lame.
There are apps for Sony's streaming and download service for both
music and movies. Both seem to work fine, but a movie - I Am Number Four
- costs £12 to buy, in standard definition. That's actually more than
it costs on DVD, to have it on a phone with a tiny screen. Laughable, it
The Music Unlimited app is a bit of a faff too. Firstly, it's not
installed, you click its logo and you have to go to a web page, which
then sends you on to the Android Market. This is traditional big
corporation thinking here, and it's every bit as annoying as always.
Once you download and install it, the app is much like, say, Spotify. It
lets you stream music over the Internet, direct to your phone. You do
have to pay a monthly subscription for that though. All-in-all, we
suggest getting music from Amazon. It's much cheaper, and less
There is one bright spot though. Sony also includes TrackID, which is
a piece of software that can help you identify a song, and then buy it.
It works with the built-in radio too, so you can find out what music
you like without having to wait for a DJ to mention it - which they
never do anyway. We tried this software a few times, and it never
failed. Very cool indeed.