Sony Xperia Tipo review
While most smartphones are busy bragging about the size of their LCD displays or the number of megapixels or gigahertz they pack, the Sony Xperia Tipo is confident enough to declare that small is beautiful. It's not a phone for tech-heads, but if you want a smartphone that you can use easily with one hand and then tuck away in your pocket, the Tipo deserves a closer look.
Available in a choice of Black, White, Red or Blue, the Tipo isn't exactly a slim phone - at 13mm it's nearly twice as thick as the iPhone 5, but it's quite a bit shorter and very lightweight at just 99g.
A phone this compact doesn't have a lot of space for a large LCD display, but the Tipo's 3.2 inch screen is typical for an entry-level smartphone. It's the same size as the HTC Explorer or the LG Optimus L3 for instance. The screen resolution of 320 x 480 pixels is in fact better than many smartphones in this price bracket. Just be aware that a screen this size isn't ideal for viewing photos or videos and the on-screen keyboard can be rather cramped.
Hardware & specs
The Tipo isn't going to come first in any races, but it has an average 800MHz processor that's fast enough to power a phone like the Tipo with its relatively small screen. The 512MB RAM is also sufficient for modest apps. When it comes to storage, the built-in memory is actually quite generous, at 2.9GB, of which about 2.5GB is available to the user. That's certainly a lot more than most phones in this price range. If that isn't enough, you can add a microSD memory card to give up to 32GB more. That ought to be plenty for anyone.
Ice Cream Sandwich
A smartphone is all about the operating system - that's what makes it smart. The Tipo runs Android 4.0, nicknamed Ice Cream Sandwich, which is very nearly the latest release. Competitors like the Samsung Galaxy Y run older versions of Android, so this is definitely an advantage of the Tipo. An upgrade to 4.1 Jelly Bean may become available too. Android includes many standard features of smartphones, such as email & messaging, contacts, facebook, a web browser, Google Maps, a calendar and an organiser. The Ice Cream Sandwich release includes voice-activated search.
Sony have added their own modifications to Android. These include a music player and a customisable home screen. There are in fact five home screens, and you can drag shortcuts and widgets onto these screens however you like. Timescape lets you view all your communications (facebook, twitter, etc) in one place. A data usage app lets you monitor your downloads so you don't end up with any nasty unexpected bills.
The Tipo is billed as a hassle-free smartphone. To this end, a dedicated set-up guide helps you to set up your Google and Facebook accounts and get everything going quickly.
Apps & music
There are now hundreds of thousands of downloadable apps available from Google Play. Many of these are free, or offer a free trial. You can also download content such as music, videos and books from Google Play. Sony's own Music Unlimited subscription service gives you access to millions of songs.
Speaking of music, the Tipo makes a pretty good iPod replacement. The music app can be placed on the home screen for convenience, and it works well, letting you create playlists, select music by artist, album, etc. An FM radio with RDS is also included. Sound quality through the speakers is better than many phones, thanks to Sony's xLOUD volume booster, and it sounds even better through a decent set of headphones.
You can set your music as ringtones too.
Who's that in the photo?
Photography isn't the Tipo's strongpoint. Fitted with a basic 3.2 megapixel camera with no flash, we wouldn't recommend taking photos after dark if you actually want to recognise any of your friends. The camera can record video at a grainy VGA resolution, but again, this isn't the right phone for budding directors.
When it comes to connectivity, the Tipo offers everything you could demand from a budget phone. It's a quadband GSM phone as well as having high-speed 3G HSPA for fast data connections. It connects to Wi-Fi hotspots and can even function as a Wi-Fi hotspot itself, connecting other Wi-Fi-enabled devices to the internet. In addition it has Bluetooth and USB connectivity and you can plug in a set of headphones via the 3.5mm audio jack.
Despite being a lightweight phone, the Tipo packs a real punch when it comes to battery life. Equipped with a much larger battery than most rivals (1500mAh), the Tipo can easily outlast most smartphones, getting perhaps a few days off one charge. Impressive.
Conclusion - good value for under £100
Sounding like a dinky Italian car, the Tipo is the cheapest and smallest phone to be released so far in the Sony Xperia range. In the sub-£100 smartphone sector, few phones stand out from the crowd, but the Tipo is one that does. Its highlights are a compact and lightweight form factor, Android Ice Cream Sandwich, generous built-in memory and of course that big juicy battery. The Tipo is an excellent starter phone, but you might also consider the HTC Desire C, LG Optimus L3 or Samsung Galaxy Ace.
Sony Xperia Tipo
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