Design and Build
Obviously in a phone that prides itself in being able to take a couple of knocks, build trumps design. For this reason, the Sony Ericsson Active is ironically chubby, measuring in at a plus-size 16.5mm deep. It’s pretty small, though, with just a 3-inch touchscreen display on the front and the standard Android buttons on the bottom. Importantly, it feels solid, weighty – tough, and there’s a specialist metal loop on the bottom of the phone where you can attach a lanyard to it.
The design is aesthetically pretty basic. The casing is black plastic with some brushed aluminium flashes around the screen, and there’s a flourescent orange stripe that shows where the dust and water resistant case splits apart to reveal the phone’s juicy underbelly. The battery, micro-SD and the SIM card are all hidden behind another protective metal layer once you’ve prised the case off, and when it’s all sealed up it’ll sit perfectly happily in a glass water while you ring it.
The Xperia Active runs vanilla Android 2.3 Gingerbread – no fancy overlays or skins here. The processor is a 1GHz Snapdragon chip, and there’s 512MB of RAM, so for its size and price it’s a nippy little thing, too. The 3-inch touchscreen is adequately bright and responsive, although when the screen is wet the repsonsiveness drops almost completely – the display has to be dry before the phone will respond to your prodding fingers.
This won’t come as a surprise – the multimedia offerings on the Active aren’t up there with the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S or Xperia Play. That said, you can’t work those handsets from the bottom of a lake. There is a camera on the back (no front facing camera, video-calling fans), and that will snap away at 5MP while recording video at 720p. The photos we took were a little grainy compared to some 5MP cameras we’ve used on other smartphones, but again, they can’t take pictures or record video under water, unlike the Xperia Active.
Videos look fine in YouTube, although the speaker goes from sounding quite tinny to just awful when the phone gets wet. Again, though, for anyone buying this phone, audio quality will be a secondary concern to the handset’s general ruggedness.
The Sony Ericsson Xperia Active is clearly pitched at sporty types looking for a phone that also makes a good running companion (the phone even comes packaged with an arm strap that contains a clear plastic wallet for the handset). If this is what you’re after, it’s a brilliant device. We submerged the phone completely in water, made calls on it, took pictures and recorded video; we really did give it every excuse to break down. If all you need it for is the occasional jog in the rain, go for it.