We had a chance to play with Sony's Xperia U and though it doesn't pack Ice Cream Sandwich, a quad-core processor, or a ground breaking high-resolution 41-megapixel camera sensor, we still found plenty to like about the device.
Starting with the positive, the Xperia U houses a 3.5-inch 480 x 854 Reality display - the same size screen as seen on Apple's iPhone. Using a miniaturised version of the tech used by the company's Bravia series of televisions, we were pleasantly surprised at how crisp the display was.
What didn't sparkle during our time with the demo device was its 5-megapixel camera and 1GHz dual-core processor. While using the device we noticed that the photos - while perfectly decent - were slightly white-washed with the colours seeming flatter than we expected.
That said, this could just have been the conditions we took the photos in. Sony's booth's lighting conditions were polarised with the company's well lit floor being surrounded by darkness. These conditions could easily have contributed to the camera's lack luster opening performance.
The 1GHz dual-core processor was likewise a bit disappointing, in our time with the demo unit we noticed the occasional chug when loading large images - again this could change in the final build and could just as likely be a software rather than hardware glich.
Look and Feel
Without a doubt, the Xperia U's greatest strength is its visual allure. The device has a strong visual design, featuring a clear, transparent plastic strip that changes colour depending on what your looking at or listening to.
At its bottom, the Xperia U also houses an interchangeable plastic cap. Reminiscent of the old-school 3210's replaceable cover, the addition will let users change the device's exterior to match their taste - basically letting them add a bit of bling to the device.
Operating System and Software
The Xperia U will launch running Android 2.3 Gingerbread, not Google's frosty new Ice Cream Sandwich. However, Sony has confirmed that the U will get an ICS update sometime during Q2 2012 - which is good news considering Ice Cream Sandwich is so much sweeter than Gingerbread.
Past this, the device also houses a number of Sony's custom apps and features, including its xLOUD technology - tech that helps manage noise when using the device's speakers. Though we didn't get a chance to push the U's speakers to their limit at Sony's booth, the demos of the tech at full blast were impressive. During the company's demo video the sound being pumped out of the U was clearer and more legible than you would expect from such a small device.
Release Date Price
The Xperia U will be available in a number of colours - though in the UK Orange has already issued a statement confirming the white version will be available exclusively on its network - at some point in Q2 2012. Though Sony hasn't given the unit an official price the U is expected to be a mid-range smartphone weighing in at around the £300 mark.
Check back at the International Business Times UK close to the time for a full review.