The Sony Ericsson Xperia active has the latest version of the Android Market, featuring a facelift with a bit of WP7 styling. New sections are available such as Staff Picks, Editorís Choice and a dedicated Sony Ericsson tab, courtesy of the maker.
Upon launch of the Market app youíre greeted with the tiled interface of the Featured window. A swipe to the right takes you to the Categories view.
You have Top Paid, Top Free, Top Grossing, Top New Paid, Top New Free, Trending (the ones with growing popularity) and Sony Ericsson.
The Sony Ericsson pane is the place to get the company optimized apps. Itís something along the lines of the HTC Likes.
What we didnít quite like about the new Android Market layout is that youíll be forced to do a lot of scrolling if you want to go to a specific category and there isnít a listed or tabbed menu for quicker access.
Sony Ericsson's own store called PlayNow is also on board. There you can get a lot of free things for your phone - wallpapers, some games and apps or even music tracks.
So, this is an Xperia mini in a wetsuit. Some people will be less than impressed. One hand on the remote the other deep in that bag of chips. The kind that just canít be bothered.
The Xperia active on the other hand doesnít want to be on the safe side. It wonít take rain checks.
The rugged droid is at the end of our training range Ė sweating but not gasping. Hardly a surprise Ė we knew all along there was a solid smartphone inside the durable shell. The Xperia active delivers the complete Android experience. A neat little phone that does things almost as well as an Xperia arc.
Itís a well built phone too with a distinct outdoor styling. The first dust proof and water resistant droid by Sony Ericsson is well protected against the elements. The one thing to warn against is the less than stellar battery life. You know, itís a phone that can take a lot of abuse but not the right kind of gadget to spend days out in the wilderness with. However, if a rugged smartphone is a must, the Xperia active fits the urban survivor bill.
So, if youíre on the market for a durable smartphone, itís Android or nothing. The niche doesnít seem all that crowded but itís not free of competition either. A big (literally) rival of the Xperia active is the Motorola DEFY+, which builds on the original DEFY and adds, among other things, actual IP67 certification. Itís got a bigger and higher res display and a better battery to match. Weíre yet to see though whether a 1700 mAh Li-Po unit that needs to power a WVGA 3.7-incher will make that much of a difference. Otherwise the rest of the specs pretty much on par.
The Samsung Galaxy Xcover is another full-size rugged droid but obviously not as sophisticated as the Xperia active. With the right price tag though, it could be quite an attractive deal.
We think the compact size is quite an advantage for the Xperia active. If nothing else, it sets the phone apart from the competition. And the whole package is built on a concept thatís proven to work. In the entire Xperia lineup, the mini is the right one to have a rugged version of. Compromises are inevitable in the ultra-compact class. Screen size is among the few the Xperia active makes. This rugged droid is genuinely trying not to take too much space. And it doesnít mind living on the edge.