The Sony Xperia sola is a routine exercise in midrange smartphone making but Sony won't do without those if they're to quickly get where they want to be. This isn't about HD screens, quad-core CPUs and umpteen megapixel cameras - the Xperia sola goes by the 80-20 rule. That is, it tries to deliver 80% of the functionality for 20% of the price (okay, it's more like 50% here, but that's how technology works).
One of the corners Sony had to cut was Ice Cream Sandwich, which is expected sometime in the second quarter of 2012. On a second thought, ICS-powered devices are still hard to come by in this price range, so this probably isn't a major liability.
Competition is hot right now and even some in-house battles will be unavoidable. If you can live without the microSD card slot and keep within the 8GB of internal storage, the Xperia U is almost an exact match. The U comes with the cool NXT design scheme to make up for the 0.2" smaller screen and costs less than the Xperia sola, which could be a decider.
HTC has a runner here too. The One V lacks the dual-core processing but has ICS right out of the box, so the perceivable performance is not too bad. It has an edge in looks too, thanks to the aluminum unibody, but the nearly obsolete chipset is bound to have a damaging effect on the overall experience, ICS or not.
Samsung like to have their bases covered in every segment of the market. The Galaxy Ace 2 is built around the same chipset as the Xperia sola and matches its 5 megapixel camera, but doesn't look quite as good. It does have a slightly lower price tag to show for it, though.
If you are willing to reach just a little bit deeper in your pocket you can also try the Samsung Galaxy S Advance . The few extra bucks get you a larger AMOLED screen, but you'll still have to wait a few months for the ICS update.
LG has a strong candidate here - the Optimus 2X might be a bit dated now, but it is still superior to the Xperia sola in many ways. The first smartphone to come with a dual-core processor offers 1080p video capture, a larger 4.0" display and an 8 MP camera. It doesn't cost anything extra either, but its age shows in the rather chubby figure.
Even in the face of capable competition, the Xperia sola comes across as a solid effort. Its Floating Touch screen might not be the game changer Sony makes it out to be and it lacks the sophistication of its NXT brothers, but the boxy handset isn't without charms of its own. We liked the look and feel of the phone, and the solid build is a point in favor too.
Solid connectivity, good screen and a very decent chipset should be well on the shortlist of anyone wanting to get the most bang for their buck. It's now up to Sony to deliver the ICS update in timely manner and keep the Xperia sola ahead of the pack.