As much as we focus on the higher end of the smartphone food chain here at Android Central, there's been no shortage of innovation among budget phones over the past year. Hardware which just a couple of years ago would've set customers back £300 or more is now coming in at around the £100 price point. With this comes proof that you don't have to break the bank to to be part of the world of smartphones.
The Xperia Tipo is one such device -- with an 800MHz CPU, 512MB of RAM and a £100-120 price tag, the Tipo is undeniably a budget smartphone. But with the inclusion of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, Sony manages to deliver a solid, reliable user experience at a relatively humble asking price.
The Tipo is the definition of cheap and chearful -- a small, light, compact smartphone with a reasonable price point. The 3.2-inch HVGA (320x480) screen may be a turn off to those accustomed to the 4.3-inch-plus panels of more expensive phones, but that kind of device isn't for everyone. Physically, it's very similar to last year's Xperia Active -- it sports a curved, soft touch back panel that contrasts with its glossy front, which houses three capacitive buttons. The design is simple and elegant, and despite its budget leanings, the Tipo doesn't look or feel cheap.
On the software side, we've got Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich in addition to Sony's UXP NXT software. Sony's UI skin hasn't changed much since earlier Gingerbread-based builds, but what's most striking about its ICS efforts is its performance. It's speedier than you'd expect from an 800MHz chip, and it puts most of Sony's Gingerbread phones -- including dual-core models -- to shame when it comes to responsiveness. Despite the bump up to ICS, most Sony's own apps, such as Calendar, Messages, Music, PlayNow and Music Unlimited remain unchanged.
One area which has suffered, however, is the camera. Sony's included a 3.2MP fixed focus rear camera on the Tipo, and it's pretty dismal, even for a budget camera. Video recording is limited to VGA (640x480) resolution too, which is adequate for playback on the Tipo's small screen, but little else.
We'll be testing the Sony Xperia Tipo thoroughly over the next week or so, so check back soon for a full review. In the meantime, we've got more photos and hands-on video after the break.