Xperia active

Last night we dropped in on the Sony Ericsson Summer Showcase (aka Xperia Party) in London's Mayfair district, to check out some of the manufacturer's upcoming Android phones. One of the stars of the show was the tiny Xperia Active, a small but ruggedized phone designed for outdoorsy types who don't want to worry about a little dust, dirt or water getting in the way of playing Angry Birds in the middle of a hardcore kayaking session. The Active demo units at the Xperia Party were frequently dunked in nearby glasses of water to demonstrate its water-resistant features, which includes Sony Ericsson's unique "wet finger tracking" tech, allowing touchscreen use even when there's water on the screen.

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Join us after the jump for a full run-down of the Xperia Active's features, along with a hands-on video tour and a bunch more photos.

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With the Xperia Active, Sony Ericsson has taken the tried and true specs of its earlier 2011 Xperia phones and brought them into a smaller, tougher chassis designed for "active lifestyles". While a 1GHz Snapdragon CPU is certainly no longer cutting edge, it's nothing to sniff at either, especially in a device that's not necessarily aimed at the high end of the market. There's also the same 1GB of internal storage (with 320MB free for apps) and 512MB of RAM that we've seen in many other handsets, so nothing out of the ordinary there. That said, its a proven combination of tech that's powered many of our favorite Android devices over the past year.

Many ruggedized smartphones shamelessly sacrifice aesthetics during the design process, (hey there, Casio G'zOne!) but that's not the case with the Xperia Active. We're big fans of its compact design, which combines a relatively clear front with an orange trim and rubber-textured back. It feels tough, but at the same time sleek and pocketable.

The screen itself is a 3-inch, HVGA (320x480) LCD with Sony's "Reality Display" and Mobile Bravia Engine. We've already been impressed by these technologies on the Xperia Arc and Neo, and it's great to see them on a smaller device like the Active. And we're fine with HVGA on a screen of this size too -- anything else would probably be overkill.

Around the back you'll find the Active's 5-megapixel camera, which supports HD video capture. It's not the same Exmor R sensor that's included with other Sony Ericsson handsets, but at least the Active does offer something those phones don't -- underwater photos and video recording.

Speaking of water resistance, the official specs have put the Xperia Active as being able to withstand up to 1 meter of water for 30 minutes. So you're not going to be checking your emails from the ocean bed, but still, the device should be able to withstand any impromptu falls into puddles, pools and the like.

The Xperia Active's runs Android 2.3.4 with Sony Ericsson's own custom UI layer. Because of the small screen size, it uses the same corner-based shortcuts as the Xperia Mini to make the most efficient use of the space available. The concept is pretty simple, but seemed to work well -- instead of dragging icons into the dock to create shortcuts, instead drag them into a corner. If you have multiple icons in a corner, you'll be able to tap it and select the one you want.

The Xperia Active is expected to launch in the UK later this month. No official pricing has been announced, but retailers are taking pre-orders for around £235.

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