The entry-level Android space has only recently become rife with excitement as the newer models are actually something worth considering. When Android first started out, the cheaper variants were nothing but horrid and you wouldn’t want to go anywhere near a handset that was priced under 10K. That’s not the case now. Phones like the HTC Explorer, Samsung Galaxy Pocket and Micromax’s A75 have proved that budget Android handsets need not necessarily mean a crappy experience. Sony has been missing from the scene in this segment for a while and only recently, announced two budget offerings – the Xperia tipo and tipo dual, the latter being a dual-SIM version. Let’s see how it fares against stiff competition.

Video Review

 

Video review of the Sony Xperia tipo dual

Design and Build
The Xperia tipo dual isn’t winning any design awards but it’s not ugly either. The full plastic body feels sturdy and durable and we didn’t find any creaking parts anywhere. We got the silver variant, which covers the rear, sides and the little chin at the bottom with the ‘Xperia’ insignia on it. Sony uses a mineral glass for the front, which is scratch resistant but is still prone to fingerprints. The 3.2-inch TFT screen is accompanied by a row of three capacitive buttons beneath it.  The sides have the volume rocker and dedicated SIM switching button. The rear holds the 3MP camera and that’s pretty much it.

A decent looker

A decent looker

While the tipo dual is fairly light at just 99g, it’s a bit chunky at 13mm. We actually like it this way since if it was light, it would feel like a toy and wouldn’t be that comfortable to hold. The extra width has also given Sony the liberty to pack in a chunkier 1500mAh battery. The phone only accepts regular SIM cards and a microSD card slot that’s placed under the battery, so it’s not hot-swappable. Sony also bundles two micro SIM adapters in case you have one. Overall, the tipo dual is a well-built phone with a sturdy construction and decent looks.

Quite a chunky little fella

Quite a chunky little fella

Features
Interface
We’re happy to see Sony using the latest version of Ice Cream Sandwich, 4.0.4, which makes up for the slower 800MHz Qualcomm chipset. The MSM7225A SoC packs in a Adreno 200 GPU, which won’t do 720p video but will easily handle anything up to 480p. The display does not get any of the BRAVIA treatment and is a standard TFT LCD, so the viewing angles are not the best. You’ll notice a lot of colour shift while tilting the phone even slightly. Thankfully, we didn’t notice too much of colour banding in videos and wallpapers, so the display is not terrible. The capacitive screen responds well to touch and there’s two- finger multi-touch as well. There’s no ambient light sensor—something that we sorely miss.

Similar interface

Similar interface

The Xperia tipo dual gets the familiar skinning we’ve seen on other handsets, although this is similar to the lower-end handsets like the Live with Walkman rather than the higher-end Xperia phones. The UI is very smooth and you can quickly swipe between homescreens and apps without any slowdowns. Apart from the standard set of ICS settings and apps, there’s an Xperia setting that lets you set up Facebook for a deeper integration with the system. There aren’t any toggle switches in the notification bar, which would have been nice. For input, you only have the Xperia keyboard by default. This is not too bad actually and I did find typing on it relatively comfortable, although not very fast. You’re better off with Swype for a screen this small.

Media
The loudspeaker is quite powerful for such a tiny phone and puts bigger phones like the Galaxy Nexus to shame. Music via the headphones is also crisp and clear. Though the bass didn’t have the thump that we’d expected, the mids and lows are covered quite well with the headset that comes with the phone. The music player lets you sort songs by Album, Tracks and Artists. You also have the option to create playlists. The music player also has a lockscreen widget that displays controls along with album art.

Good music playback

Good music playback

In terms of enhancements, you get Sony’s xLOUD feature, a few preset equaliser settings and a sound extension tab that allows users to instantly search for lyrics, karaoke videos and song information. FM Radio is also present. Video playback is a little lacklustre as it only supports MP4 format and lacks a video editor or extra options for streaming it via DLNA, through the player itself.

Connectivity
The Xperia tipo dual is a quad-band GSM phone for both SIM slots and also supports 3G for both SIMs. You can configure individual settings like ringtones, wallpapers etc. for each SIM and switch between them at any time by simply pressing the shortcut key on the side. You can’t have both SIMs active at the same time, so if you need that, then you might want to look elsewhere or simply carry two phones with you. Other connectivity options include Wi-Fi b/g/n and Bluetooth v2.1. You get 2.5GB of usable onboard storage, which is good enough for the type of apps you’ll be using on this phone.

You're better off using Swype

You're better off using Swype

Sony has added their own set of apps like PowerSaver, LiveWare manager, TrackID etc.

Misc. Apps
Extra apps include Office Suite, Astro file manager, WhatsApp, NeoReader as well as some entertainment apps like Bollywood Hungama, Astro, CricBuzz, Cosmic numbers, Desimartini, PVR, Stumped etc.

Camera
The 3.2MP camera is devoid of auto-focus, so don’t expect anything great in terms of photography. Landscape shots are still decent, provided there’s good ambient light. However, don’t bother with anything at close quarters as there’s no proper focus. You get standard settings like exposure values, scene modes, geo-tagging etc. There’s no front facing camera, so video calls are out the window.

A standard fare

A standard fare

Video recording maxes out at VGA resolution (640 x 360) and as one would expect, the video quality is strictly average at best.

Not much for close up shots

Not much for close-up shots

Battery Life
The 1500mAh battery will let you power through one full day even with heavy usage. Thanks to the low-res screen, the Xperia tipo dual managed nearly 6 hrs in our video drain test. This is with Wi-Fi ‘off’ and the brightness set to medium. With calls, video, audio and a bit of streaming, you should easily expect a battery life of around 5-5.5 hrs.

Verdict and Price in India
Sony has priced the Xperia tipo dual at Rs.10,500, while the single SIM version retails for a grand less. Looking at just Tier 1 brands, the tipo dual is the best dual-SIM Android option at this price point, although we feel it’s still a bit expensive. It’s very similar to the HTC Explorer in terms of specs, except it’s better thanks to the bigger battery, better display and ICS. If Sony drops the price and manages to place it in the 8K range, it will make a killing.

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