Besides the Xperia NXT family of phones (the Xperia S, P and U), Sony Mobile Communications also unveiled another Xperia member, the Sola in March 2012. While the Xperia S, P and U have their different target market segments, the Xperia Sola is likely to appeal to those who fancy new technologies and are willing to be early adopters.
Possibly the first smartphone in the world to debut the floating touch technology, the Xperia Sola allows a user to interact with the display of the phone without actually touching it. How does Sony achieve that? Well, let's find out in this review but before we do so, here's a quick look at the specs of the Sony Xperia Sola: -
Key highlights of the Sony Xperia Sola
The Xperia Sola does not deviate drastically from the design DNA of the Xperia family, sporting the signature boxy shape but doing away with the illuminated plastic strip. In its place are three touch sensitive buttons below the 3.7-inch display that sit one level above the Xperia brand logo. Regardless of the rationale behind such a design, the impact of usability is definitely noticeable especially for users with larger thumbs. You couldn't help but feel the awkardness of your thumb tabbing on an elevated platform.
While the 3.7-inch display attracts smudges and fingerpints easily, the same could not be said for the rest of the chassis which has a matte finish. This keeps fingerprints and smudges at bay although we were constantly on guard against dirt picking up on the milk white back of the Xperia Sola. Weighing a mere 107g and measuring just 9.9mm thin, the Xperia Sola feels very compact in the hands. In terms of handling, we have no problems with the industrial design of the device.
The left side of the Xperia Sola houses the Power button while a 3.5mm audio output jack is found on the top right corner of the device. On the right, you will find the micro-USB port, volume controls and camera shutter button.
Similiar to the Xperia P and U, the Xperia Sola runs on Android 2.3 Gingerbread with some slight modifications to the UI. To be honest, we've handled a few Android 4.0 devices (ASUS PadFone, HTC One V, HTC One X, Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Samsung Galaxy S III) so far and Gingerbread-powered phones seem and feel really dated these days. Fortunately, Sony Singapore states the Android 4.0 update for the Xperia Sola should arrive sometime in Q3, which means anytime from July to September.
One of the main touted features of the Xperia Sola is the floating touch technology which is co-developed with Cypress Technologies. What it basically does is to enable the Xperia Sola to register your finger input up to 20mm above the screen. This will result in a cursor-like movement on the Xperia Sola where you use to highlight links and "click" on the exact link you want. For the detailed explanation of the technicalities of the floating touch technology, you can check out this article at Sony Developer World.
The Xperia Sola is also among the growing list of smartphones that come with NFC capability. You will receive two Xperia SmartTags as part of the sales package of the Xperia Sola.
As mentioned in an earlier article, "NFC and SmartTag Demo with Sony Xperia S", a SmartTag is basically a round token that works with any NFC-enabled smartphone. Tapping the lower portion of the Xperia Sola on the SmartTag will launch a set of pre-configured profiles such as launching Facebook app, turning on Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.