Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S

Basically the same phone released at the start of the year, the Arc S is a good phone that may struggle to stand out amongst the crowd in an excellent year of releases.

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Sony Ericsson has made a huge splash with its Android devices this year, shrugging off the memories of the poorly performing Xperia X10 and delivering a handful of really attractive and unique smartphones. The Xperia Arc S is basically a re-release, however, pairing the features and design of the original Arc with a faster 1.4GHz processor and Telstra Next G compatibility.


Second verse, same as the first: Sony Ericsson hasn't touched a single element of the Xperia Arc in creating the Arc S, and our opinions of it haven't changed. The Arc S is slim, svelte and extremely desirable, but the Xperia range in its entirety is uniquely Sony Ericsson. In an industry where customers are asking just how many ways can you repackage the same combination of touchscreen, battery and chips, Sony Ericsson proves that it's not impossible to create phones that are instantly recognisable.

The phone's 4.2-inch display is worth taking a look at. Sony Ericsson packs a WVGA-resolution LCD directly under the glass, and the absence of an air gap between the glass and the panel means that there is no light bouncing between the two elements, making the image displayed appear richer looking. In addition, the screen looks absolutely black when switched off, instead of grey, making the Arc S a real fashion statement when on a table at the pub.

Of course, if there was a reason why you didn't like the look and feel of the Arc six months ago, then it's highly unlikely that you'll find anything to love about the Arc S. One element that we would have liked to have changed position was the headphone socket, found on the top left-hand side of the handset. Sony Ericsson knows that this is less than perfect, bundling headphones with a connection at a right angle to the cable, but these headphones are far from the best that you can use. If you plug in your favourite cans, expect the plug to stick out from the phone and spoil its slim profile.

On the plus side, Sony Ericsson includes a micro-HDMI port on the top of the handset, and a cable in the box to plug the phone directly into your TV. There's also an 8GB microSD card bundled, complementing 1GB of internal storage, but, as with the Sensation XE, we wish Sony Ericsson would try to compete with the iPhone's storage to some extent.

User experience and performance

Sony Ericsson bumps up the processing power in the Arc S to 1.4GHz, from 1GHz in the original, and we've measured some impressive performance enhancements compared with the first Arc in a number of our benchmarks. Its result in BrowserMark was particular impressive, giving further credence to the suggestion that single-core chipsets outperform dual-core processors at some tasks.

BrowserMark results

  • Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S
  • Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc
  • HTC Sensation XL
  • Motorola Razr
  • Longer bars indicate better performance 77036 37971 82763 55400

Sony Ericsson's custom Android software continues to impress as it has done throughout the year. Its design is reasonably clean and attractive, and, above all else, it's fast. Some of Sony Ericsson's widgets, its Timeline widget in particular, can be a little sluggish in displaying data or launching after selection, but the option is always available to simply switch these off.

Also worth noting (reiterating, actually; we've raved about this previously) is the cross-integration of services between core apps in the phone. Sony Ericsson's Facebook integration is great, giving you multiple places to post to your wall within apps like the music player. But we also love the FM radio app on the Arc S — often an overlooked feature. Once you're listening to the radio, you have the option to discover the name of any track that you hear, using Sony's TrackID, which has been built in to the radio app. Once identified, you can then post track info (gleaned from Gracenotes) to your Facebook page.

Battery life is good, although the battery capacity hasn't been increased between versions of the Arc. We measured four and a half hours of continuous 720p video playback, which is on par, if a little higher, than the results we've seen from competing models. In everyday use tests, we easily got through a busy business day, and two days with moderate phone use and internet browsing.


As with the previous Arc, the Arc S sports an 8-megapixel camera with flash, and 720p HD video recording at 30 frames per second. The camera's software is supported by a Sony Exmor-R image sensor, which Sony believes excels in low light. Compared with our experience with the camera earlier in the year, we have found the camera in the Arc S to be a little more reliable and consistent, although there is still plenty of noise in the finished shots, and the image sensor does struggle with mixed colour temperatures.

The colour in this pic would be better if the sunlight in the background didn't wash it out.
(Credit: CBSi)

Good colour for both the Arc S and the Sensation XL.
(Credit: CBSi)

Compared to

Apple iPhone 4S HTC Sensation XL Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S Samsung Galaxy S II
Apple iOS 5 Android 2.3.5 with HTC Sense Android 2.3.5 Android 2.3 with TouchWiz
3.5-inch screen
640x960 pixels
4.7-inch screen
480x800 pixels
4.2-inch screen
480x800 pixels
4.3-inch screen
480x800 pixels
Apple A5, dual-core 1GHz Qualcomm, 1.5GHz Qualcomm, 1.4GHz Samsung Exynos, dual-core 1.2GHz
16GB/32GB/64GB storage 16GB storage 9GB storage (with card) 8GB/16GB storage

HDMI, Bravia Engine

Beyond being a decent Android smartphone, the real selling point for the Arc S in our eyes is the way that it displays images, and there is a variety of factors at work when this happens.

When you open an image or a video in your gallery, the phone launches the Bravia Engine: a piece of software that takes the image and adds a number of filters, removing noise, boosting contrast and sharpening the edges of the detail. The result is universally pleasing; videos look great on this small screen.

Happily, the Bravia Engine also kicks in when you launch an image or video, and your phone is connected to a TV over HDMI. There is an option in the Display menu to turn off Bravia Engine (which is on by default), but we reckon this is just to prove to you that the software is doing an awesome job to those who might be a tad sceptical.

Should you buy it?

From a tech geek perspective, it is a shame that Sony Ericsson hasn't really released a new phone. The Arc duo bookends a huge year in smartphones, and our enthusiasm for the original has naturally waned somewhat after a succession of brilliant phones that came in the months after its release. That said, the Arc S keeps pace well, regardless of the comparisons you could make about its single-core processor or its comparatively low RAM (512MB). The Arc S does a great job of loading web pages and launching our favourite apps from this year, but will this lower spec affect its ability to run the apps of next year?

It's the combination of the excellent screen, Bravia Engine and HDMI cable that sets the Arc S apart, and we imagine that it will appeal to lovers of film, music videos and other visual media. The ability to use the Arc S as a presentation tool is also appealing, so it is disappointing that with these use cases associated with the phone's strengths, Sony Ericsson should include such a small amount of memory to store movies and videos on. With 32GB or 64GB of storage, the Arc S could have been the must-have phone for cinephiles, and perhaps should still be, regardless. Maybe next year.

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CassandraS Facebook

CassandraS posted a review   

The Good:Camera, batterylife not too bad, looks great

The Bad:Processor!! Crashes

Not very happy with this phone. Its ok. It looks great, but it really lags a lot when typing messages and takes forever to load things which is frustrating. Crashes more than other phones Ive had too.

MarkL11 Facebook

"Great phone, like it better than my iphone 4"

MarkL11 posted a review   

The Good:Nothing bad found yet

The Bad:ICS version not stable yet

Better than my iPhone 4, have not updated to ICS as their are some bad reviews on the Sony blog but so far this phone is much nicer than my iPhone 4. Bought it for the wife might keep it myself. A


"Unreliable phone and dismal repair service"

paracin posted a review   

The Good:Beautiful screen and camera features

The Bad:Worked 4 months only.

When the Arc S was new, the screen looked out of this world, much better than iPhone 4. Love the camera's Panorama feature as well. Better call quality and reception than iPhone 4.
After 4 months, suddenly lost backlight and stopped charging. Came back from Sony authorised repairer two weeks later. Working, but when entered sleep mode you had to remove the battery to turn it back on. A few days later, died completely, couldn't switch it back on at all.
(The phone looks brand new, was kept in a pouch, never dropped, never got wet, never tempered with, never rooted)
It's still at the repairer, as we speak, it's been for over a week now.


paracin posted a reply   

Update: 15th May, still at the repairer, the third time, now 6 weeks out of order. Writing complaint to Sony today, will comment again when (if) I get reply.


paracin posted a reply   

16/5 update. Sony sent me a form to fill in. Obviously haven't even read my complaint because all the data required was already in it. Spoke to them later, said that the repair is already paid for and as far as they are concerned, the matter is resolved.
Still waiting for the phone.


paracin posted a reply   

Got the phone back, replaced with a second hand one. Power button stiff, scratched at the back. Wrote another email to SE insisting to be contacted by customer complaints manager, got a reply by a non-english speaking rep who didn't quite understand my email...


paracin posted a reply   

5th June, two months without the phone. The matter referred to Dept of Fair Trading.



"overall great phone"

xxhazaxx posted a review   

The Good:everything about it, the fm radio, the media, the layout

The Bad:The battery is truly shocking i have had it for over a month and at least half of that time it ould run out of battery before i got home, . the memory is shocking

Good phone, do not regret buying this but wouldnt buy another xperia

Smartphone lover

"Difficult to sync with outlook"

Smartphone lover posted a review   

The Good:Nice to use

The Bad:The time taken work out it doesn't sync without google

Nice phone but won't sync with outlook your homework if you rely on the calender and sync functions and don't like using google to do this.


EdwardJ posted a comment   

The Xperia arc has a 854x480 FWVGA display which gives it a native 16:9 aspect ratio, perfect for viewing video.


trebor83 posted a comment   

Yeah, but the great Android spec sheet "mine is bigger then your's" contest has moved on

Marky Mark

"Great phone"

Marky Mark posted a review   

The Good:Easy to use, tough and durable, great looks, lovely screen, good camera, easy to expand memory

The Bad:Nothing

Hmmm, 9.3 result for the Arc model and only 8.0 for the S model??? Yet it is improved in a number of ways. Oh that's right, it's not an iPhone so doesn't have a hope of getting a higher score.... And by the way, you can easily remove the memory card and replace with a larger card. I bought a 32gb card online for $30 and this phone for online for only $489, so achieving greater storage is hardly a costly or technically challenging issue.

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User Reviews / Comments  Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S

  • CassandraS



    "Not very happy with this phone. Its ok. It looks great, but it really lags a lot when typing messages and takes forever to load things which is frustrating. Crashes more than other phones Ive had too."

  • MarkL11



    "Better than my iPhone 4, have not updated to ICS as their are some bad reviews on the Sony blog but so far this phone is much nicer than my iPhone 4. Bought it for the wife might keep it myself. A"

  • paracin



    "When the Arc S was new, the screen looked out of this world, much better than iPhone 4. Love the camera's Panorama feature as well. Better call quality and reception than iPhone 4.
    After 4 mo..."

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