Sony Xperia S hands on at CES 2012

The LTE-equipped Sony Xperia Ion for AT&T might get the lion’s share of attention in the U.S., but the Xperia S, destined for a worldwide release, has a few tricks up its sleeve too. With a smaller 4.3-inch screen and HSPA+ capability instead of LTE, it doesn’t look quite as outstanding on the spec sheet, but side by side with the Ion, it’s frankly a better-looking phone. The super-slim design and sturdy aluminum body signal a return to Sony products that feel as good as they look, giving it a more premium feel than the Android rank and file. We’re particularly fond of the clear, glass-like stripe toward the bottom, which lights up when you turn the phone on, offers a strip of all the standard Android buttons, and (oddly enough) actually houses the antenna within a subtle checkerboard pattern. Sony will offer the 1.5GHz dual-core phone in 16GB and 32GB versions, but unlike the Xperia Ion, you won’t be able to add storage via microSD. Like the Xperia Ion, it also has a 12-megapixel rear camera that should outclass most of its Android competitors. It will run Android 2.3 as well, which leaves it lagging behind a bit on the software front until Sony releases an Android 4.0 update. Sony’s PlayStation certification might help make up for that in the mean time, giving owners access to a comprehensive list of PlayStation titles for Android. For U.S. customers, the Ion will likely remain the Xperia phone of choice for Sony fans, but we wouldn’t be surprised to find the smaller, sleeker Xperia S winning fans worldwide.

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