Review: Sony Ericsson Xperia Active

Sony Ericsson has teamed up with surf label Billabong on the Xperia Active, a partnership that's fitting given it's billed as a phone for outdoorsy types.

While most smartphones are adopting the bigger is better mantra, the Xperia Active has gone in the opposite direction – compact, lightweight and rugged.

The screen is small – 3 inches, to be precise – but more than functional. 

The super-organised will appreciate the interface, which implements a system that lets you pin four shortcuts to each of the four corners. Add to that the other apps and widgets spread across the handset's five home screens and the opportunities are vast. 

One of its selling points is wet finger tracking, so the phone stays responsive when either your fingers or its screen are damp. And in that aquatic vein, when all the device's ports and covers are firmly closed, it can be submerged in up to a metre of freshwater for up to 30 minutes and live to tell the tale. (It's not meant to actually be used underwater, I hasten to add.)

A few stats: It packs a 1Ghz processor running Android Gingerbread 2.3, and a 5-megapixel camera (not front-facing) with HD video. The battery life proved adequate, but the default numeric keypad slowed me down, and the QWERTY version was somewhat cramped.

Thanks to Billabong, you also get two extra back covers in blue and black, and of course, a wristband to keep your phone close at hand during those outdoor adventures. The plasticy feel may take some getting used to, but it certainly feels sturdy, if a little chubby.

As befits its name, the Active comes pre-loaded with a bunch of sports apps, including a built-in GPS, barometer and compass. If you're so inclined, it will also monitor your heart rate and pulse, while the iMapMyFitness app will let you monitor day-to day-performance. The step counter seemed to have some trouble keeping up, however – maybe walking around your own house doesn't count as bona fide exercise. 

* Telecom lays sole claim to the Xperia Active, which retails for $399.

Idealog has been covering the most interesting people, businesses and issues from the fields of innovation, design, technology and urban development for over 12 years. And we're asking for your support so we can keep telling those stories, inspire more entrepreneurs to start their own businesses and keep pushing New Zealand forward. Give over $5 a month and you will not only be supporting New Zealand innovation, but you’ll also receive a print subscription and a copy of the new book by David Downs and Dr. Michelle Dickinson, No. 8 Recharged (while stocks last).