Maps

The Sony Xperia U has something a little rare inside, given that it's powered by a dual-core processor from ST-Ericsson, rather than the infinitely more commonplace and various Qualcomm kits we see in other phones.

Sony Xperia U review

And it works very well indeed. The Sony Xperia U feels sharp and snappy in use, managing to throw about Android Home screens, menu pages and apps without any glitches or performance wobbles. Google's fantastic Maps app is a joy to use, plus the Navigation features are equally quick and usable.

Sony Xperia U review

Those of you new to Android will be extremely impressed by the speed and usefulness of Google Maps and its Navigate feature.

It's as simple as determining your current location through Wi-Fi or GPS, then typing in your destination and watching Google calculate a route.

Enhanced features include the option to scan ahead to junctions, then press a button to open up a Street View image of the turning, so you recognise the turn when you get there.

Apps

Sony Xperia U review

The Sony Xperia U's been packed with plenty of apps from Sony, too, some of which are very keen on encouraging you to use its Video and Music Unlimited services to consume your media, rather than Google's own Android film rental services.

The leader in this scheme is Sony's Recommender home screen widget and app, which operates something of a "bait and switch" on you.

It recommends apps and games to download mostly sourced from Google's Play Store, but when it comes to selecting films to rent and buy through your phone, you're magically transported to Sony's own Video Unlimited service.

Somewhere out there in the world there may be a man bored enough to buy a digital copy of Catch.44 for £11.99 (about $18.80) through his phone. And if there is, we would not like to meet him.

Sony Xperia U review

Sony has still put Google's own Videos app on here too, for extra choice of rentals through Google's own Play Store film section.

There's also a standalone EA Games app, which offers a few rather old Android games, which are downloaded from EA's own servers rather than the Google Play Store, while some of the game recommendations also shove users off to Gameloft's mobile site.

Which is a weird way of doing things, no doubt borne out of cross-promotional marketing budgets, rather than any thought of user convenience.

Still, there's some good stuff on here all the same. Sony's Friends' Music & Videos app enables you to see what people have been liking and sharing on Facebook without actually having to go to Facebook.

Sony Xperia U review

You also get the ASTRO file manager, for nosing about your SD card. It's odd that Android doesn't feature something like this as standard, meaning that phone makers have to resort to putting in ad-supported options like this on their phones.

Sony's also continuing its partnership with McAfee, which sees a free, fully functional version of its McAfee Security app pre-loaded.

Setting it up requires a bit of fuss with PIN numbers and creating a "buddy" who will be alerted should your phone be reported stolen, but it's possibly of some use.

Plus, of course, there's all the usual Google stuff on here, including YouTube, Gmail, Navigation, Places, Latitude and Google+, along with a few other useful little utilities such as NeoReader for scanning QR codes, a Sony Media Remote controller app, OfficeSuite for read access to MS Office files and the Wisepilot alternate sat nav system.