Inside you'll find a 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon S3 CPU, which is getting long in the tooth by some standards, but is more than up for the task of running the Ion. However, given that it's running Gingerbread (version 2.3.7), it's little surprise that Sony's latest hardly breaks a sweat.
Again, what should be an Ice Cream Sandwich device is not. Though it's certainly capable of being one.
The Ion is available with 4.0 out of the box, but not through AT&T, and there is no word on when an update is pending. Hopefully soon.
In its place is Gingerbread with much of the ICS trimmings, at least visual speaking. Sony's skin for Android is, in this reviewer's opinion, one of the nicest yet. In some ways, it's actually superior to the stock Google OS experience.
Issues with the apps
It's the little things, like when the display powers up from being asleep, much like an old CRT TV being turned on, to home screen quickly sliding away when the app drawer in accessed. But the best graphical flourish is when an app is chosen, for placement on the homescreen. Its like a piece of fabric being waved around in a slightly windy climate. And the best part is, such fanciness doesn't bog anything else down.
But the apps themselves are where cracks in the armor first starts to show. Let's start with carrier supplied apps: many sit side by side Google's own offerings, and as is often the case, this can lead to much confusion to the novice smart phone user.
You have AT&T Navigator, for example, which offers turn by turn, GPS assisted driving directions. But is it honestly that much better than Google own Navigation app? Not really.
Thankfully there's not too much bloatware to speak of (there's an app to allow connectivity to your PC, an app to keep track of family via location services, a QR Code reader, and that's basically it). Which is appreciated, because what little that's present is fairly confounding.
Example: there are three apps, all side by side, all with message in the name. First there's AT&T's Messages app, the default texting app that's referred to as Messaging, and Google's own Messenger app that hooks into Google+. Pretty confusing huh?
It gets somewhat worse. When you first launch Sony's Movies app, you must download updated data, which is fine. But, before the components can be installed, you'll get a warning that states that it might not work, because they were not acquired by the marketplace.
You also get instructions to fix this issue, and sure enough, when clicking the "Proceed" button, you're denied and must go into settings to click the appropriate checkboxes.
This is fine for the power user, but we can imagine it being supremely confusing to those new to Android or smart phones in general.
What's more, another warning pops up saying that this app will replace another application. Ultimately, whenever you update an app on an Android, iOS, or even Windows Phone device, you're essentially getting rid of the old and replacing it with the new. But this information is presented in such harsh tones that it might freak a few people out.
Back to Sony's makeover: Many stock Android apps have a new coat of paint, especially when it pertains to the media suite. Sony again is trying to tap into it's Walkman roots.
The Music Player app has an attractive looking interface, but it's the FM Radio app that's the most pleasant surprise.
The ease of use, and ability to operate in the background in most cases, will ensure you that you'll always be listening to something, even if you've yet to update your mp3 library.
And no mention of Sony's interface is complete without mentioning Timescape, it's social networking aggregator. Simply give it permission to access your Twitter, Facebook, and other social identifications, and it's presented in the same, pleasing interface that rules the rest of the phone.
But in terms of actual functionality, hardcore Twitter and Facebook users might want to keep their associated apps handy nonetheless.