Sony Xperia U review

Sony's small Android smartphone offers a dual-core processor and plenty of charm

Sony Xperia U review
The Sony Xperia U features a 3.5-inch screen and dual-core processor

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Sony Xperia U review

The Sony Xperia U arrives running Android 2.3.7, sporting the same Sony user interface skin we saw used to such great effect in the very pleasant Xperia S.

Not much happens on the lock screen, although if you're playing music you do see a little play/pause and skip section appear where the clock is, giving you some quick-access music control, which is handy.

However, given that the world has gone privacy mad, the lock screen does come with its own little settings screen, where you can dumb down the amount of stuff that appears in its notifications area, should you work in a place where your fellow employees are particularly nosy.

Sony Xperia U review

Pinching the display pops up Sony's overview mode, which breaks out all the widgets you have on your various home screens and pulls them together on the one screen.

Pressing one takes you to its screen. You'd probably be better off just scrolling to its screen in the first page, seeing as there are only five to manage here, but it's a nice enough little visual touch.

Open her up and you get those five home screens to play about with and populate with your own choice of widgets and icons.

A long-press anywhere on an empty bit of screen brings up the customisation window, from where you're able to add app shortcuts, interactive widgets, pick from a selection of pre-installed Sony visual themes or create folders to stick yet more app shortcuts in.

Sony Xperia U review

It's a very versatile system, with Sony adding the floating dock area to the editable space - plus it's possible to dump folders in that permanent bottom area, too.

As with more recent versions of Android, folders are created on the fly by simply dragging one icon on top of another.

Android famously supports widgets, the little live desktop apps that give you quick access to features, with Sony filling the Xperia U with some pretty clean and stylish custom widget options.

The software here's identical to that on the Sony Xperia S, so you get a weather widget that sort of unfolds to fill the screen, a miniature power bar/feature toggle that does the same, plus Sony's reworked social networking tools.

Sony Xperia U review

The Sony Xperia U dedicates an entire home screen to social networking out of the box (long-pressing on widgets enables you to remove them if you hate people), with the top widget pulling in a selection of your Facebook and Twitter friends, if you've signed in to the networks on the phone.

The lower widget is a specific timeline aggregator that has your big list of people rambling on.

It's still a front end to the familiar old Timescape system Sony's been putting on its Android phones since day one, although Timescape itself is more marginalised than ever.

Clicking Facebook and Twitter posts from the widget brings up their own little custom viewing window instead of Timescape, where you can reply to tweets without troubling a standalone app.

Sony Xperia U review

It's a nice-looking, functional widget we'd happily use, although scrolling and managing the little active window and settings on the Sony Xperia U's small screen can take some concentration. Plus it never feels like it's actually updating as regularly as it should.

This rather drab, marketing-led home screen also greets you upon initial boot, featuring a link to Sony's own video store, a shortcut that encourages you to download its Music Unlimited app, plus the useful Track ID system, which cleverly identifies tracks then enables you to buy them.

TrackID can stay, the rest are off into the waste basket.

And that's what happens when you long-press on a widget or icon and drag it up to that little integrated Facebook strip along the top.

If it's downloadable by others, the Sony Xperia U generates a status update, complete with a shortcut to the app's Play Store listing.

Handy for sharing things. Also handy for annoying people who don't care what apps you have on your telephone.