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Sony Ericsson Xperia Active review

Android for the exercising socialite

Sony Ericsson Xperia Active
A rugged Android handset - but it's still smart and modern

Our Verdict

A fast, smooth and feature-packed smartphone that can survive a drunken drop down the loo


  • Touchscreen works well when wet
  • Snappy general operation
  • Fast and usable camera
  • Survived being dunked under water
  • Good battery life


  • Feels a little light and plasticky
  • Low screen resolution
  • Plenty of Sony Ericsson spam apps installed
  • Poor video format support

The Sony Ericsson Xperia Active is one of those odd phones that can survive underwater, help you lose weight and update your social networks, all in one go. But is it actually a decent mobile too?

Sony Ericsson's released a boat load of different Android smartphones this year. We've had two versions of its huge 4.2-inch Xperia Arc flagship, mid-range options such as the excellent Xperia Ray and Neo, plus the smaller Xperia Mini and Mini Pro for those on a tight pocket-space budget.

The Xperia Active sits somewhere at the lower end of that lot. You get a 3-inch capacitive Bravia Engine touchscreen running at 320 x 480 resolution, along with a 5MP camera with LED flash and the ability to record video at 720p resolution.

It's all stuffed in a dust and water-resistant case - plus a few health apps pre-loaded. And there's a stretchy armband in the box for wearing it at the gym, or just keeping it safe.

Prices for the Sony Ericsson Xperia Active, at the time of reviewing, start at around £240 to buy an unlocked model, with monthly contracts available from around £20 depending on how many included minutes and texts you require.

This makes the Active a relatively modest cheaper option in this age of dual-core monster phones, plus you get water and dust resistance as a bonus.

Sony ericsson xperia active

The phone's certainly interesting to look at, with its lightweight brushed metallic surround and bright orange band making it look like an odd blend of mobile phone, kitchen utensil and emergency flotation device. The volume, camera and power buttons sit in the orange plastic bit, so are rather lightweight and flimsy - but that's your trade-off for having water resistance.

Sony ericsson xperia active

The screen is a 3-inch capacitive model that's very responsive and never misses a touch, plus Sony Ericsson claims it has "wet finger tracking" so you can use the thing while it and your hands are both soaking wet. And yes, you can.

As with Sony Ericsson's Xperia Arc and the rest of its 2011 lineup, the screen also uses the company's Bravia Engine and Reality Display technology...

Sony ericsson xperia active

...although with a low-end resolution of only 320 x 480, it makes no difference, and it's nothing like as sharp or vibrant as the superb displays found on the Xperia Arc S and Xperia Ray.

Sony ericsson xperia active

There are no physical buttons on the face of the Active, just three capacitive touch buttons along the bottom - for Back, Home and Menu - with the Active responding to touches of these pretend buttons perfectly and without lag.

Sony ericsson xperia active

There is also a custom camera shutter button on the bottom-right edge, but it's a pretty rubbish one. It does feature a two-stage press for focusing then pressing harder to shoot, but it's rather tiny and plasticky, so it's all a bit vague.

At least there's an LED flash around the back, plus the sensor is deeply recessed into the case, giving it a little protection against scratches and general grime.

Sony ericsson xperia active

The Sony Ericsson Xperia Active's chunky body feels good in the hand, thanks to its curved, rubbery back. One-handed use is straightforward, with the touch buttons high up enough for easy access, and the phone feels nicely balanced. It's not one you'll worry about dropping.

Sony ericsson xperia active

The outdoor credentials are hinted at by the Active's USB connector and headphone jack, which are placed on the bottom edge of the phone, hidden behind fat rubber doors that seal them shut and keep water out.

Sony ericsson xperia active

Take the back off and you get more reassurance that the Sony Ericsson Xperia Active can survive a few seconds in the toilet. There's a secondary back cover inside the outer case, which sits snugly over the top of the internal bits and does indeed keep it watertight.

Sony ericsson xperia active

It's an odd-looking little handset. The orange plastic gives it a bit of a toy town appearance, but the silvery button icons and curved, rubberised back just about bring it back into smart gadget territory.