Sony Xperia sola.

We spend some time with Sony’s latest Xperia addition, the sola, which was announced just last week. It features a look that’s different from Sony’s NXT design range, which means it doesn’t get the single-letter designation of the Xperia S, U and P.

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The Sony Xperia sola.
(Credit: Jacqueline Seng/CNET Asia)

Upside

One of the main highlights of the sola is Sony’s new “floating touch” technology. When you hover a finger over the 3.7-inch FWVGA (854 x 480 pixels) display, it tracks the movement of your finger. This should help older users select the right point to press–but we noted that it only works on the home screen and with Sony’s proprietary browser.

Sony has also stated in a blog post that the upcoming Ice Cream Sandwich update will allow developers to add “hover events” as Google has included support for it in Android 4.0. For example, when you do position a cursor over a link on a desktop browser, information sometimes will be displayed. You may also want to read more about how the floating technology works (which basically combines the two different types of capacitive screen technology).

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A demo of floating touch on the Xperia sola. The hover feature didn’t seem to be working correctly sometimes, which could be due to the fact that our device was a prototype.
(Credit: Jacqueline Seng/CNET Asia)

Like the Xperia S and P, the sola comes with NFC that works with the the company’s SmartTags. There’s also a 1GHz dual-core processor that’s similar to the Xperia U and P. Basically, the sola has all that is expected from a midrange device.

While it comes loaded with Gingerbread (Android 2.3), Sony has promised the ICS upgradein Q2. The company has also said that the unit will retail in the same quarter, which means you probably won’t have long to wait for the update.

Downside

As mentioned earlier, the Xperia sola doesn’t share the same attractive design of the NXT series, but this means that it stands out (since the S, U and P look similar). The display also seems to slightly protrude as opposed to being flushed with the chassis, which makes it prone to accidental scratches.

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Scratchable?
(Credit: Jacqueline Seng/CNET Asia)

The non-removable 1,320mAh battery could be too small for heavy users. One of the reasons usually given for using a built-in battery is to increase battery power–we’ve seen that on the Razr Maxx–so it’s hard to justify designing a handset with a smaller built-in battery as it just doesn’t make sense.

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A look at the sola’s innards.
(Credit: Jacqueline Seng/CNET Asia)

Outlook

Sony said at the event where the sola was demoed that it was targeting youths with the Xperia sola and U. We’re not sure how youths would actually make use of the floating touch feature–older folks with poorer eyesight may appreciate the cursor more. As stated earlier, the Xperia sola will be available in Asia sometime in Q2. Pricing has not been revealed yet, but Sony did say that the sola will be pegged at the same tier as the Xperia U, which has a European launch price of US$347.
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