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Hands on review of the Sony Ericsson Xperia Active ANT+ enabled waterproof phone

When Sony Ericsson added ANT+ capabilities to some of their Android phones last year, it was a pretty cool milestone.  But with ANT+ comes the outdoors – and with the outdoors comes things that are generally considered ‘unhappy’ to electronic devices – like water and mud.  But now, that’s been solved.

Last week Sony Ericsson sent out an Android phone (loaded with OS version 2.3, Gingerbread) for me to try out. And since it arrived I’ve been throwing everything I can at the phone (and having a lot of fun doing it).  But in addition to torturing the waterproof phone, I’ve also been using the ANT+ capabilities to monitor my heart rate while running and recording the rest of my ANT+ sensors from my bike rides.

Now before we get into the meat of the review, for those of you who’ve read my reviews in the past know that I tend to be pretty detailed…and in depth.  That’s just the way I do things around here.  Think of them more like reference guides than quick and easy summaries.  My goal is to leave no stone unturned – both the good and the bad.

Finally, it should be noted that I’m going to focus on the ‘active’ piece of the ‘Xperia Active’ – since that’s what I normally focus on.  While there is certainly merit in discussing the ins and outs of specifications of the phone in comparison to others on the market from a more general phone use standpoint, I feel that I can bring the most value to the portion of the discussion relating to using it in sport.  Of course, if you have questions on the other pieces – I’m certainly happy to try and answer them in the comments section.  Onto the unboxing!

Unboxing and Contents:

Like most products that aren’t quite available yet, I don’t have a fully finished retail box – but rather the contents of the box – so we’ll have to work with that for now.

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Inside we have the earphones (with mic), earphone adapter for sport use, a micro-USB charger, a strap that hooks onto the phone, the battery, the phone itself and an arm band for sports use.

Let’s take a closer look at the phone.  Both the headphone jack and micro-USB charging port are located beneath two little rubber covers – which must remain closed for full waterproofing:

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The edge of the phone has a small loop that the strap ties into.  As silly as this sounds, I’ve found this actually really handy – just like you’d have on a small point and shoot camera.

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The phone itself comes apart in three pieces, which allows you to get a better look at the waterproofing layer (lowest one in photo):

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Here’s a few quick overview shots as well:

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Finally, here’s the armband that came with it.  It’s not specific to the Xperia Active, but it fits in there pretty snug and is functional enough for basic use while running.

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Of course unlike traditional phones, this one doesn’t exactly need the protective armband pieces, but it makes for a handy place to stash it while running or riding.

Waterproofing and Durability:

Between the two sport specific features of this phone that excite me the most (waterproofing and ANT+), I think it’s really the waterproofing and durability features that push me over the edge.  The Xperia Active is waterproofed to IPX7 levels, which means that it can withstand submersion in liquid (ocean, pool, lake, beer, cupcake batter) up to 1 meter deep (3ft) for 30 minutes.

I’ve long been using a small waterproof camera with the same rough waterproofing specs (the Optio series), but having a cell phone which can do everything that camera can…but also make phone calls, host apps and do everything else you do with a phone – offers a significant advantage.

Because pictures say a thousand words, I’m going to start with the below picture.  This was taken after my Saturday long run, with a bit of extra sports nutrition gel I had left in the bottle:

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For those not familiar with sports gel, the stuff gets everywhere and sticks like nobodies business.  You can ride for hours sweating and the stuff will still be sticky on your fingers – mind boggling. But want to see what happens next? No problem, let’s add some video to finish the job.  Here I walk through applying the gel to the phone like sunscreen, and then easily washing it all off with just a small bit of water:

Giving the Sony Ericsson Xperia Active a nutritional bath

Next up was the pool test.  While there were some little videos floating around when the phone was first announced showing it sitting in a small 6” deep round fishbowl, I decided that really wasn’t good enough for my kind of reviews.  Nope, I wanted to go swimming with it.

So swim I did.  I stuck it in the my swim shorts leg and jumped to the pool.  I swam about 20 minutes with it there, before pulling it out and shooting the below video.  As you can see, the phone can record video underwater – and any apps that you started above water will continue to display underwater.  However as expected, the touch screen itself doesn’t really work underwater (since there’s constant water pressure on it) – but the other buttons do (such as the camera shutter button).

Running in a downpour with the Sony Ericsson Xperia Active

Since shooting all these videos, the phone is still alive and quite happy – which is both good for both me as well as Sony’s phone (it’s always awkward to send waterlogged devices back…even more awkward if it had been filled with gel).

ANT+ Functionality:

For those in the endurance sports world, ANT+ is at the core of integration across different sensors that measure your effort, and those that display it.  The most common ANT+ sensor is likely the heart rate (HR) strap – made by vendors such as Garmin, Timex, CycleOps and more.  Next you’ve got the Speed/Cadence sensors that adorn many bikes (or foot pods for indoor treadmill running use), and then you’ve got the higher end items like power meters  – with almost all of them now using ANT+: SRM, Quarq, PowerTap, Garmin Vector, Power2Max, O-Synce, Brim Brothers Zone, etc…

These devices all normally connect to head units like the Garmin Forerunners or Edge cycling computers (or Timex Global Trainers, CycleOps Joule’s, etc…).  But with the Xperia Active containing an ANT+ chip within it, it can now replace that head unit piece in your equation.

Sony Ericsson was the first to put an ANT+ chip in a phone last year with their X10 series, but while successful in its own right as a first crack at it – it lacked both the sexiness as well as the durability that folks want in a phone.  Both areas that I think are genuinely improved in the Xperia Active (it actually looks cool).

And…it looks even better next to ones bicycle with all of the sensors paired to it.  See below, I’ve got the phone paired to a Garmin Heart Rate Strap, a Garmin GSC-10 speed/cadence sensor, and a Quarq Power Meter.  All via ANT+ (and MapMyRide).

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I adjusted the brightness above so you can more clearly see the screen in photo, but below you can see exactly what was displayed on the screen:

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Each sensor type can be individually connected and paired to, just like on your normal ANT+ head units.

Once connected to the sensors the app will record the data just like normal.  The cool part is that like other ANT+ apps available for the iPhone, the options here are really limitless.  For example, Quarq developed an iPhone app that allows bike shops (or end users) to check the diagnostics of their power meters.  And others have written apps that allow you to stream your ANT+ data in real time to the internet, along with location data – allowing for real time tracking during races.  I’ll get into the application options in a minute though.

Polar & Zephyr Bluetooth HR Strap Compatibility:

It’s probably accurate to say that the Xperia Active phone is a playa (with the ‘a’ at the end).  It not only does ANT+, but also easily supports any of the other Bluetooth accessories such as both the Polar Bluetooth and Zephyr Bluetooth HR straps.  Of course, a given application has to support these on a platform (such as Android), but they do work just fine.  The nice part about the Polar BT strap is that it also supports legacy Polar devices (via 5kHz transmissions).  It’s like two for the price of one.

You can pair both of these within the Android Bluetooth Settings control panel:

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You can see above both straps, and using the My Tracks applications by Google, you can connect to either strap type (as well as ANT+ straps).  Speaking of My Tracks, let’s get into the app options.

ANT+ Application Options:

Now in order to see ANT+ data, you need to have an ANT+ enabled application.  Meaning that you can’t just use any old running or cycling app to record the ANT+ data – it has to be programmed into that application to support those sensor types.  The good news is that there are a number of applications out there, and the list is growing.  Like when ANT+ came to the iPhone via the Wahoo dongle, it takes a bit of time to get that list expanded.

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But the list so far is pretty good and offers a number of great options, here’s a brief overview of the top ANT+ enabled apps:

MapMyRide/MapMyRun/MapMyEverythingElseYouCanThinkOf:

Out of all the ANT+ enabled Android apps, I’ve found MapMyRide/MapMyRun (and all the MapMyFillInTheBlank derivatives) to be the easiest to use.  I used it on my long run this past weekend (20-miles), as well as used it cycling – both connected to ANT+ sensors.

First you’ll pair your sensors.  If you’re running, this will likely be just a heart rate strap – or if indoors, also the foot pod for treadmill use (as well as running cadence data gathering):

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Once you’re all set you’ll start the workout and then press the big Play/Pause button at the bottom to start recording.

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MapMyFitness can also broadcast your location/status to social networks such as Twitter and FaceBook, as well as provide a live tracking page for friends to follow you.  Pretty cool stuff.

Like virtually all fitness applications  it will show you a map of where you went both during the activity, as well as afterwards.

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Once completed, the application will upload the data to their site.  I did find it interesting that they do a bit of data cleanup upon upload, as you’ll see above the data was slightly short prior to upload – but afterwards it was corrected to be within 1/10th of a mile of my Garmin FR610 data (or roughly within 0.5% on a 20-mile run).

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My Tracks (by Google):

My Tracks has long been a favorite of GPS tracking folks on the Android platform.  Developed internally by Google, it was also used as part of the Tour de France tracker application that was done last year (and this year again).

In addition to ANT+ sensors, My Tracks includes support for both the Polar and Zephyr Bluetooth HR straps too (and SRM’s ANT+ bridge).

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My Tracks then contains the ability to upload your recorded data to a website for later analysis.

Endomondo:

Endomondo is probably one of the most popular Android fitness tracking apps, and includes support for a number of different sensor types aside from just the ANT+ ones.  It also supports both the Polar and Zephyr Bluetooth HR straps too.

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Once you’ve paired up the sensors, you can choose the sport type.  Like most fitness apps it will also do Text to Voice prompts for spoken alerts at mile markers of your choosing.

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Once complete, the application will upload your workouts to a site where you can view them in more detail.

Other Applications:

Note that there are other applications that support non-ANT+ heart rate devices – such as as the Polar and Zephyr Bluetooth heart rate straps – but since Bluetooth is supported on virtually every phone out there you’ll find them available in many of the more popular apps given the wider adoption of Bluetooth in phones.

Summary:

Having used this phone nonstop now for a bit, I’m really enjoying it.  I love that when I go out for a ride I don’t have to worry about it in my back jersey pocket – and I love that simply using it in the rain isn’t an issue.  For an active person like myself, it’s really ideal.  For me one of the main reasons I’ve used a waterproof point and shoot camera all these years is the ‘I just don’t have to worry about it’ factor – and the same really applies to this phone.  I simply just don’t have to worry about it.  I know that I can throw anything I want at it, and it’ll just keep on tickin’.

The Xperia Active is available now, though in the US you’ll have to buy the phone and then simply put in your carrier’s SIM card (both in the US and Worldwide). Which is what I do, and super-easy.  You can see all the detailed technical specs on their website at this link.

As always, if you have any questions – I’m happy to answer them below in the comments – and thanks for reading!

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107 Comments

  1. What about the battery? How long does it works with that kind of use?

    Reply
  2. Rob

    Great review. I have been looking forward to seeing this phone – looks small enough to mount on the bars of a road bike (similar in size to Edge 800)?

    Thanks again

    Reply
  3. They need to make a smallish bike mount for this to really be useful during training.

    Reply
  4. Can you listen to music on the phone during your run/ride, while still having it do all the ant+magic?

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  5. Awesome review Ryan! I have a ton of questions. The first thing I thought was: maybe I could have saved a lot of money not buying a Garmin Edge 800 last month. So the questions are:
    1) Can it perform GPS navigation to follow a pre-set course?
    2) How long is the battery life in full GPS mode?
    3) Would it fit well on a bike, provided that there was a bike mount for it?
    4) Can it save the data from the ANT+ sensors and GPS location so that you can upload it into Training Peaks or similar sport e-log?

    Then. of course my other thought was: should I reconsider my plan to buy an iPhone 5 when it comes out, or should I wait for this. Maybe the Rainmaker might have an opinion on that too.

    Thanks!

    Reply
  6. sam

    Great review; a few questions:

    * Battery life?
    * Can ANT+ devices be paired to more than one unit? I.e. can I pair my powertap to both my forerunner *and* this phone at the same time?
    * Found any apps that can export data to WKO+?

    Generally I’m curious if you see this as a complete replacement for a Garmin Edge, with its seamless integration into workout logging and analysis systems?

    Reply
  7. I’m also wondering about battery life. Would this last over the course of a century/gran fondo tracking ANT+ and GPS data? I think it would be fun to also stream music to a bluetooth speaker mounted to my bars during a low-key century ride with some buddies.

    @Alberto and Sam: the My Tracks app exports into GPX, KML, CSV, TCX. However, google will stop supporting it as of 2012.

    Reply
  8. Ismael

    Hello, but this question no is closely related to this review, do you know if the band polar nike + is compatible with Garmin watches?. It is assumed that the two work on the same frequency 2.4 Gz.
    Thanks for the product reviews you do.
    Greetings.

    Reply
  9. same question as nodun, how is the battery life with ant+ and gps turned on?

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  10. Same questions as Alberto! Also, any ideas on when Stava will add support for ANT+ accessories? Would be amazing if the Strava Android app would work with his phone and have ANT+ support.

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  11. I think this phone would be ideal in the jersey pocket and then you could just have a ANT+ display-only computer on the handlebars.

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  12. Kontol_dewo

    the price???

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  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  14. Hi, great review as always! You just keep coming up with good articles.

    As I’m a huge fan of Garmin equippment and use them daily, I’m wondering if you can use this phone and some of the trainingsoftware (Runkeeper, MapMyXXX and so on) to upload the training data (HRM, WATT, Kad/Speed, Footpod) to the Garmin Connect Website? If yes, then I could, in theory at least, replace my Edge 500 and FR60, and only use the Xperia Active?

    What trainingsoftware is in your opinion the best one to analyze your training data (I’ve never tried the MapMyXXX)?

    What do you think of the camera?

    And since your at Interbike, if Garmin is there, mabye you could ask them if there is a iPhone and/or a Android-app coming up? Mabye they are merging or buying Runkeeper or an other company?

    Thanks!

    Reply
  15. Hi all, thanks for all the great comments. I’ll consolidate questions if they’re duplicate.

    Hi Nodun-
    RE: Battery

    It depends on what you use it for and the app types. I didn’t drain it on my 2hr 30m run with ANT+ sensors and GPS running the entire time. I’ll try tomorrow with an ANT+ HR strap and GPS during the Outdoor Demo at Interbike running the whole day and see how long it takes to drain it. Obviously there are specifications on Sony’s site, but those would differ from ANT+ use.

    Hi Rob/Chris
    RE: Sizes & Bike mount

    Yes, almost identical in size to the Edge 800, except thiner. I’ll take a few pics tomorrow side by side and post them.

    Completely agree a bike mount would be killer.

    Hi Dalai Lama-
    RE: Music

    Yup, no problems there at all. It just depends on the app, but virtually all the apps I mentioned allow you to create playlists to play during an activity. Note that if that rubber door to the headphone jack is open however, that negates the waterproofing. You could do something like a Bluetooth powered headphones, or the Tunebug (also BT powered).

    Hi Alberto-
    RE: GPS Navigation

    Yes, MapMyRide does this – used it a few times on complex rides.

    RE: ANT+ Data sensors to TP
    I didn’t see any of those apps offering upload today directly to TP – but all of them support saving to formats that TP supports, such as TCX – so you’re good there. I’ll hit up the TP folks Wednesday and see what they have planned.

    Hi Sam-
    RE: Multipairing

    No issues at all there, in fact, I did that for both my rides and runs. They were at the same time paried to a Garmin Edge 800 and a Garmin FR610.

    RE: WKO+

    Same as TP, both support TCX.

    Hi Ismael-
    RE: Polar+ Compat with Garmin

    No, unfortunately not. Two entirely different protocals. ANT+ is what Garmin/Timex/Others use, and Polar uses their own protocal. Making it worse, the Nike+ watch actually uses a Polar variant that doesn’t work with anything else. :(

    Hi Kontol-
    RE: Price

    It’ll depend on which carrier and how much it is subsidized by the given carrier.

    Hi Rune-
    RE: Data Recording

    To date you can’t upload to Garmin Connect directly, but as noted above, these apps support TCX files, which Garmin Connect can upload easily using the manual uploader.

    RE: Best data analysis site

    Online it’s Training Peaks, offline it’s a tie between Sport Tracks and WKO+, with a close 2nd to Golden Cheetah (it’d be first if it also did running, but it’s more of a cycling powerhouse app).

    RE: Camera

    So far I found the camera quality so-so, not great – but passable. I’ll take a few pictures out in the desert here in Vegas at Interbike and see if it looks prettier.

    RE: Garmin Apps

    I’ll ask if there is an update there. They made it clear in their investor call last quarter that apps in general are on the radar and they see it vital to long term success. We’re seeing that already in the Automative, Aviation and Marine space for them. Within sports, we’ve only seen it on the GTU front.

    Thanks all!

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  16. What abouth readability in the sun, is a problem with my current X10 while biking…

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  17. Does a TCX file contain all of the training data, like HR, Watt etc. or only the mapfile?

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  18. Aditya

    Hi Rainmaker…nice review! I am looking to buy a smartphone but before this have stuck to basic phones from Nokia/ Samsung, widely sold where I live(India).This is because I am quite a clumsy person and keep dropping things. So can this phone handle such rough use?

    Reply
  19. JCS

    Great review as always. Is this a GSM phone with a sim card? If so, do you know if it will work with an ATT iphone sim? Thanks

    Reply
  20. Great review. I have been researching this phone every since you put a sneak peek up last week. I have made several calls (Sony Retail Store, Best Buy, At&T) and no one has any clue about availability dates.

    As always you hit on all the points that I wanted to read about. Thanks again for your review.

    Reply
  21. Iain

    Ray – do you know if the gps in the device is cellular or satellite based – ie do you need cellular coverage. Also can you use ant and Bluetooth at the same time – ie can you listen to music on bluetooth headset or use an ear headset to take a call while still recieving ant data? Very curious as it looks cool!

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  22. How is it as a phone? I know this sounds basic, but…

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  23. For folks who is interested on the power consumption. Head out for a 2hours run today with this phone. Bluetooth turn on to listen to the music. ANT+ sensor for HRM and footpod turn on as well. 100% charged took out about 20% juice when i done with running.

    Reply
  24. Wilburt

    Hi
    This was a really good “Hands On”- review. I’m from Sweden and since SE is half Swedish I hope to see the phone on the market next week or so.

    Reply
  25. Oz

    Any news yet on the battery life, Ray? I would be most interested in the scenario ANT + GPS (and maybe MP3), as this emulates the Edge 800 use case.

    Reply
  26. Tom

    Nice review. I am one of the people behind Xperia Active and championing active products at SonyEricsson.
    We have idea for bikeholder- i have been testing several ideas.
    How much would you pay for bikeholder in aftermarket?

    Reply
    • Sharil replied

      Hi Tom..was wondering if you guys actually came out with the bike holder for the Active yet?

      Reply
  27. Hi Tom-

    Funny, I was just talking to Kare and his travelling co-worker about this at the ANT+ Symposium last week.

    I’d pay the market price for such a mount – about $20 – if it was well designed and slim. The major problem with many phone bike mounts today is that it’s like strapping a watermellon onto the handlebars. I told him to talk to Chip from Wahoo Fitness about solid bike mount industrial design that also looks good.

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  28. Tue

    Thx for a great review, that really answered all the questions i´ve been seeking regarding this phone :) Really hoping for a handlebar bike mount, this would be perfect for my mtb cross country riding.
    Surely gonna buy this bastard now, really awesome phone
    greetings from denmark :)

    Reply
  29. Hi Ray, thanks for a great review, I appreciate it very much. One question please – is there a way to switch off “assisted” part of aGPS and use only GPS for navigation? Reason for asking are roaming prices for data access around Europe. If I used aGPS bycicle navigation outside of my home country, it would cost me a fortune. Thanks for advice! Regards.

    Reply
  30. Anonymous

    Hey, very nice review. Especially for us sport nerds.. :) What I wonder is if this device really has a “camera shutter button” as you suggest?

    /K

    Reply
  31. PT

    Was looking for a review of Sony Ericsson Xperia Active on web and found this. Great review and literally hands on. In fact ended up reading some other articles as well, really interesting blog. Bookmarking now, thanks for your good work, Rainmaker!

    Reply
  32. Ampeer

    Thanks for that detailed review! I have two additional questions:

    1.
    My MountainBike-Rides usually take half a day or even more. Does the battery support it with gps on? Even if screen-brightness is set to max?

    2. How is the screen readability in direct sunlight?

    Thanks so much!

    Reply
  33. Earwik

    Hi, thanks for the great review!

    I would like to join the crowd with the question about the battery life – is the phone capable of logging a whole-day bike trip (for the record, my current, very low-end smartphone, ZTE blade does when I don’t use it much during the logging)?

    Additionally – were you able to test the barometer function? Does it use the barometer to measure altitude? If so, how precise it is (I would guess it should be much more precise than GPS computed altitude)?

    Thanks for the answers :)

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  34. Tim

    Great review so far – thank you. The big question mark still is the battery.
    What happens if I use the SE “as” an Garmin Edge.

    Reply
  35. Doe it have a Front facing Camera?

    Please Let me know…

    Thanks in advance.

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  36. Got the answer – Doesn’t have a front camera. – Its a big Drawback. But rest is really great.

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  37. eldrage352

    Great review, thanks!
    The videos and all the hardware features are awesome, but I wanted to know a little bit more about the apps. I’ve searched around and found this blog xperia-active.com, where they have an in-depth review of the imapmyfintess and sportypal pro apps. It was very helpfull.

    Reply
  38. Tom

    Hi.I like your thorough test on this new phone, however myself being an avid bike rider the app “Map My Ride” with the heart rate and distance monitor is very interesting.The negative side to that is that I don’t have any of the mentioned brands for my heart rate and distance monitoring, instead I’ve got a German brand that reads my heart rate.My question is if it will work with the Ant+ when I enter the adequate information in the App pertaining to the heart band and synchronizing it with the phone as the GPS will show me the positioning?Thank you.
    Awaiting your reply on tomh@comhem.se

    Reply
  39. han

    hi nice review but is this phone shockproof??? can the phone and its screen withstand 4-6feet drop’s??? have u done a drop test???

    Reply
  40. But,how much? Hehehe

    Reply
  41. Anders

    Hey DC Rainmaker,
    First of all, thank you for a nice review!
    Im seriously considering buying this phone, the only problem is that i use the polar system.
    Do you know if the CS200CAD cycle computer match with ant+? And what are the battery usage if you use polar bluetooth/hybrid belt?

    Reply
  42. Great Review as always Ray,

    Some feedback from use of the “active”

    1) The standard mounts I have (and I have researched) all comprimise the on/off button and the volume control buttons. Due to the fact they are on either side of the handset.

    I have modified one mount to get around this. You still have the issue of the handstrap loop which means that you can not use one side of the base brace on most clamps.

    2) As you have identified in an earlier reply, the clamp needs to be extremly slim to allow for easy use of the touch screen. Ideally someone will design a back replacement similar to the Garmin 500/800

    3) I have been using the handset along with Garmin sensors (and my 310xt) it pairs up and works extremely well. The limitations are with the availaible bike apps.

    So… If someone can design an Android app that exactly replicates the Garmin 800, please let me know.

    Cheers

    Reply
  43. Hi Tom (from SE),

    If it turns out that battery life is not long enough for a long ride (>4 hrs), how about a larger capacity battery with a matching back that has an integrated bike mount connector?

    Reply
  44. Same question as Han.. is it shockproof? An outdoor phone should have some protection from accidental drops and knocks. This question as well as decent batterylife is crucial to my purchase decision.

    Reply
  45. Anonymous

    Ray
    Do you know the availability or possible release date of the phone in Canada?

    Thanks

    Reply
  46. Anonymous

    Ray
    Do you know the availability or possible release date of the phone in the U.S

    Reply
  47. @Anonymous: you can check here if its available near you: link to sonyericsson.com
    I see that it’s available in NYC…

    @Kurt: check xperia-active.com for a comparison review between sportypal pro on xperia active and garmin edge 800, maybe it will be useful for you.

    Reply
  48. Went mountain biking today and tracked my ride using endomondo (free version) with GPS turned on and HRM connected thru ANT+. 43% battery left after 4.5 hours, recharged it with my Sanyo mobile booster (brought it along just in case) to 58% and continued to ride for 3.5 hours more and was left with 13% when I reached home. This equates to about 12.7% battery life per hour of usage.

    Phone was also used to take photos and videos along the way and was connected to 3G throughout the ride.

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  49. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  50. As other folks have been expressing interest in, I will join the choir and cry out: BIKE MOUNT! But not just a generic bike mount, it should be a stylish bike mount that fits the Experia Active. And it would be really cool if it has a swivel that allows for movie recording while mounted and riding the bike.

    Actually I wonder why Sony didn’t launched a bike mount at the same time.

    Something like a waterproof connector to an external battery could be handy at some time…

    Nice review!

    Reply
  51. Oz

    TrustedReviews just posted a review of the Active. They awarded a 8 out of 10. Battery life is not what we wished for…

    link to trustedreviews.com

    Reply
  52. DBL

    Firstly, thank you for the great review. Easily the most relevant and helpful one out there.
    Can I just ask for people’s impressions on the call quality of the phone?
    Two reviews mention sub-par call quality while another praises it.
    I’m sold on everything else but I’m guessing I will use it as a phone every now and then and I’d just like to know that I’m not going to be stuggling to hear callers (or vice versa) when doing so.

    Reply
  53. @DBL, I am using it as my day phone and no issues with call quality so far (in-call volume + overall call quality).

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  54. DBL

    @makoantz, cheers for that. Appreciate the input. I was tossing up between this and the iphone. The active is significantly cheaper plus I wouldn’t have to worry about dongles and cases. I think I’ll take the plunge on this when it’s available here. Just keeping my fingers crossed for a slick bike mount.

    Reply
  55. I bought the phone in Singapore and also tried to record in the pool. However when the phone was submerged, some bubbles came out from the small gap in the volume/zoom button. Once the phone touched water, the video recording stopped. Tried this a few times. How did you manage to take the underwater vids?

    Reply
  56. This comment has been removed by the author.

    Reply
  57. I came across Endomondo’s phone case/bike mount. Probably what most folks have been waiting for.
    link to store.endomondo.com

    Reply
  58. Updated with a us site address:
    link to store.endomondo.com

    Costs $69.99

    Reply
  59. Does anyone have a clue where I can buy this phone in the USA? I have looked everywhere and cannot find one for purchase that specifies it’s a US model and will work on our frequencies. The only things I find are all on backorder or wrong region.

    Thanks!

    Reply
  60. Yup, you can get it via Amazon unlocked – works with ATT and basically everyone but Verizon.

    Here ya go:

    link to amazon.com

    Reply
  61. E

    Hey Ray,
    Thanks for all the reviews! While waiting for the Garmin 910XT I decided to get this phone so I’d have a head unit for the power meter in the mean time. Thing is, the only app I’ve found that even shows the power meter is the MapMyFitness thing. Paired up and everything. However, when I want to view the workout on the site, there’s no power data. Have you seen an app that not only pairs a power meter but also graphs it? Preferably with an export that is accepted by Garmin connect, but right now I’ll take anything.

    Reply
  62. Nathan

    Awesome review!

    Is it compatiable with the nike+ sensor?

    Reply
  63. E

    For what it’s worth, I took the Xperia Active out for about 5 hours today (3h50m bike + 1h10m run) with GPS, ANT+, and music playing throughout, and came back with about 65% battery. Do note that was without any data connection. I connect to the wifi at home to upload. Mobile data is a severe battery consumer.

    Reply
  64. Hi everyone!
    Garmin FR 610 or the Xperia Active? This year I ran my 2nd marathon. Trained to finish in 3:30. After the weather forecast aimed for 3:40 and at the end it grew to 3:50. So I decided to pay more attention to HR training, running technique and cadence.

    Now I do my runs with Garmin FR50 still missing the advanced workouts function. In about a half of my running activities I take the cell phone with me for additional tracking, posting the workouts or just to stay accessible. Do the occasional bike for recovery and to keep in shape during the off season.

    I was almost sure about FR610 for its advanced running features and still acceptable price (currently 280 € in Slovakia).
    I find very interesting the Garmin training effect, and the promise to be able to record and analyse HRV is also appealing.

    The benefit I see in Xperia is:
    - may by able to replace the FR 610
    - can shoot some occasional pictures,
    - track my hikes,
    - can take it on kayak (to shoot pictures)
    - or even for my rafting trip to Albania (pictures and tracking).

    Of course all that with some help from replacement battery/pack.

    In my previous experience a single purpose devices always tend to be more reliable, precise and without additional or less hassle.

    So what are you guys thinking? FR 610 or Xperia?

    Reply
  65. My Tracks gets a mention in the review but it doesn’t mention there is an application that works with My Tracks to upload data live to MapMyTracks.com called Avocado My Tracks Bridge link to market.android.com .

    I’m wondering how good the Active GPS is. It’s not reviewed here. I’ve been trying bicycle tracking using with ANT + handsets picking up data from SRM head units and used it to make the Criterium movie at link to youtu.be . Mick Rogers is carrying an Active and the other cyclists are carrying Xperia X10 mini pro handsets. Mick has the least accurate GPS in this video but one sample is not enough to be definitive. There is also a tendency for tracked position to overshoot the corners, again worse with the Xperia Active, which implies there is Kalman or similar filtering being applied to the GPS readings. I’m wondering if anyone knows more about this and whether it is done in the GPS chip or the handset firmware?

    Reply
  66. Anonymous

    I can see you have the micoach application installed on your phone. Is is possible to use it with ant+ devices? Or does any of the application you used provide voice coaching like micoach does?

    Reply
  67. Hello fella, I have been convincing myself to buy this phone for a long time. You see gsmarena.com is a pretty cool website which talks about all kinds of phones and it has written a real cool review about this one but your review and pictures, I think, is just what was needed. You have touched upon aspects which they just let pass with two blinks. Coincidently they call the review the rainmaker. You’re famous or what? Thanks again from India. Great blog. I’m a fan!!

    Reply
  68. sg

    A couple of comments about the usage of this phone. I have used it for running a while now and really like it. But:

    1. It would be nice to be able to turn the screen on without having to move the slider (like on some HTC:s you can push the menu buton twice and you get the screen).

    2. Same goes for answering the phone, button is better than slider.

    The reason I like buttons better is that buttons are a lot easier to push with thick gloves (minus degrees here in Sweden).

    Reply
  69. I’m convincing myself up to this day to buy this phone although Xperia S is coming in a few months.
    But the Active’s capabilities is what I really liked in a phone. I like the “I don’t have to worry if it gets wet” attitude. This review covered only a sportsman can do. It utilizes the Active’s features being for “the active people” while using different fitness sensors.
    Because of this review, though a little late but not too late for an android beginner like me, I’ll get this phone this month. Thanks Rainmaker.

    Reply
  70. I think you mentioned on twitter swapping SIM between iPhone and Xperia Active. Do your contacts move back and forth too? How do text message conversations move back and forth, or do they?

    Reply
  71. Anonymous

    Hy I also use the se xperia active since 3 month now and i am happy with it.
    read this blog for a while because i am looking for a bike mount.
    was not sucessfull on that page but have found one. after my first rides with that bikemount i really can recomment it.
    check out this site. i am not shure if the deliver outside europe.

    link to upmove.eu

    Reply
  72. Kris

    When ordering the ST17a off Amazon (it says 800MHz UMTS but it’s really 850 FYI, as well as 1900/2100) I discovered that the US version does NOT come with the wrist strap or arm band. I guess Sony Ericsson assumes ‘fat Americans’ don’t exercise, so don’t need them.

    Reply
  73. wow… nice review, maybe i will buy this series…

    Reply
  74. Xavier CL

    Thanks for the detailed review and the thoroughness of the content you publish.

    I am not a current Android user and haven’t been able to figure out the following:

    (1) Is it possible to use GPS tracking and maps display when outside of the cell network coverage? I assume that would require being able to pre-download and cache the map of the area of interest.

    (2) Are there Android tracking apps that can use custom maps (the capability for custom maps that was outlined in your Edge 800 review is pretty compelling). I’m particularly interested in high-res topo maps.

    Background info: I’m looking for a GPS device for mountain biking and it seems the Xperia comes pretty close to meeting the requirements on my wish list:
    - GPS tracking and maps
    - Ability to load gpx tracks from other riders
    - ANT+ for HRM, cadence sensors
    - Fitness applications
    - Optional: emergency phone

    I guess a Garmin Edge 800 would mostly fit the bill but I have a suspicion that the choice of apps on a cell phone will provide far more functionality ultimately. Also, I can’t imagine squinting at a map with such a limited pixel count (especially when I’m lost in the middle of the woods ;-) ).

    Thanks!

    Reply
  75. Xavier CL

    I realize my earlier post is not entirely clear: I know that Google Maps on Android can indeed cache 10-mile square sections of maps. However what I’d like to know is if any fitness / GPS tracking application can do the same (or use the cached Google map itself).
    Thanks.

    Reply
  76. Kisstoney

    Moved from a FR305 to this as a bike computer. Now I just have to work out which app to use… Trying all the free ones first ; )

    Reply
  77. Anonymous

    can this phone take picture ubderwater????

    Reply
  78. Yes, though, it can be finicky due to the water pressure.

    Reply
  79. Thank you for this review. It’s great! I just wanna make sure about the video you shot in the pool. When I bought it, the manual had a picture showing a picture with an X in bringing the phone under the swimming pool

    Reply
  80. Francesco Didonna

    Hi Rainmaker

    I have a Xperia Arc and a GARMIN ANT+ HEART RATE SOFT STRAP, and i want use it with my Arc + app Mapmyfitness and use Sony SMARTWATCH like monitor of heart rate.
    You think is all possible, i m waiting accessories…
    thanks
    Francesco

    Reply
  81. Thank you so much for all the informative reviews.
    It’s with this Active review that got me to look into using my Xperia Ray with a foot pod for a cheaper start to read my cadence before spending on a TRT or FR210.

    Pardon me for my lengthy post but this is to serve as a info for those who are currently using ANT+ capable smartphone with sensors like me.

    My model: Xperia Ray
    Android Build: GingerBread before I upgraded to Ice Cream Sandwich yesterday.
    Sensor: none at this point of time as I am still scouting for a good price for Garmin foot pod

    My experience: I installed ant+ demo and upgraded the ANT+ radio services about two weeks back when I’m still using GB on my Ray. The demo launched without any issue and I can enable or disable ant+ within the demo. That signify that it’s ready to be used before I get foot pod.

    Sadly last night, I proceed with a software upgrade to ICS and all things failed now. I updated the ANT+ radio services, reboot and try on the demo. It simply stuck in “Enabling” mode and nothing happens.

    Numerous uninstallation, reboots, reinstallation does not help. This sadden me as it means I will need to get a “full kit” to read my cadence instead of making use of my existing phone to cut some cost. I’m a beginner and just got back running so cutting cost is my concern after spending on running shoes and apparels. I do hope to be better in running by taking some readings off my running and this stops me for time being as im saving up for the full kit.

    Summary: for those who are using Xperia ANT+ capable smartphone with sensors, you might want to hold your horses on upgrading your Android to ICS as it is being forecasted that Xperia Active is getting ICS upgrade this coming May. It might turn out to be an upgrade that force you to upgrade to more expensive ANT+ capable watches just to keep your reading going.

    And if anyone can help after reading what I have encountered, please drop a note or two on your experience. I do hope to rectify this issue soon.

    Cheers!

    Reply
  82. Anonymous

    so.. can this phone + sensors (foot pod, speed/cadence, hrm) actually replace top garmin\polar\suunto\etc products?
    because sensors just give dataflow, i suppose it’s more software functionality problem..
    so is there a program with enough functionality?

    Reply
  83. The short answer is no, there is no such a complex app to replace a better sport watch. I bought the Xperia Active in January but ended lately with Forerunner 610 watch. I’m still happy with Xperia because of its durability and water proofnes, i take it often for my rafting/kayaking trips, but as an training toll it is just good as every other smartphone – logs your distance and HR.

    Reply
  84. kedai mano buleh kawe beli talipon yg canggih mcm tu? berapo rego? hok ap ko zitron?

    Reply
  85. Anonymous

    What is it like in comparison to a motoactv?

    Reply
  86. Hi,

    I am using mapmyride with wahoo speed/cadence sensor on the Sony Xperia active as my bike computer. The problem I’m facing is that I cannot keep the screen on throughout my ride. There is no such function to keep the screen on under setting. This is available for the iPhone app. Anyone knows how to keep the screen on?

    Eric

    Reply
  87. Xperia Go better!))

    Reply
    • Jack replied

      Xperia Go does not have ANT+ sadly..

      Reply
  88. Anonymous

    how about the xperia active test in sun ray? biking 4 t0 10 hours under the sun? please help….

    Reply
  89. Anonymous

    how about the xperia active test in sun ray? biking 4 t0 10 hours under the sun? please help….

    Reply
  90. Anonymous

    Hi,

    I’m new to the site – it was recommended to me when I asked elsewhere about Garmin Edge products (I’m a bit old-school 20th century in terms of all this stuff).

    Excellent reviews, and this – if it came with a bike mount – has made me wonder whether it might be better to get than an Edge 500 or 800.

    The one thing I want with the device I eventually choose, though, is real-time ascent percentage readings.

    I’ve only ever plotted routes by hand on the MapMyRide website, for example, and it always shows the short, sharp climbs around my way (which are 14-16%) as averaging out at 4-5% climbs because of the shortness of the really steep bits.

    Are any of the apps that you could use with this phone good for that?

    Reply
  91. Anonymous

    The Xperia Active has GPS+Glonass GSP chipset. Page 16 of whitepaper. Very good satellite reception.

    link to www-support-downloads.sonymobile.com

    Can be a substitute for a haddle gps ??

    One android program for off road navigation, oruxmaps. Very good to.

    Reply
  92. For those who are considering of buying the successor of the Xperia Active, i.e. the Xperia Go (now under the Sony branding): it has NO ANT+ . Seems that Sony has dropped ANT+ support in there newest phones, which is really a pity.

    Got myself an Xperia Active (some days ago), for a nice price (on Amazon.de), and so far I’m very pleased with it. Xperia Go is a ‘no go’ for me ;-)

    Reply
  93. Anonymous

    I am afraid that the Xperia Ray has no ANT+ support. Like the Xperia GO.

    A bad move from SE’s part.

    Reply
  94. This article inspired me to go and write an App to take full adantage of this phone. Search for IpBike for an app that with this phone gives you somthing equiverlent to any high end bike computer.

    Includes real time incline information as comment 90 was after.

    Using the Active itself in dircet sunlight the key thing is what the direct reflection is. sky or light clouds you need to have the backlight turned well up which of course hits the battery life. I organise my bike mount so the reflection is directly back at my face and with this setup I can put the display down to 25% and gett 4 hours none stop use. If you let the display switch off then you can get 8+ hours.

    Reply
  95. Anonymous

    The Xperia acro S is Sony’s latest ANT+ compatible phone (as far as I can tell). It doesn’t look as drop resistant as the Go but it’s still water resistant.

    Reply
  96. oldSAP

    Hi Ray, would you happen to know of there’s a strap of some sort so i could use this phone on my wrist? sort of like a gps watch?

    Reply
  97. Andre

    How about Xperia Z ? its water proof, ant+ enabled and also dust proof

    Reply
    • Prozor replied

      No – Xperia Z is not ant+ enabled!

      Reply
  98. Carl

    Great review… Even though this is several years old I’m considering purchasing one of these as a secondary device for all my outdoors actives!! I can’t seem to see anything else since that is the right small size, as rugged and more suited to the job than this… Has anyone else come across more up to date alternatives?? I want something android, rugged and waterproof, compact, good gps, ant+ etc :)

    Reply
    • Jai replied

      Hey, Carl. I’ve been using the Active for the last (almost) two years and still love my little phone. Unfortunately, it is showing it’s age now mostly from a memory and app space perspective. The newer Xperias seem to have the water- and dust-proofing built in without being labelled Active but don’t have the nice form-factor, the rubber lanyard and sexiness in my opinion of the original Active. It would be nice if Sony came out with an Active 2 with enhanced specs but otherwise similar looks to the original.

      Reply
  99. Just wanted to let you know that I read this review two years ago and wen’t ahead and bought the phone. It has since been with me for many hours training and I find it a really good training companion. I event went ahead and made my own app for it that I recently published to Google Play. It is called Move Tracker.

    Thanks for the great review that made me start the fun hobby programming project building Move Tracker!

    Reply
  100. Michael

    Also still a happy Xperia Active user with original Android System. All the newer phones are too big. Also made my own garmin mount including velcro steps, looks great, works great.
    For running my Apple earphones don’t work because Sony uses a different plug. Which earphones are you recomending?! or better which Sony ones are compatible?!

    Reply
  101. Reddy

    Are there any “active” versions of smartphones with ANT+ and/or BT-LE?

    Reply
  102. BillM

    Look up the phone finder on gsmarena.com and you can find all the ant+ enabled smart phones out there. Sony Xperia range seems to dominate the ant+ and it has waterproofing on some of its new models too such as Xperia z or acro s

    Reply
  103. Sharil

    If you guys are in the market for newer versions of ANT+ enabled Xperias, Sony just launched the Xperia Z compact. That’s the closest I think that comes to matching the Active in form/function factor with added battery life, and better camera. It’s a slim design, though it doesn’t inspire the same confidence you get with rugged (aka chunky) design of the Active. I am not affiliated with Sony in any way, other than the fact that I have 2 Actives in service – which I bought based on this excellent review!

    Reply

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