Just got a Sony Xperia ION so I'll be updating this post. The Sony ION is now available from Rogers for $49.99 on a 3 year. It's got a really bright 500nit 4.6" 1280x720 LCD display, dual core 1.5Ghz processor, 1GB RAM, 16GB built-in storage which can be expanded with MicroSD cards and a 1900mAh non-removable battery.
The main body of the phone is a metal unibody which feels much more solid than Galaxy S III and One X's plastic bodies. In-person it also looks a lot nicer than the S III's sometimes vulgar looking metal finish. It also comes with 6 months of Sony Entertainment Network.
There are 2 flys in the proverbial ointment: The dual core processor is a Qualcomm S3 processor (found on last year's Galaxy S II LTE, LG Optimus LTE and HTC Raider) and not the newer S4 processors found on the HTC One X and Samsung Galaxy S III. What's the difference you ask? While the S4 processors are noticeably faster the graphics performance is huge step up. The Adreno 220 GPU in the S3 struggles when it comes to HD displays whereas the S4's Adreno 225 is adequate. What's the difference? In SunSpider (a browser benchmark) S4's are generally 25 to 35% faster. With GL Benchmark (tests 3D performance) the difference is about 60%.
The bigger problem is that the ION ships with Gingerbread (Android 2.3) with a ICS update (4.0) not coming till in Q3. In this respect the ION looks really out-dated especially when you consider that Jellybean (4.1) was just announced. Frankly, it's insane for Sony to release a flagship product with Gingerbread at this point. I'd understand if it was Q4 or even Q1 this year but everyone else is on ICS now.
Sony also has a special dock (available separately) for the ION to hook it up to your TV. If you have a CEC enabled TV you can actually use your TV's remote to control the ION. There's a special launcher that actually looks quite nice. You can also hook up a keyboard and mouse if you want. It actually looks like Sony spent some time on the dock. That said, I've never wanted to hook my phone up to my TV. When I watch TV I usually have my phone in my hand. What happens if you're watching something on the phone and someone calls? It's all cool but I wish Sony had spent their time getting a faster processor in the ION or better yet, a newer version of Android.
Still, it appears that Sony knows they're not going to be to compete with Samsung and HTC head-to-head so the ION is priced more competitively at $49.99 and $500 straight up vs $150ish and $599ish for the One X and Galaxy S III. I'll have a full review in a few days.