The Sony Xperia Tipo slides in right at the bottom of the Xperia handset range, which has grown rapidly since the firm officially divorced from Ericsson at the start of the year.
Expected to arrive during the third quarter of 2012, the Xperia Tipo (also known as the ST21i) is likely to carry a price tag in the region of £100, if not a bit lower, putting it in direct competition with LG Optimus L3, Huawei Ascend G300 and Samsung Galaxy Y.
You won't be parting with too much cash if you opt for the Xperia Tipo, so what does a hundred notes get you these days? Well, Sony reckons it's an 800MHz single-core processor, 512MB of RAM, 2.5GB of internal storage, 3.2-inch 320x480 display, Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, 3.2MP camera and microSD card slot.
Measuring up at 13mm in depth, the Tipo is a little chunkier than a lot of smartphones currently on the market, but the curved, pebbled shaped design, along with the small 57mm width and 103mm height means it fits in the hand well.
Sony has coated the Xperia Tipo in what it's calling "premium rubber", for the white version at least, which has been specially designed to wipe clean with a damp cloth – even stuff like ink should come straight off.
The dinky dimensions allow the Xperia Tipo to weigh in at a shade under 100g grams, which means it won't pull your pants down when you stick it in your pocket but does provide a reassuring weight in the hand.
The Tipo sports a minimalist design with just three touch keys located below the 3.2-inch display and a small speaker grill above the only additions on the front of the handset.
Round the back is the 3.2MP camera, speaker grill and the word Xperia with the Sony Ericsson bubble logo above it. On top there's a 3.5mm headphone jack and power/lock key, with a volume rocker switch located on the right.
Take the back cover off the Xperia Tipo and you'll find a standard SIM card slot, microSD card port (supporting up to 32GB cards) and a removable 1,460mAh battery – which Sony claims to offer five hours of talk time and 470 hours of standby.
Turn the Tipo on and the QVGA display wakes, providing an adequate image at the low price range, comparable with the likes of the Galaxy Y and Optimus L3, although the Ascend G300 does boast a slightly bigger and better screen.
The Tipo lacks the Sony Bravia engine support we've witnessed on the higher end handsets in the range, such as the Xperia U, but seeing as this is a budget device that's no shock.
It's pleasing to see Ice Cream Sandwich running on an entry level handset, something else the Xperia Tipo has over its Samsung, LG and Huawei rivals.
Sony has stuck its own custom overlay onto the Xperia Tipo, and although it has no official name, it's reminiscent of the Sony Ericsson Timescape Android overlay of old – although cleaner and simpler.
The 800MHz processor manages to provide a relatively smooth user experience, allowing us to sweep through the five home screens on offer and various app lists and menus without too much slow down or lag.
Pinch any home screen and you are greeted with an exploded view of all the widgets on all screens – allowing you to quickly jump to the one you want, instead of having to sweep through all five screens.
We did find the touchscreen wasn't the slickest, with our finger encountering a little bit of resistance, which we found slightly frustrating.
All the standard Android functions are present, from contacts and calling to messaging and email.
Sony has tweaked the default Android keyboard, making the key a little taller, improving travel, but typing on such a small screen is challenging at the best of times and we found ourselves still hitting a lot of wrong keys.
You can turn the Sony Xperia Tipo landscape, offering up a better spaced board, and as the handset is daintily sized and nicely rounded, it's easy to type in this elongated position – Swype is also installed if you prefer a more gesture-based form of input.
The Xperia Tipo sports Sony's xLoud technology, which increases the volume of the music by up to 30% when played out of the rear speaker, and Sony claims this boost does not produce distortion - it doesn't work with headphones though.
In the music player app you can also choose from a range of preset equaliser settings, allowing you to add more bass, treble or jazz etc to your tunes – although there's no manual option for fine tuning.
Sony's also added its TrackID application to the Xperia Tipo – which is the company's own version of the popular Shazam and SoundHound apps. The free service (data plan permitting) will allow you to identify any song playing in your favourite club, car radio or supermarket.
Another new service from Sony is its Liveware Manager application, which allows users to program the Xperia Tipo to perform certain functions when the phone it plugged into a particular thing, be that a charger, headphones on in-car Bluetooth system for example.
The demo we were shown was the Tipo being connected to a charger and the phone jumping to the alarm settings, the thinking being you're likely to charge your phone before you go to bed. You'll be able to set this up how you want it.
The camera application offers a decent enough array of options for a budget phone, but there's no flash next to the 3.2MP sensor, meaning shooting in the dark or low light is out of the question with the Xperia Tipo.
You do get a 4x digital zoom and the ability to record VGA quality video, but there's no front facing camera for video calling shenanigans.
Connectivity wise the Xperia Tipo packs Wi-Fi b/g/n with hotspot functionality, Bluetooth, DLNA streaming support and a microUSB socket on the left side – no NFC, but remember this phone is only £100.
The Sony Xperia Tipo is an attractive little handset offering a relatively decent array of features for its £100 price point.
The Ascend G300 does offer slightly superior specifications, but doesn't quite match the style and simplicity of the Xperia Tipo.
If you're looking for an easy to use, well designed budget handset you won't go wrong with a Sony Xperia Tipo. Make sure you keep an eye our for our full, in-depth review, coming soon.