Sony’s current flagship handset, the Xperia Z, has been on the market for 6 months now, it’s had a decent marketing campaign behind it to highlight the unique features, and there’s been enough time for it to gain visibility in the market place and start to pick up sales. I’ve had mine for 2 months which has given me enough time to get used to it and work out what I really think.
Firstly, the design. It is a wide phone, and it needs to be to accommodate the massive 5 inch screen, but it’s still thin. The rectangular design is sharp and modern with subtle beveled edges, and it has a very solid and well constructed feel to it, as well as a pleasant heft. It doesn’t feel cheap, and with the combination of metal, high density plastic and glass, it doesn’t look cheap either. It fits in my hand pretty comfortably but I could see it being difficult for those with baby sized fists, though most smart phones work in landscape as well as portrait so they could always use both hands. For perspective, putting this phone up against a Samsung S3, they are both nearly the same size, but the Z boasts a bigger screen. The standard versions are black or white, and a special edition purple version is available at O2, which I went for because it’s nice to see a phone that isn’t just plain in an effort to sell you expensive branded coloured covers.
Tech-wise it’s very competent. The capacitive 5 inch TFT screen is scratch and shatter resistant, can recognise up to ten unique touch points (why would you want to?!), and displays in 1080 resolution whilst being powered by the Bravia mobile 2 engine. It makes for a really impressive and vibrant display. I showed one of my colleagues (a dedicated iPhone 5 user) some video footage and he hid his phone out of embarrassment, the Retina display just isn’t in the same league. That said, the viewing angle isn’t as great as other phones I’ve had, anywhere past about 45 degrees and you get washed out colours and darkened images, though it’s very rare you’ll watch much at that angle anyway.
Internally it has a quad-core 1.5 GHz processor, 2 GB of memory and 16 GB of storage that is really just shy of 12 GB once the phone frees up what it doesn’t need. You can expand the storage with a micro SD card too if you’re running out of space. What these specs mean is that the phone is very responsive and multitasks brilliantly. I’ve come from an Xperia Arc that could pretty much only handle one task at a time, with the Z I can comfortably run several apps at once with no slowdown in performance, as well as maintaining a permanent bluetooth connection to my SmartWatch and with the wi-fi running in the background. It’s really quite impressive how smoothly it runs, and the only slightly altered Android Jelly Bean o/s works really well. Sony typically don’t change too much of the firmware, and add a few interesting tweaks like the small app selection in the task menu which allows you to run selected apps on top of others. The calculator and converter apps are really useful.
For the phones other unique features it’s got a pretty big one, it’s fully water and dust proof, and can survive comfortably for up to half and hour at a depth of 1 meter. So far I’ve just used it in the rain, happy in the knowledge nothing is going to short out on me, but am really tempted to give the water immersion a try once I remember to update my phone insurance. The water resistance does come with a drawback and that’s all the ports have rubber sealed covers that are a bit fiddly to get at, especially the SD card slot on my phone. The cover would not go back into place fully because of the rubber seal, and it took a couple of weeks of regular pushing to get the cover to sit flush with the rest of the phone. I won’t be removing that card until my next upgrade in 2015.
Having to uncover the charging slot each time is a nuisance as well. Fortunately I bought the Goose White charging dock at the same time which uses contact with two points on the side of the device to power up so I don’t have to mess around with the cover, but it is slower to do it like this. The setup of the charging did make me think why Sony didn’t try for conductive charging in the phone, this would have solved the whole problem. As for battery life, I get about 2 days of regular use between charges, and that’s with bluetooth and wi-fi constantly on for around 16 hours a day. There are some built in battery saving options too that are activated from the settings menu, and quite a useful charge remaining estimate based on the history of your phone activity.
The water and dust covers also mean that bluetooth headphones are the way to go, and if you pre-ordered an Xperia Z, certain carriers threw in the fancy ones for free. For those of us who weren’t able to do that you can use any other type, and they’re definitely easier to manage than plugging wired headphones in. And for other connections, the phone comes with an NFC chip massively visible on the back cover. I’ve tried to use it a couple of times and got random effects, sometimes it works and sometimes is doesn’t, but that could be because I’d assumed it’s intuitive to use and not bothered reading any instructions (true man-style).
Definitely worth mentioning is the camera. It’s a 13.1 megapixel that’s a big improvement over previous Sony Ericsson efforts. In the past the cameras have always be excellent outdoors but very poor indoors, now the indoor shots have been brought up to scratch and the images are very, very good. With the latest firmware update a Superior Auto mode has been added that cleverly selects all the right settings to give you the best picture it can, and so far it’s not let me down. I’ve taken more pictures with this phone in 2 months than I did with others I’d had for 2 years.
So is it worth going for? I think yes but many others don’t seem convinced. It dropped in contract price within 3 months and so far I am the only person I know with one. The two most popular handsets (iPhone and Samsung Galaxy) are still dominating the marketplace. What it does mean though is that picking one up now should be quite a bargain. The functions and features that come with it are better than most other devices, and Sony are still wanting to make headway in the smart phone arena so they will continue to support the technology. It’s definitely a contender in the high end space and shouldn’t be overlooked if your browsing for a new phone.