Tongues are currently wagging about Samsung’s Galaxy S4 which just became available in the local market. I have had a few minutes with the S4 and hopefully will have many more in coming days and trust me after using it or rather playing with it for just a few minutes it is when you start understanding what the hype about the new Galaxy is all about. Still, it also makes you understand why some other platform loyalists (also known as fanboys in a parallel universe) are very bitter. Why? Because it is a threat, much bigger than its sibling, to the status quo of smartphones since 2007. Yes the S4 is all domineering right now and rightly so but are there other Android flagships from other OEMs worth talking about right now? Yes, there are a good number and they don’t lack in any department be it looks, power or awesomeness. I previously had a look at the HTC One and today it is the turn of the…
Sony Xperia Z
You’ve got to give it up to Sony for bringing such a capable and standout flagship in 2013. For the first time in as many years we finally have a Sony smartphone that we can outrightly point out that it takes on the big boys without hiding in the shadow of a sibling device or a hastily crafted successor. In 2012 we had a whole bevy of Sony smartphones and all packed good specs coupled with the great hardware that Sony is well known for. What lacked? A clear standout flagship device. We did have the Xperia S but could it stand up to the single leader identity that became of the Galaxy S III and by far HTC’s One X? Not really. 2013 was going to be different and we could all see that from the fact that the Xperia Z was the first high profile flagship announcement of the year. We may see a repeat of this though. While the Xperia Z is regarded as the Sony flagship smartphone of 2013, the Xperia ZR could soon challenge it for the top honours since it is already getting very many admirers thanks to its additional IP58 certification which makes it a darling of the water guys as it can be submerged upto 5 feet under water; a bigger feat than the Xperia Z’s IP57 certification which only translates to being able to be submerged upto 3.3 ft. Not a big deal if you ask me and I’m sure the same is the case for many other consumers (save for those who live in Japan) but hey, it’s about bragging rights these days isn’t it?
Does it stack up to the competition? It does. I’ve been lucky to have a brief hands-on with this device I’ve cheekily nicknamed The Swimmers’ Companion thanks to its waterproof nature and I was not disappointed. Despite my misgivings with a few software tweaks thanks to Android OEMs’ infamous and persistent skinning (Sony’s UI, eer Timescape? is one of the least modified though), you can’t take anything away from this device. Plus it has all the desirable specs to boot.
The Xperia Z’s standout specs:
- Elsewhere the fuss is about the AMOLED displays, their true blacks and all that. In some quarters it is about the IPS displays and their clear whites and great viewing angles. While the display tech hardly ever varies, Sony threw a lot of its own tech (as well as technical jargon to explain it) into what the Xperia Z’s display has. This is what they say: Full HD Reality Display with Mobile BRAVIA Engine 2. Of course like the competition it is 5 inches. Having used Sony’s mid-range devices for a limited time, I know that the BRAVIA Engine does make a difference but I’m not sure how improved it is here since it is BRAVIA Engine “2”.
- Camera with Exmor RS camera. Of course it is a 13 megapixel back shooter, just like the competition. The Exmor RS also powers a better Mobile HDR video experience. Still, we really can’t question Sony’s camera (Cybershot?) prowess can we?
- One touch mirroring. For sharing on larger displays by just a single tap.
- Water resistant. Dust proof too. Thanks to its IP55 and IP57 certification.
Full specs here.
I’m not sure if what I’ve listed as standout specs really makes it standout considering that some other elephant in the room *cough* has a whole list of features but if they don’t wow you at least there’s consolation in the design for my friends in the “anti-plastic brigade”. The Xperia Z has glass both at the front and the back. I know that increases the risk factor should the device fall but aren’t you after “premium feel and finish” these days? Yeah that’s what you live with then. Oh and those smudges, fingerprints, paw prints on the back glass.
I look at the Xperia Z as an Android device chiefly for those deeply hooked into Sony’s ecosystem especially for Playstation Mobile but hey, that’s me!
There’s something I like about Sony that is likeable to most of us who love tinkering with our Droids. It is currently the only OEM who has greatly come out to support the open Android developer community. You know what I mean? Custom ROMs… Sony releases all the source code of its device’s essential drivers to the community and working closely with them thus making it easier to have 99% bug free custom ROMs. Though I’ve not fallen in love with the Xperia Z (I’m not a swimmer, deep sea diver, a Japan national or ever had my phone fall into the kitchen sink anyway), this fact is at least some consolation.
The Xperia Z launched retailing at around Ksh 65,000-70,000 but since that was many days ago, the price has peaked at Ksh 55,000-60,000 in most outlets locally. At least that’s what I’ve seen so if you have a better deal count yourself lucky and make the most out of it.
Will you buy the Xperia Z over the Galaxy S4 and the HTC One (which I don’t know how many months or years it will take for it to show up in most outlets locally if it ever will that is)?