With the launch of the Xperia Z1 smartphone Sony is the first large manufacturer to throw its hat in the ring at this year’s IFA trade show in Berlin. A new flagship smartphone that largely follows in the waterproof shoes of its predecessor, the Xperia Z. The Sony Xperia Z1 will have release dates throughout the month of September worldwide.
With a 20.7-megapixel camera and some nifty snapping features, it’s got the tech to take on the best camera smartphones out there – including the HTC One, Samsung Galaxy S4 and Nokia Lumia 1020, but how will it fair?
“Xperia Z1 represents a significant milestone for Sony in our continued efforts to deliver unforgettable experiences to our consumers,” said Kunimasa Suzuki, President and CEO, Sony Mobile Communications. “Not only by bringing the power of Sony to the smartphone and through close collaboration with our partners but by selling a new standard in premium smartphones.”
The device design won’t surprise anyone: if you’ve seen the Xperia Z, the Z1 will instantly be familiar to you. That’s not a bad thing; we like the simplicity of both devices, and the Z1’s aluminum frame (which doubles as an antenna) with curved edges makes it feel sturdier than its predecessor.
Buttons are kept to a minimum; you’ll find an on/off button, dedicated camera button and a volume rocker. There’s also a magnetic charging port and no need to worry if you tip this in the drink, its waterproof to 1.5 meters for 30 minutes.
It has roughly similar dimensions to the Z, but it’s marginally thicker. Although both the Z1 and Samsung Galaxy S4 have 5-inch displays, the Z1 is slightly longer and wider than Samsung’s phone. You still won’t struggle to cram it into your Levis, but if you want a compact phone to wrap your hands around, you might want to look elsewhere.
The Xperia Z1 comes in with a good looking 5-inch full HD Triluminos capacitive display with a pixel resolution of 1080 x 1920 and a pixel density of 441ppi. This is similar to what was earlier seen in the Xperia Z.
Sony, apart from its patent Triluminos technology, has also added its Mobile BRAVIA Engine 2 to the Xperia Z1. The company has claimed that the addition will give the Xperia Z1 rich colors, deep contrast and pin-sharp clarity. It is hoped that the company does not repeat the slight washed out TFT LCD seen in the Xperia Z, which also came with rather poor viewing angles.
Xperia Z1 features the fully integrated Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor with 2.2 GHz quad-core CPU and 4G LTE to provide a seamless connected entertainment experience, industry leading battery performance and amazing speed. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor features an Adreno 330 GPU and dual ISP for incredible graphics, 3D games and videos. In addition, the smartphone comes with 2GB of RAM.
It’s running on Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean. That’s not the latest version of Google’s mobile software — that’s 4.3 Jelly Bean — but with Sony’s cosmetic changes, you probably won’t tell much difference. It has the same basic functionality of Android with multiple home screens, but you’re able to easily change the order of your app icons in the menu to quickly show most-used apps or custom order.
The Xperia Z1 comes with 16GB of internal memory. In addition, the smartphone also sports a microSD slot on its water and dustproof form that allows for expansion up to 64GB. That should definitely be more than enough to store all the full HD videos that you may want to see on-the-move. The smartphone comes with all the usual suspects seen in recent models. An Accelerometer, gyroscope, proximity sensor and a compass are also featured.
Just like all other high-end devices in the market today, the smartphone comes with both A-GPS and GLONASS support thrown in. It also comes with one-touch NFC support as well as Bluetooth 4.0. This should ensure that data transfer while using the Z1 should not be an issue.
The Xperia Z1 also includes a 3000 mAh battery for a high battery performance. Sony’s Battery STAMINA Mode automatically turns off functions to save power when you don’t need them and restarts them when you do.
The Xperia Z1 comes with the very best in Wi-Fi connectivity. This includes all the usual 2013 suspects going up to the ac band. Apart from that, the smartphone also comes with Wi-Fi Direct and DLNA for content sharing.
Cameras on smartphones have become the battleground with the likes of Nokia boasting a 41-megapixel sensor, the integration of optical image stabilization, HTC shooting for larger pixels and so on. Just as Sony continues to leverage the technology it has from its television division, is it also continuing to use the technology from its camera division too.
Xperia Z1 features Sony’s award-winning “G Lens” with a 27mm wide angle and bright F2.0 aperture, custom made large 1/2.3-type CMOS image sensor Exmor RS for mobile with 20.7MP and a BIONZ for mobile image processing engine. The combination of these technologies delivers the same level of quality and performance as a conventional compact digital camera in a slim, waterproof smartphone.
The sensor size, at 1/2.3-inch, is bigger than what you’d find on your normal smartphone and is similar to the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom’s (1/2.33-inch). In comparison, the iPhone 5 uses a small 1/3.2-inch sensor, and the HTC One’s UltraPixel sensor is slightly larger at 1/3-inch. The Nokia Lumia 1020 has the biggest sensor at 1/1.5-inch for smartphones running a modern OS.
Similar to Lenses found on Windows Phone 8, Sony has added a number of modes to help you get more out of the camera. The interesting ones are Social Live, Info-eye, Timeshift Burst, and AR Effect.
Social Live allows you to live stream to Facebook for up to 10 minutes at a time and then have your friends comment on the video as you record it. As all that is happening you’ll get to see how many friends are watching you, and at the end it will automatically save your streamed footage as a video for all to watch later.
Info-eye is used to help with information on landmarks or books or food after they have been captured.
Time Shift Burst takes 61 shots at the press of the button, 30 frames before your press the shutter button and 30 frames after, when you’re then given the chance to choose the picture you like the most.
AR Effect automatically adds a selection of fun, customizable animations to create pictures using Sony’s SmartARTM augmented reality technology.
Xperia Z1 integrates PlayMemories Online, a cloud-based image and video service that is integrated into the Album application. A new ‘All Sync’ feature enables users to instantly auto-upload all of their photos without storage limitation.
Sony’s “WALKMAN” and Movies applications are also included and provide access to more than 22 million songs on the “WALKMAN” app through Music Unlimited and more than 150K movies and TV series on the Movies app through Video Unlimited from Sony Entertainment Network.
Xperia Z1 comes with an incredible entertainment offer that includes five great movies plus an exclusive movie access pass to the digital release of Sony Pictures’ summer blockbuster Elysium as well as a two month free trial of Sony’s Music Unlimited streaming service plus much more.
Xperia Z1 also features a new application called TrackIDTM TV that enhances your TV-viewing experience. It lets users search, share and explore information from broadcasted TV shows such as cast & crew, biographies, filmography or show related Tweets.
All-in-all, the Xperia Z1 looks like a good smartphone. With a form factor similar to the Xperia Z, the new offering definitely looks good. The massive camera and latest processor will ensure that users should not have any complaints with the smartphone. The Xperia Z1 reflects the increasing focus that smartphone manufacturers are bringing to bear on imaging-centric smartphones. And the 20.7 megapixel sensor will ensure that the Xperia Z1 will stand firmly in the race for smartphones with good cameras.
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Sony has not yet announced specific release dates for U.S. carriers such as Verizon, Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile, but U.K. carriers EE, O2, Orange and T-Mobile will sell the Xperia Z1.
The Sony Xperia Z1 is available for preorder throughout Britain for £599 ($936). The Xperia Z1 will go on sale this month in Germany for a price of €649 ($856), and €699 ($922) in Italy, France, Spain and the Netherlands.