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The Way Smaller Phones Should Be
on 14 February 2014
I pre-ordered this phone from the Sony Xperia website, so I've had the phone for about 2 weeks now, and can tell you it is nothing short of amazing.
I was needing a new phone, as my Samsung S2's battery required charging 2-3 times a day, and was looking to have the majority of the latest tech, so the phone would still be good in a few years, however the majority of high tech, Android phones these days all have a screen size of 4.7 inches +, which are a bit to big for my hands. I was actually quite close to buying the Sony Xperia Z1 until the announcement of the Compact, where after reading about it, I knew I had to have it.
The best thing about this phone, unlike other 'mini' versions of flagship smartphones, is that Sony have decided to cut corners only when they needed to and have kept the same specs as it's bigger brother, the original Z1. This means it has a quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor, 20.7MP camera and is just as waterproof, as I'll now explain.
Z1 vs Z1 Compact
There are only three main differences between the Z1 and the Z1 one compact, which are the screen, phone size and battery, due to making the phone smaller. As the screen has dropped from 5 inches to 4.3 inches, the screen has dropped from Full HD to HD, however this is no bad thing. While the Z1's Full HD screen would have more pixels, the Z1 Compacts HD screen still gives 340 ppi which is still more than what the average human eye can see, the Z1 Compact actually bests it's bigger brother when it comes to viewing angles, by using a different kind of screen, making viewing films, photos, playing games etc. more pleasant.
One of the main reasons I went for this phone was the smaller size and I was not disappointed. I found the Z1 Compact to be very comfortable in the hand, making one handed use a breeze, and just the perfect weight between light and having a premium feel, compared to the original Z1, which I found to be a strain to use, and had to use both hands to operate. The design is basically the same as the Z1, with it having the all glass back and front, with the aluminium sides around the edge and all the same waterproofing flaps and headphone slot. It also comes with a handy shutter button for taking pictures, something I fell is overlooked a lot nowadays.
The battery life is the other main reason I went for this phone, reading good things about Sony's Stamina Mode in the Z1, which has a 3000 mAh, giving around 2 days battery life, I though in theory the Z1 compact would give me roughly the same, with a 2300 mAh having to power a smaller screen. I was wrong. I'm getting at least 3 days, which is phenomenal for a smart phone and that is with medium to heavy usage, due to me playing with it all the time at the moment.
Snapdragon 800 & Software
This is the latest in smartphone processors, that are currently available, and it turns the phone into absolute lightening. I tested it out to really see how good it was, by downloading a big 3D game and the phone didn't stutter once. In fact the phone has yet to stutter, lag or freeze, with the only problem I found being it took a second to come out of stand-by mode once, but was fine after turning it off and on again. I'm not the most intense user but I can't imagine there is much this phone couldn't handle.
As for the software, it is running Android 4.3 Jelly Bean out of the box, which an excellent step up from the 4.1 Jelly Bean I was using on my S2, which was making it quite temperamental, with everything looking very slick, however I was a little disappointed that it did not come running 4.4 KitKat out of the box, although it will be available soon enough. As with most Android phones, Sony has put there own UI over Android to give the phone it's own personal feel, although it appears to be quite close to stock android, in comparison to my Mums Nexus 7. I really like this approach, as I can easily navigate my way through all the menus and have yet to struggle with confusion over how something works. Sony have also added a brilliant little addition to the phone in the shape of small apps, which lets you select an app, out of Chrome, Note, Timer, Screen Capture, Calculator and Voice Recorder, to use while already using another main app, something I have found very useful when trying to work out my UCAS points while on the move.
Sony also give it's phones a lot of it's own application already pre-installed, some that are really good and some that are just useless. The really good ones are the Walkman app, a music player with excellent audio playback, Album, the photo viewer app, which has a neat little trick where you can pinch to zoom in and out of your whole photo album, and the Movie app, for watching films. The really useless ones are the Xperia Privilege app, which since I had the phone just brings up a black screen, and Sony Select, which is just an app that links you to the Google Play Store and is utterly pointless. It also comes with a photo editing app, McAfee Security, File Commander and Facebook, which cannot be uninstalled, due to it's connection to one of the camera apps, which I'll explain soon enough. One other thing I liked is that Sony decided to get rid of the standard android internet browser and just used the Google Chrome app is the default web browser, which is far better in my opinion.
The Z1 Compacts camera is again nothing short of brilliant, however it is a little too much talk and not enough action at the moment, however software updates may fix this. The main mode is Superior Auto, which will automatically find the best settings before you take a photo and is stuck on being 8MP only. If you want to use the full 20.7MP you have to go into Manual Mode, and here is the catch, you can only shoot 20.7MP in 4:3 format. If you want 16:9 you have to go 8MP. Not a deal breaker by any means, in my eyes anyway, but it is a bit of a let down. The rest of the camera is excellent though, with the use of Smart Camera Apps, which are;
Social Live - Stream live video straight on to your Facebook page.
Timeshift Burst - Takes lots of pictures in 2 seconds and lets you pick the best one
AR Effect - Adds things like 3D dinosaurs or plant life to your photo
Info Eye - Take a picture, then it tells you information on what is nearby, about buildings etc.
Picture Effect - Take photos with a filter on, like Fish Eye, Sketch or Kaleidoscope
You can also download more from the app store, personal favourites being Motion Shot, where you can express moving objects in a photo, and Motiongraph, where you take a picture and can then animate a part of it.
As for the photo quality itself, I have yet to take a bad picture, each one coming out looking really well in daylight, indoors or night-time, with the LED flash doing its job well in those situations. It also has video recording capabilities, being able to record at Full HD at 30fps, which, quality wise, is very good, however a problem with the software is that the auto focus while recording is quite twitchy and will constant keep correcting the focus, which sounds good in theory, but in reality, does more harm than good.
Other Things I Should Mention
Other stuff I should mention this phone has is a Micro SD Card Slot, which is excellent is you listen to a lot of music or take a lot of pictures, like myself. The fact that the phone is waterproof, I feel is an excellent feature, never having to worry about answering your phone in the rain or if you accidently drop it in to water. This waterproofing may be the reason for the Z1 Compacts biggest problem, the speaker, as while the quality of the speaker itself is good, the placement of where it is on the phone that is an annoying issue. Since the speaker is located on the bottom of the phone, when you hold the phone in landscape, your hand tends to block the sound coming from the speakers, which becomes increasingly annoying when watching YouTube videos. The last thing I would like to mention is the price, which I feel is a little too much for the product, since you can now purchase the original Z1 for around £400, I feel the phone should maybe be around £30-£40 cheaper due to the slightly lowered spec screen and battery.
Summary - Pros & Cons of the Z1 Compact
- Can be used with one hand
- Battery life lasts at least 3 days with medium usage
- Camera takes excellent photos
- Micro SD Slot
- Software runs at a blistering rate
- Screen has great viewing angles
- Audio is excellent when using headphones
- Smart Camera Apps are fun and useful
- Can handle anything from the Google Play Store
- Speaker placement means sound gets muffled when using the phone landscape
- 20.7MP can only be used in 4:3 ratio
- Auto focus when video recording is temperamental
- Bloatware, half of which you cannot uninstall
- Price could be a little cheaper
Overall I'm extremely pleased with the phone, with the incredible battery lasting me three days, it having the additional Micro SD Slot and being able to use the phone, comfortably, with one hand. I would thoroughly recommend this phone to, not only those who feel flagship phones are just to big but, anyone who really wants a good phone. If your into watching a lot of films on your device this may not be the choice for you with the speaker placement issue and it being a 4.3 inch screen, but If you want a phone that is capable of surfing the web at speed, playing powerful games, has excellent call quality, a fabulous camera, is fantastic for productivity and has a battery life of 3 days, then this phone is for you.