If youíve taken a trip to your carrierís brick and mortar store to buy a new phone in the past several years, chances are you probably havenít come across any Sony smartphones. Thatís because the company has largely been focusing its smartphone business on overseas markets like Europe and Japan. Now, it looks like thatís starting to change.
Sony is debuting its first major smartphone for Verizon on Oct. 23 ó the Xperia Z3v. Itís a spin on its recent Xperia Z3 flagship, which just launched on T-Mobileís network last month. It comes with a 5.2-inch 1080p screen and features a glass rear panel that makes the back of the phone feel as slick as the touch screen. It'll cost $199 on a two-year contract. It'll cost approximately $680 without a contract.
Itís a nice phone, but Sony will have to offer a really compelling experience to compete with brands that are already incredibly popular in the US smartphone space, especially Apple and Samsung.
Sony hopes to do that in a couple of ways, mostly with the Z3vís camera and ability to integrate with the PlayStation ecosystem. Not to mention, the Xperia Z3v is one of the few water resistant smartphones you can buy.
After spending about a week with the Xperia Z3v, here are my first impressions.The Basics
The Xperia Z3v is about the same size and weight as your average Android smartphone, and it runs on a quad-core Qualcomm processor. This chip, the Snapdragon 801, is fairly common among high-end Android phones.
The phone features a 5.2-inch 1080p screen and offers up to 32GB of storage space ó although you can expand that to 128GB with a microSD card. Thereís also 3GB of memory packed inside.
The Xperia Z3vís true differentiator is its 20.7-megapixel main camera, which uses a sensor thatís significantly larger than most phones. The Galaxy S5, for example, uses a 16-megapixel sensor, while the iPhone 6 uses an 8-megapixel sensor. Itís also IP65 and IP68 certified, which means itís resistant to dust and water. In fact, you can submerge it in up to 1.5 meters of fresh water for 30 minutes without worrying about any damage.
Come November, youíll also be able to stream content from your PlayStation 4 to the Xperia Z3v through Sonyís Remote Play feature.How It Looks And Feels
The Xperia Z3vís glass-coated front and back make it look a bit more elegant that phones made of plastic. Itís sort of reminiscent of the iPhone 4 and 4s, but with a much larger screen, thinner bezels, and a slightly more angular design.
Since the phone is waterproof, all of the ports except for the headphone jack are sealed. This made it particularly difficult to locate the charging port, since itís the only one that isnít clearly labeled. Although this was a slight annoyance, itís worth knowing the phone wonít malfunction after a little rain.
My main gripe about the Xperia Z3vís design is how easily it picks up fingerprints. The back of the phone was covered in smudges within minutes of using it.Using It
The Sony Xperia runs on a skinned version of Android 4.4 KitKat that puts Sonyís apps and services at the forefront. When you look at the home screen, the first thing youíll notice is Sonyís Walkman, Album, Movies, and PlayStation apps sitting in a row just above Googleís apps.
Sony also has a neat little menu just for arranging your apps. If youíre in the app drawer, you can swipe out from the left side of the screen to launch a menu that lets you reorganize apps depending on how often you use them, how recently they were downloaded, or alphabetical order.
This proved to be fairly useful in most cases, but there were a few instances in which I accidentally launched the menu when I was trying to browse the app drawer.
Overall, the interface is a little busy for my taste. Some of the home screens are cluttered with widgets that you may never use, such as a huge Amazon widget. These can easily be removed by pressing and holding any blank space on the home screen, but I still prefer the cleaner version of Android youíll find on Motorola or Nexus phones.
The Z3vís offered fairly long battery life too, seeing as I was able to get through a full day without having to search for an outlet. Of course, battery life varies depending on the types of apps you use. But after a full day of browsing the web here and there, taking photos, and using Google Maps, it held up just fine.
Sonyís new phone is also waterproof like most of the companyís other Xperia products. Sure enough, after holding the phone under a faucet in my kitchen, it worked just fine. You can even use the Z3vís camera underwater.
I really enjoyed reading news articles and checking email on the Z3vís big 5.2-inch display. Itís not much bigger than phones like the Galaxy S5 and HTC One, which come with 5.1-inch screens, but you can notice the subtle difference in size. Itís a great phone for those who typically do a lot of reading on the go, especially since itís still compact enough to use with one hand.
Colors looked vibrant and bold, too. I watched several movie trailers on the Z3vís 1080p screen, and each one looked colorful and sharp. The only downside, however, is that the Z3vís LED strip under the screen sometimes lights up when youíre watching a video or reading. Itís subtle, but still distracting at some capacity.The Camera
The Sony Xperia Z3v comes with a 20.7-megapixel camera, which means it has a much larger sensor that most smartphones. The iPhone 6, for example, comes with an 8-megapixel sensor. But the sheer number of megapixels donít always matter.
In this case, however, the difference was very noticeable. When snapping a photo of a street sign on the corner of 5th Ave. and 20th St. in New York, the photo taken with Sonyís phone looked much clearer with bolder colors. Although it was overcast, the Xperia Z3v managed to take in enough light to capture detail.
Hereís how the Z3vís photo looks. When comparing to the iPhone 6ís image below, youíll notice the buildings in the background look much sharper. Not to mention the sky looks much brighter, too.
Now hereís the iPhone 6ís version. Thereís a slightly yellow filter over the image, and the buildings definitely look blurry compared to the photo taken with the Sony Z3v.Conclusion
The Sony Xperia Z3v is a great large-screened phone for those who donít quite want something as massive as the Galaxy Note 4 or LG G3. Itís got one of the best cameras youíll find on a smartphone, and itís also one of the few phones that can handle a little water.
However, the glossy body is quick to pick up fingerprints, which gives the phone a perpetually smudged look. The design is also a bit thicker and heavier than some other high-end Android phones on the market. Not to mention, the user interface is cluttered with widgets that youíll probably never use. But overall, itís a solid choice for Verizon customers that want a big Android phone.
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