Sony Xperia Z3: Playing it Safe

While there’s no denying the Sony Xperia Z3 is an impressive piece of kit, it’s just a shame Sony didn’t attempt to anything really innovative with its latest flagship smartphone.

By Sadad Talhouni

With its Xperia Z line, Sony has been quickly injecting the market with excellent devices that consistently end up as some of the best of the year. It continues to do so with its most recent flagship, the Xperia Z3.

The Japanese corporation has slightly revamped the new Z with more rounded metal edges. The 146 x 72 x7.3 mm device is more compact than its predecessor, the Xperia Z2, despite casing the same sized screen, and weighs slightly less at 152 g. The speakers have been moved to the front of the device, enlarging the top and bottom bezels to a rather unseemly size. The Z3 might have a premium look, but the design changes give it a bad grip.

The Sony Xperia screens have come a long way in terms of quality. The 5.2 inch IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen with Triluminos display and X-Reality Engine is the best Sony can offer. It’s much brighter than the Z2’s, has excellent viewing angles and, with a 1080 x 1920 resolution and 424 ppi pixel density, it’s built for high definition videos and gaming. In terms of internal specs, the smartphone comes with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 chipset, a Quad-core 2.5 GHz Krait 400 CPU, an Adreno 330 GPU, a 3 GB RAM, and 16 or 32 GB internal memories, almost identical to the Z2. It all adds up to a smooth, powerful, and enjoyable user experience. The almost stock-like Android 4.4.2 KitKat operating system can’t really be faulted.

Even with the backing of Sony’s photography division, it’s rather frustrating to note that the Z3’s camera is not the best in the market. With a 20.7 MP lens in the back (and 2.2. MP in the front) capable of shooting in 4K, the phone can take excellent pictures in broad daylight, but it diminishes significantly in low light. We applaud Sony on keeping a dedicated camera button on the side of the phone, a feature many competing smartphones sorely lack.

The Xperia Z3 is quite the robust phone. It’s waterproof to up to 2 meters, dustproof and shatterproof. These features have been prevalent in previous Xperia iterations, and competitors are starting to catch up in these departments. So what new additions does the Z3 have to make it stand out? Well, the new Lifelog app allows the phone to track your fitness and exercise lifestyle, but it still needs improvement. The more interesting feature is Remote Play, which connects the Z3 with Sony’s PlayStation 4 and seamlessly allows you to switch from your TV screen to the phone, and to game from there. It’s a remarkable technology that also shows off the screen’s strengths, but really only suited to PS4 owners. If you’re worried all these features drain the energy out of your phone’s battery, you’d only be half right. The Xperia Z3’s battery life never lasts the touted two days of longevity, but it does easily last a day of heavy use, and with such a battery draining screen, that’s impressive.

But by churning out a new flagship every six months, Sony has put itself in a dangerous position of saturating the market with smartphones of only slightly incrementing quality. Taken on its own, the Z3 is an excellent device, but comparing it to its predecessor, the Z2, it’s only slightly better, and doesn’t justify an upgrade.