48 hours with the Sony Xperia Z3 – First Impressions

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One of the most curious aspects of today’s Android market is how Sony hasn’t quite managed to crack it. For the past few years it’s unveiled a series of fantastic phones, and yet – for one reason or another – they don’t catch on. Could it be lack of effort in marketing? Low interest from the major U.S. carriers? Lack of ambition? Perhaps a mixture of all three and then some. And yet, quietly, the company’s Xperia Z range has become one of my preferred lines in the smartphone market.

I’ve been using the Z2 as one of my go-to devices for the past 6 months, and couldn’t wait to see what Sony had up its sleeve for the next generation. And the fact that it’s coming to T-Mobile spurred me on further to cough up the cash and buy one. You’d be amazed how many times the “I can cover it for TmoNews/PhoneDog” persuades me to hit the “checkout” button on Amazon.

48 hours ago, my unlocked UK model arrived, and I unboxed it for PhoneDog. See it below.

First impressions are good. Some may complain about the lack of “huge changes”. But if the mobile industry has taught us anything over the past 5-6 years, it’s that subtle and incremental updates are the way forward. Apple’s been doing it for years, Samsung’s Galaxy range (at least for the past 2-3 generations) also follows that pattern. Sony, however, seems the king of incremental. And I mean that in the best possible way.

Looking down the spec-sheet, you could be forgiven for thinking that this is a carbon copy of the Z2. It’s got the same 1080p resolution 5.2-inch LCD display, the same 20.7MP camera with 4K video recording, same Wi-Fi technologies, same Adreno 330 GPU. Same “Triluminous” and “X-Reality” branding and digital noise cancellation. The processor has been bumped to 2.5GHz, but it’s the same Snapdragon 801 series makeup, has the same 3GB of RAM, but oddly has a 3,100mAh battery instead of the 3,200mAh found in the Z2. And it’s IP68 certified waterproof and dust-proof, which I’m told is better than being IP58 certified. I say all this knowing that the Z2 didn’t really launch in the U.S. But even when you compare it to the Z1S, there aren’t that many changes on the spec sheet.

But when you look at it, hold it in your hand and power it on, it’s clear that this is a different beast.

Sony’s only shaved 0.9mm off the thickness and 1.3mm off the width, compared to the previous generation and yet it feels and looks a lot smaller. The rounded edges give it a more streamlined look, and for the first time, the Xperia Z-series doesn’t look and feel like a big square brick. Both of the two “flaps” for keeping your Micro USB, SIM and MicroSD card slots waterproofed are pill-shaped and a lot more subtle. The coloring of the metal chassis on the black model is classy too. In short: This is the best-looking Xperia Z-phone so far. By a long shot.

It’s on the software side that I felt underwhelmed. No thanks to the virtual on screen buttons and the status bar, the content on screen seemed somewhat squished. That – to me – isn’t acceptable on a phone with a display larger than 5-inches. App icons were huge, but I dealt with that by downloading and installing a different theme through Go Launcher.

I’ve not had enough time with it to give you my full thoughts on performance, or camera quality. If it’s anything like its predecessor, it should be phenomenal on all counts. But I won’t get ahead of myself. What I will say is that the display seems to have found some life. Instead of having a comparatively dim screen with washed out colors and poor daylight visibility, the panel shows colors much more vividly. There’s a punch to it that I’ve not seen an a Z before.

The jury is still out on whether the T-Mobile model will definitely support band 12, A-block network frequencies. But it will – at the very least – support bands 2 and 4 LTE and be capable of download speeds of 150Mbps in areas where 20+20 has been activated (theoretically speaking, of course).

I’ll bring you my full thoughts at a later date, including my video review for PhoneDog. Look out for it in about one week time.

Do you plan on picking one of these up when it launches on T-Mobile?

 

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  • Willie D

    UK model doesn’t tell us how it performs on TMUS or about how this model changed over others, or about WiFi calling, 700Mhz A-Block…etc..

  • Bklynman

    Nano? Sim card? Really? They really want to get rid of all the old phones don’t they? Have no clue who came up with this,was it phone makers or the cell companies,or was it idea they came up together with? Just like Google,does Google really need to change their OS,every year or year and a half?

    • Cam Bunton

      Nano SIM standard was designed by Apple, and chosen as the next evolutionary standard in SIM cards a couple of years ago. I remember writing about it in my TiP days. There were several other designs, I think Nokia had one too. But Apple’s was chosen. Regardless, we were getting a smaller SIM.

      • Bklynman

        Thanks for the information,another reason to dislike Apple. LoL! Can’t they just come up with one size? Instead of 3? what next? Tiny? I know it is Nano,mini,micro,they should just left one size.

        • Alex Long

          Dislike Apple for forcing the industry to improve something…ok?

          There’s actually 4 sizes of SIM card. The original was the size of a credit card. The only useful part of the SIM card is the metal contacts and the chip under it. All the plastic surrounding it is useless. Doesn’t it make sense to take away all that useless plastic so there’s more space inside the phone to fit things that matter (like say, a bigger battery)?

          It won’t get any smaller than the nano SIM, there’s no more plastic to take away. Why does it even matter so much to you unless you constantly switch phones? Carriers will usually give you a free SIM if you ask.

        • gmo8492

          Micro sims are small enough, it made sense to jump from a regular sim card to micro sim. But it makes absolutely no sense to jump from a micro to nano sim.

        • Bklynman

          Does it really make any kind of sense what so ever having not 3,but 4 different size sim cards? I never saw the one size of a credit card,which I did not doubt, they did made, but really you think regular size sim cards would stop them from making these giant size phones, with these big batteries? Before the advent of these big phones now,you could get oversize, and big batteries on Ebay and elsewhere. Yes I do like to switch phones out now and then,that’s one of the reasons I am not with Sprint, or big red,yes I know big red some there phones take sim cards,not all of them. I do have some older phones I like,that I am going to be putting on Ebay. Now most people that read this blog, do have back up phones now,before you go buy one you to find out what kind of sim card it take.If they want to change the size fine,but 4 different sizes why??? Why not just settle on one size?

        • Mike Palomba

          All vzw phones take sims now

        • Bklynman

          I didn’t know, that,thought only some of there phones took sim cards,so that leaves only Stink,I mean Sprint to be the only major carrier that still use cma,I wonder how much more they have to paid the cell companies to make there handsets.

        • donnybee

          You can just get a nano sim card and use adapters to convert it up to whatever size you need. Since, as another commenter stated, the contact points are the same size, the nano sim can be fit into adapters for both standard and micro sizes. I use adapters to routinely switch my sim card from my iPhone to other devices that use larger sim cards. Essentially, they’re all the same. The only difference is that with a nano sim, it cuts out unnecessary plastic so the phone has more space inside and doesn’t need an oversized sim reader just to read the same contact points anyway.

          It makes sense really. But I would suggest eBay or Amazon for some adapters. Cheap, and I can tell you they work like a charm! When I had my GS4 I would always use it for my nano sim. I also have used it in an older device that used those old standard sized sim cards. Never had to change my card.. Just a thought. But either way, Apple did what any sensible person would; cut out pointless plastic. But as long as you have the smallest, you can use it to go larger if you ever needed :)

        • Bklynman

          That good to know,was not sure if the adapters work well or not,not sure if they still make phones with full size sims card or not,if they do,that means 4 different sizes of sims card.They should just settle on
          one size,if they want to make it nano,fine,mini etc. There is really no need for 3 or 4 different sizes.

    • Hamster

      All of the SIM sizes use the same electrical contacts, so you can get adapters for the smaller sizes to the larger (ie. Nano to Mini or Standard and Mini to Standard).

      • Bklynman

        Do you know of a good one to use? Or is it just hit and miss with them?

        • Hamster

          Probably hit and miss.

  • Bryan Pizzuti

    I wish they’d announce preorders or a release date already

    • Chad D

      I bet that happens on the 9th, after Sony’s press conference.

      • Bryan Pizzuti

        Yeah, let’s hope.

  • jralphroman

    I want this phone for the battery life in itsself

  • Raman

    I already Picked up my Xperia z3 Compact, i Love it

    • Chad D

      Hoping this is an option to get directly from Sony (US)!

  • Brandon Dean

    This is my next phone when it comes to T-mobile later this month. I have loved my Z and Z1S, and the improvements, especially on the design and battery life front will be greatly appreciated.

  • javier nogues

    Does any one know if volte will be deployed to more phones .

  • vinnyjr

    I want this device only if T-Mobile has the 32gb version. Why build a great looking device with the best specs and only put 16gb of int storage in it, sd-card or not it ruins it. During the construction of this phone it costs nothing to install 32gb, they saved a few cents on the build but costs them tons of sales. Whoever makes these decisions doesn’t have a freaken clue what he or she is doing. If no 32gb then the Note 4 will be my new phone.

    • discbrake

      Sony Xperia Z3 D6616 for T-Mobile USA will have 32gb of internal storage. It is the only version that has 32gb internal storage, all other versions (D6653, D6603, D6643, D6633) will only have 16gb internal storage.

  • discbrake

    I’ll get one the first day it is available on T-Mobile US.

    • AdamBath

      Me too! Hoping it’s available same day as the event on the 9th.

      • David Lebron

        October 29th, is what I’ve heard from T-Mobile district managers…but hopefully they’re wrong lol

  • Jephri

    Do yourself a favor and switch from Go Launcher to Nova. So so much better.

    • AdamBath

      Google Now launcher does everything I need… Though I haven’t checked any custom ones in a long time, perhaps one has Google Now built in?

      • steveb944

        I’m sure you can modify the home button or any of the bottom buttons to take you to Google Now. That’s how I have it set up on my OPO.

  • Jay J. Blanco

    I’m in love

  • AdamBath

    Me to Sony: shut up and take my money…

    Seriously, I’m ready. Bring on the Z3, my Z1s battery is the only thing letting this phone down.

  • ” J.D. “

    I must say this is my next phone. Been with T-MOBILE 7yrs which means 7yrs with blackberry from a 8320 curve to the now Z10 & I have to admit no problems with either the phones or network. But alas its time for change and this is the phone that will make me an android user, It has one thing none of the others have – elegance its a very professional looking phone not an oversized brick of plastic or like some, you want to hide in a silicon block case. Im not afraid to be seen by my constituents taking a call at a meeting or at a dinner engagement with friends or family. I played with the Z1s and really liked it not to mention the compliments I received. If they improved from that model to the current taking all the negatives out and adding quality improvements to enhance its perfection Sony has a sexy beast on their hands – – – This one is for me

    • Rdaex

      Find an unlocked Z30… man I loved that phone

      • donnybee

        I’m rooting for BlackBerry. It would be nice to have a third strong competitor in the smartphone market that would be on the list of getting the most popular and new apps!

    • donnybee

      I have to agree. I love the design of this phone. It breaks all the curvy, aluminum, and especially PLASTIC trends going on. I love the all-glass look. I know some don’t agree, but it’s different and it gives it a really classy look! I’m actually thinking of getting this as a backup to my iPhone 6 haha I think Sony did a great job with their design! Before I make a decision though, I gotta go play with it at the store. Someone said you can’t unlock the bootloader without it screwing up the camera.. If that’s true, I hope the overlay Sony has in place looks and runs great!

      If you get one, let us know what you think!

      • ” J.D. “

        I’ll be sure to let you know In the in term I have played with the z1s from T-MOBILE and was impressed a friend from canada visiting has the Z2 I was even further impressed. And imsure the stock bootloader is just fine knowing sonys slogan ( MAKE BELIEVE )

  • Verizonthunder

    I would desire this phone as I was really bummed out by Samsung’s galaxy note 4 quick charge ability it only fully charged the phone 30 minutes faster than the note 3. I was under the impression it was fully charge in 30 minutes… am I alone with that gripe. Go Sony!

  • political truth

    ill just wait for an z ultra 2

  • Mike

    They forgot to mention if you unlock the bootloader the camera will not work properly due to DRM

    • donnybee

      Seriously? Nobody has found a way around that?

    • Timbo1

      Thats if the Tmo version even has an unlockable boot loader, the Z1s you could not unlock the boot loader like you can on the international version of the Z1.

  • Chris Pine

    This exactly how a iPhone review should read, however the reviewer makes it seem like everything in the iPhone is new.

    • donnybee

      With the iPhone being an industry leader in performance, it’s hard not to get a little excited when reviewing it. Besides, if you base your opinion on reviews, rather than hands-on experience, I would hope you’re reading multiple reviews anyway.

  • sushimane

    i hope tmobile carry the copper color xperia z3 as much i like black or white but a different color is nice.

  • StankyChikin

    With the next Nexus device supposedly being 5.9″, I have decided to keep my Nexus 5 for another year. With that said, If the Z3 Compact makes its way to T-Mobile, I may have to change my plans and pick one up. The Z3 and Z3 Compact seem to be extremely nice phones.

  • linda

    I don’t get it why Sony doesn’t release their phones on more than 1 US carrier? I would like to see their phones on att , Verizon , Sprint, metro, cricket etc…Also another complain I have is the few phones they do release here they release them here ALL late..Europe, Canada even Mexico gets Sony phones first was in Mexico city last month walked in a TELCEL store they had a special goin on u buy a Z3 they give u sum free headphones .That was last month and here they still haven’t even released it they are really late like always..I got tired of waiting I might just get a G3 or something..

  • MadJoe

    Uninspired design, might also be part of the problem. I like the features, but the “slab of glass” design isn’t very exciting, it’s actually a bit of a turnoff.

    • Jack

      What outside of the HTC and Moto X looks better? The “slab of glass” looks way better than anything coming from Samsung or LG

      • MadJoe

        I get that what looks good is mostly opinion, but there are universally loved designs (or, at least designs that more people like than dislike). I think the LG G3 is one of those designs, and as far as Samsung goes, they are boring, but they are somehow less boring than this. And the screen on the S5 is amazing. The rest of the phone, not so much, but damn if that screen isn’t nice to look at.

        • Jack

          G3 is universally loved? It’s a plastic phone that looks like nearly every other phone. I think the thin bezel is what everyone loves. Each to his own though. I prefer either a premium look/feel ( Apple/Sony/ HTC ) or something with amazing design ergonomics ( Moto X / HTC ) .

          Everyone elses phones just look like something a 10 year old drew up in 5 min. I do know some people prefer plastic though so yeah subjective. I just don’t think you can find many people or reviews that would say G3 looks more sleek than the Z3.

  • Seth

    One of the first phones to get dual front facing camera’s, combined with IP68, and tough exterior design, I’m saying yes. As a Jump customer with T-mobile I have been looking forward for this phone to come out even with a One M8 in my hands now. I want to see if it holds up and it will probably be my first review on YouTube, so we’ll see how it goes.

  • bydavidrosen

    So realistically speaking… My gf needs a new phone ASAP as her S3 has slowed to an absolute crawl and the charger port keeps disconnecting when charging. The time has come.

    She doesn’t want a Note like I have, so should she go for the LG G3, the S5 or wait for this Z3? She kinda doesn’t want the S5… I guess she’s bored of touch wiz and also maybe a little worried after the various issues she had in her 2 years with the S3… So mainly it’s Z3 or G3… Camera is a big deal for her and just overall something that runs really good. The waterproofing would be a big plus too… But I’m not entirely sure she’ll make it to the Z3 release if it’s not this week haha.

    Anyway, thoughts?

    • Jack

      Z3 and S5 perform very similar. Camera performance is very close, with S5 being better in the light and Z3 better in the dark. Touchwiz is laggy as hell, so the Z3 will feel a bit snappier. In addition the Z3 looks better, it’s not plastic, and it has a higher waterproofing. Sound out of the Z3 is better as well.

      • bydavidrosen

        Thanks for the comment Jack. Any thoughts on the G3 as an option if she can’t wait for the Z3?

        • Jack

          G3 a good overall phone. I would go with the S5 though due to the better camera performance.

        • bydavidrosen

          OK I’ll keep that in mind. Thanks.

        • Jay

          Its kind of crazy to say that the S5 is an old phone now but compared to the G3 its like a 2009 phone. After using the G3 I have no complaints whatsoever overall its probably the best phone on the market. Upgrading to the Note 4 when it comes out later this month though

    • tomarone

      There’s only one smartphone that really impresses, the HTC m8, and whatever they’re announcing tomorrow. The samsungs are OK but not really pleasing. As a gift I can almost guarantee that the latestt HTC phone will be very much appreciated!

      • bydavidrosen

        I didn’t realize HTC was announcing something new tomorrow. I wonder if it will be out this month, and on T-Mobile?

        To be honest I’m a little hesitant with them… I love their design style and everything, but I remember when I switched to AT&T just to get an HTC One X and had to return it and switch back because I was so unhappy with it. Yea it was pretty and all, but every time I’d use the recent apps thing to jump back to an app, it would have to reload it from scratch… Webpages with filled out info in forms would be cleared out, games would be restarted, videos/music would lose their current position. And yea, I’m sure it’s better now, newer version of the OS, more RAM… However, since no reviews suggested that my issue occurs, and even tons of people on forums acted like I was nuts (even though I went to stores and tested the issue on like 3 other HTC One X’s and they all had the same issue), I just kind of swore them off… BUT, this is for her… and if the new one has what she wants, than yea, maybe…

        • tomarone

          That’s an interesting type of bug, give me something to test and I’ll try it on mine. thx. I can’t see how htc could do that to Android but you never know right? My GF has a GS4 and it’s such a cheap piece of plastic! At least the HTC is nice physically.

        • tomarone

          THe date is Oct. 8 so that’s Wednesday.

        • bydavidrosen

          I mean the simplest test is in the middle of playing a game, hit home, go send a text message or check your facebook, etc, then resume the game. If it starts over at the title screen… then it’s still a problem. It should resume exactly where you left off. Or go to a webpage in Chrome that has forms to fill out… Fill them out, leave to go do something else and then come back and see if the page gets reloaded (with nothing filled out since its being reloaded). And yea, the HTC phones do look nice.

        • tomarone

          Hi, I tried that on my old One-S running stock 4.1.1, HTC Sense 4+, HTC SDK API level 4.6.3, etc.etc.
          You are correct! I started a game, did ‘home’ switched right back to the game, and it re-started.
          So, now the question is, it is ANDROID? or is it HTC? I can try on my GF’s crappy Samsung GS4 and go from there. I run stock TMO, and I do love my old HTC One-S, hardware is great, physically and bug free.
          Great test! thanks!

        • bydavidrosen

          Haha I’m not crazy! Yes!

          Anyway it’s definitely HTC and the way they did Sense on the One X and One S… I don’t know if the newer One models and newer versions of Sense are any different. But even my old HTC MyTouch4g Slide (the qwerty slider) didn’t have this issue haha. And neither did my Galaxy S3 or my current Note 3. So I’m pretty sure it was that specific version of Sense that launched on those two One phones.

          Also when the phone came out, a bunch of other people who noticed the issue and myself all called HTC to ask about it and they all claimed it was a normal memory management thing HTC had included on the One S and One X. So it was basically a “feature” …

          And maybe it really does make the phone technically run better than other phones, I didn’t spend enough time with it, but it’s the simple fact that not a single review mentioned this “feature” that makes me not trust HTC or people’s opinions on HTC phones anymore.

        • tomarone

          Well HTC does have “compromises”, but I end up forgiving them, because I have appreciated the workmanship of the hardware coming out of Taiwan for 20 years now. In the 1990’s I noticed that a cheap Acer monitor was the brightest and clearest thing I’d ever seen up until then.
          I only wish they’d make cars.

        • tomarone

          Oh and another thing, I hope the new HTC phones have decent audio fidelity on record. The old ones (my One-S included) sounded like crap! One thing Samsung has is great audio record fidelity!

    • snorkel

      charger port is full of lint, just clean it out.

  • TechHog

    I’m really not sure if I want this, the Note 4, or the Nexus 6. It’s a really tough choice. Price will be a factor for sure. I also want to see if there will be an HTC One M8 Max.

    • Rdaex

      You should just carry around a TV

      • TechHog

        Heh. It’s because I’m a student, I want something to read eBooks on, and I don’t really want to carry around a laptop, a tablet, and a phone. That’s just too much. Anything less than 5″ would be an eye strain for reading.

      • JamesG

        Not a fan of large phones, eh?

  • Guest

    It’s so stupid that Cam is even over here on TMonews. Everything is about Phonedog…wow. lol

    • Mike Palomba

      This is a phone coming to tmobile and he’s just telling us his impressions so we can decide if we want it or not. He’s doing a great job with tmonews

    • Od312

      If you don’t like it, leave. We’ll be fine without your negative contributions.

  • csmits

    Nice looking device. One problem tough. I have been using the note 2 and now the note 3 for a couple of years and I don’t see myself going back to a smaller screen. Damn you Samsung …

    • Ummm…. 5.2″ isn’t exactly a small screen tho, even if not at Note sized stature. lol

  • Ordeith

    Looks full of Google Spyware.

    • vrm

      at least its not m$ spyware, viruses and cr@pware. So there.

      • donnybee

        You sure showed him

    • JamesG

      Sure bud, sure

  • jason nusbaum

    Soooooo using my jump to get the Z3!! Coming from z1s and love it but give me that lengthened battery life and ps4 remote play please. I work outdoors and won’t go back to carrying a zip lock baggie to waterproof my device lol!

    • JamesG

      You have a Z1s, you still put it in a bag??

  • audio

    Yes

  • Too much clunky bezel.

  • thepanttherlady

    This is one time I won’t be upgrading to the next Z. It isn’t enough of an upgrade to my Z2 to justify paying $800+ for the unlocked Z3. I’ll be keeping my eyes open for its successor though.

    Really glad to see Sony getting some love here!

    • google and

      Nobody cares

      • thepanttherlady

        Yet you did enough to respond. ;)

    • Stone Cold

      I am jumping soon as the Z3 lands on T-Mo

      • thepanttherlady

        Let me know what you think! I can’t believe I still have my Z2 for as long as I have. LOL

        • Stone Cold

          Cause of your goal. ;)

        • thepanttherlady

          Actually, that goal has been delayed. I decided joining the gym and getting a trainer was more important at the moment. That decision has me locked in until at least July 2015. I just haven’t found a phone that really, really has my attention. I got the OnePlus One but sold that after a couple of weeks. It just seemed too fragile to take to the gym several nights a week. :/

      • dontsh00tmesanta

        indeed but only if it supports band 12….dont upgrade every six months lol

  • Jay

    Great phone, Great UI.. But Design is below par for a late 2014 phone. Its like Sony made no effort whatsoever in reducing the bezel size. Loving my G3 but looking to upgrade to the Note 4 as the quad HD and camera is amazing on that.

    • RbbrDcky

      You’re kidding right? The Z3 shrank in every dimension from the Z2. The side bezels are some of the thinnest in the industry and those stereo speakers have to go somewhere. The Note doesn’t even have them so good luck listening to music or YouTube when your phone is laying on the table. Plus, with features that the Note doesn’t have like waterproof, dedicated camera button, Tap-to-Wake, better battery life, and PS4 Remote Play, the Z3 might actually be the preferable device to a lot of people!

  • iNetwork

    ***** I have the Xperia Z1s — because last February the Z3 hadn’t been released in the U.S. yet. Anyway, it’s the very first Sony product I’ve every purchased that failed to deliver — and actually failed two months after getting it; needed to be sent to Sony for repair — and they “fixed” the camera — that wasn’t anywhere on the list of failure issues. Camera hasn’t been right since.

    On Sept. 19th I traded it in via T-Mobile for the iPhone 6 Plus — that works flawlessly with the new GoPro Hero 4 camera. I’ll buy other Sony products but never another Sony smartphone. There’s a reason why Sony’s loosing $2.2 billion with their mobile phone division.

  • tomarone

    Reminds me of our Nokia 925 windows phone.

  • Zack S

    My only two options for upgrading my nexus 5 is this or the iPhone 6. So far this is more impressive. very excited for this phone. It will be my first Sony device!

  • trackREVIVER

    The z3 will have band 12 support from what i’ve been reading. The new Nexus will not.

  • snorkel

    if they ever announce it I will buy one.

  • Dre’ Reavis

    Got my $300 ready to upgrade from my Nokia 635. I was looking for an attractive out from the Microsoft ecosystem (Even though I love my Surface 2)