The Sony Xperia Z and ZL look promising

Anna Scantlin
Contributing Editor from Kansas City, MO
Published: January 9, 2013

I recently watched the videos Taylor posted regarding the new devices we can expect to see coming from Sony during the first quarter this year: the Xperia Z and the slightly differential Xperia ZL. While both phones are almost identical in specs, each offers something a little different to bring to the table in regards to features.

First, let’s go over some specs. If you’ve been following CES announcements the past couple of days you probably already know what they are, but for a quick recap: each phone has a 5-inch 1080p display, 2 GB of RAM, a 1.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro chipset, 16GB of built-in storage with an external microSD slot available, a rear-facing 13-megapixel camera (yes!) and a front facing 2.1 megapixel camera. Both devices are running on Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean – but not the latest version). Definitely some slick looking specs.

As stated before there are some differences between the two devices, mostly cosmetic. The Xperia ZL comes with a matte finish on the back for the white version, and a textured back for the black version. I prefer these types of backings compared to slick or glass backs for a couple of reasons. One, while the sleek and shiny back looks gorgeous untouched, once they are handled they become a total fingerprint magnet. It’s kind of like snow; snow is gorgeous when it first falls, but then cars and people and nature get in on all the fun and it just looks tainted. Secondly, I find that both matte and textured finish are easier to get a good grip on. I don’t think I’ve ever handled my iPhone 4S out of its case for more than a few seconds because I’m afraid I’m going to drop it, putting either side at prime risk for shattering. The Xperia Z will have a glass back for both colors. Thanks, but no thanks; I think I’d be better off with something a little less breakable.

While I’m not fond of the decision for a glass back on the Xperia Z, it does have something really good going for it that the ZL does not: it claims to be dust and water resistant (up to 1m). The only reason I say “it claims to be” is because I don’t want anybody going out to buy one and running home to dunk it in water like an Oreo in milk - you probably won't have as good of a time as you think you will. Those features are primarily for emergencies (although I think it’s safe to say you can cover it in as much dust as you want and it would be less harmful than taking it for a swim) and not for science. Either way, it’s an added bonus as most phones don’t have that extra protection. If you are a person who works or spends a lot of time outdoors in the elements of nature, this phone might be something you want to take a look at.

I especially love the 13-megapixel camera on both devices. I expect we’re going to see a lot more of these pop up from now on and start migrating away from the 8-megapixel cameras. One thing I’m a little iffy about on the Xperia ZL is that the front-facing camera is located on the bottom right hand corner of the device. I’m used to front-facing cameras being on the top near the earpiece, and I feel that it’s an appropriate place. I have a tendency to hold my phone lower and lower over time, and I don’t rightly enjoy people looking up my nostrils any more than the poor sap on the other end would enjoy it. I could be wrong about how the angle will depict my face in a video chat, and hopefully I am, but if I’m not I probably wouldn’t be voice chatting very often anymore.

Overall, I dig the design and the UI of both devices.  Taylor mentioned that the customized UI looks similar to the PS3, and I agree that there are some elements of the phone that look very similar to the PS3 menu screen. The rounded icons and the font look to be the same, and even the wallpaper seen in the video is reminiscent of the animated stock background in the popular console. I personally dig the UI and can’t wait to test the device out for myself after it’s released, which is said to be sometime during this first quarter.

What are your first impressions of Sony’s fresh new devices this year? Is it something you’d be interested in buying yourself, or is it not your style?