In the feature phone era, Sony was synonymous with style. The saying went that if you wanted a phone that just worked and did not want to spend a bomb on it, you bought a Nokia. But if you wanted a phone that worked well and looked awesome, well, you just put some extra bucks on the table and grabbed a Sony.
Ironically, that side of Sony – the stylish one – has been largely conspicuous by its absence in its Android era. Yes, we have had some very good looking devices from the company but the mantle for style and great design has largely passed to HTC. In Android land, it is Samsung and LG that serve up the specs, HTC delivers style and Sony is somewhere between those two. It is not a bad place to be (style with substance? Some would kill for that positioning), but honestly, not quite on par with where it once was.
Which is why we must say that we were VERY surprised to see Sony turn on the design magic with the Xperia Z3. Seen from the front, it does not look too different from its predecessor, with the same glass front and back and metal on the sides combo as the Xperia Z2. But get closer, hold it in your hands and the changes seem obvious.
Perhaps the most obvious change is that in spite of having the same screen size (5.2 inches) as its predecessor, the Xperia Z3 is significantly thinner, lighter and more comfortable to hold. Sony has retained the thick-ish bezels on top and below the below but has almost shaved them off the sides. Its battery has also been reduced from 3200 mAh to 3100 mAh., and while Sony claims that it will not affect battery life, it certainly has made the Z3 significantly slimmer and lighter than the Z2 – 7.3mm and 152 grammes as compared to 8.2 mm and 163 grammes in the Z2.
Also, the Z3 looks distinctly less ‘boxy’ than the Z and Z2. This is because the sides curve out gently and even the edges are curved. Even the covers for the slots for inserting the SIM card and memory card are curved at the corners rather than the rectangular boxes we saw on the Z2 – mind you, we still think they will come off eventually, making the phone susceptible to water related damage. The power/display button remains a spherical disk, with the volume rocker below it, and praise be, Sony has retained a dedicated camera button, which we really think is a must in these large screen devices. The 3.5 mm audio jack is on top of the device and on the left, just below the covered slot for the microUSB port is the port for Sony’s accessories like its magnetic charging dock – it is uncovered and frankly feels a bit odd as it is placed at an area where your fingers will touch the phone while looking at the display, and breaks the smooth texture of the sides.
The back houses the camera and looks very classy indeed. We got the copper unit of the Z3, and it turned heads at a frequency that we have not seen since the HTC One M8, which until now had been the best-looking Android device we had clapped eyes on. Yes, all that glass and the curve-y sides do make the phone a bit slippery, but it feels so much better to hold than anything in the Z series we have seen so far. It is glassy, yes, but it is classy too. Oh, and it remains water and dust resistant, like its predecessors.
The specs of course, are already out: 5.2-inch full HD display, 2.5 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor (as against 2.3 GHz on the Z2), 3GB RAM, 16 GB storage (expandable using a memory card) and a 20.7-megapixel camera with a wide-angle lens and better low light performance. And we will be seeing how the phone performs in the coming days.
However, based on sheer appearance and feel, we think the One M8 has a competitor in the looks department. Welcome back to the summit of cellphone style, Sony.