Sony’s latest Android-running smartphone, the Xperia Z1S, hit stores this month, and claims to have the best waterproof camera on the market today.
This phone is the follow-up to the the Xperia Z Sony released last year. The company has always been known more for its TVs and Blu-Ray players than phones or gadgets, so it’s really trying to carve its niche in the market with these water-friendly phones.
Sony also recently debuted the Xperia Z Compact, which is nearly identical to the Z1S, but smaller (only 4.3 inches instead of 5) ; It doesn’t North America release date yet.
Software, Hardware, Features
Right off the bat, the most impressive thing the Z1S boasts is that it’s waterproof to up to nearly 5 feet for 30 minutes at a time, with a dedicated camera button on the on the side so that you can snap pictures underwater. (Its predecessor could technically take submerged photos, too, but you had to press the touch screen, which hardly works underwater, for each shot.)
My first reaction was, “Wow! This will be perfect for taking epic reef shots when I’m snorkelling!” But then I realised that snorkelling — or even pool swimming — isn’t exactly a daily occurrence. Really, the Xperia’s waterproof capability is mainly good for two things: protection from spills (or toilet plunges) and for shower selfies, both of which are awesome. I’ve personally lost several phones to a watery grave and, to be honest, there’s something really fun about being able to carelessly bring your phone into the shower.
The Xperia has a 20.7 Mp camera that works great in low light and has a slew of other features as well. For example, you can add fun augmented reality background images to your photos, create Instagram-esque background blurs, and activate a timeshift burst that takes a bunch of very fast photos so you can capture a clear shot of an action scene. You can also use a “social live” function to automatically stream video onto Facebook, if you want to include family or friends in a big event, and an “info-eye” mode that can tag things in your photos, like famous monuments or types of wine.
The phone runs on the Android operating system, but it comes with what is not quite the latest version (it uses 4.3 Jelly Bean, instead of the 4.4 KitKat update, with no word on when KitKat will become available). However, Sony does a good job of not adding too many unnecessary bells and whistles to Google’s already great OS. The phone has a zippy quad-core processor, too, so you can multi-task with all your apps still working smoothly and moving fast. The battery life is slightly better than average, and I found myself making it more than a full day between charges, with moderate use
Our biggest groan about the Xperia Z was that whenever you wanted access to the headphone jack, charging port, or the SD card slot, you had to pry open a tiny hatch with your fingernail. It was annoying and a hassle. Although Sony hasn’t fixed the problem completely with this new model, it has has at least enabled the headphone jack to remain open, which is great since that’s what we usually use most often.
Otherwise, we dig the phone’s design. The 5-inch, HD display is crisp and bright and the screen is big enough for enjoying videos or playing complex games. It’s thin (.34 inches, slightly bigger than the iPhone) and looks sleek and stylish with silvery bevels and a black glass backing (so far, the phone only comes in black). Unfortunately though, the glossy glass shows fingerprint smudges or slight scratches extremely easily, so you have to constantly be wiping it down if you don’t like the greasy prints.
The Xperia Z1S is a solid phone, whether or not you actually plan on taking it on your next snorkelling trip. With its big, bright screen, it’s great for reading and other media consumption, though you might find its five inches a little clunky if you just want to use your phone for texting and Facebook.
If you’re an Android lover and a bit accident-prone — and especially if you already own a Sony smartwatch, which the phone syncs up with perfectly — then latest and greatest models out there.
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