Written by Joe Del Vecchio
T-Mobile has been making quite a few waves lately with their bold moves in pricing plans, willingness to pay off customers’ Early Termination Fees, and lure new customers away from Verizon, AT&T and Sprint. Meanwhile, Sony is trying to secure its place among the big boys in the high-end cellphone space. In a move to provide mutual benefit to both companies, Sony has released the Xperia Z1S (a souped up Z1), exclusively on T-Mobile in the US. As a long time AT&T customer (over 25 years with them) and a Samsung owner since the days of the Captivate (Galaxy S1), I, too, was enticed into giving both T-Mobile and Sony a chance. Here’s my take on my newest acquisition, the Xperia Z1S.
Size and Weight
- 5.74 x 2.91 x 0.34 inches
- 5.71 ounces
- 5 inch full HD (1920×1080) screen
Operating System and Processor
- Android 4.3 (Jelly Bean)
- Quad-core 2.2 GHz Processor
- 3000 mAH
- Up to 15 hours talk time
- Up to 600 hours standby time
Camera, Photos and Video
- 20.7 Megapixel Camera
- 2GB RAM, 32GB ROM, 64GB Expandable Memory
- Sync methods: USB, Bluetooth, WiFi
- 4G Capable
- Wi-Fi Calling
- UMTS/HSPA+: AWS Band IV / 2100 / 1900 / 850;Band II (1900);Quad Band GSM;LTE
The design of the Z1S isn’t exactly ground breaking, nor is it a dream of the concept artist who continually looks for drastic changes to shape and form. The Z1S is the typical candy bar shape with rounded corners that we’ve come to expect from every phone since the inception of the iPhone. Front and back are shiny and slick, black glass, encased in a rounded off plastic edging. This is a change from the Z1 which had a metal frame and a flatter appearance. Word on the street is that the metal was exchanged for plastic on the request of T-Mobile who had concerns about connectivity issues due to interference of the metal. Regardless, this modification makes the Z1S slightly lighter than the Z1.
The button locations are unchanged from the Z1, with all physical buttons being located on the right side of the phone. First, at the top right is the SIM location which is under a waterproof cover. In the middle of the right side is the power button. The power button is slightly extended and is in an easily accessible location when holding the phone in either hand. The volume rocker is located directly below the power button. I personally would have preferred the volume button location slightly lower. The close proximity of the volume to the power button has on more than one occasion, caused me to turn my screen off when attempting to raise the volume. One feature I have enjoyed, and think more manufacturers should consider, is the physical camera button which is located at the bottom right side. This allows quick access to the camera as well as a more comfortable and natural feel when taking pictures.
The USB and Micro SD are both located on the top left side, both with covers that keep it waterproof. The cover is not an issue for the Micro SD unless you swap out cards on a frequent basis. However, removing the cover each time you need to charge your phone can become frustrating. As an alternative however, the Z1S has a magnetic charging port located just below the Micro SD card. I would highly recommend using a magnetic charger not only for the convenience but because the USB cover, like any part, is bound to fail after so much wear and tear.
One of the differences from my Samsung phones that I found to be a refreshing change is that the speaker is located at the bottom of the phone, and not on the back. This allows for much more clarity of sound when the phone is laid down as well as when being held in your hand. The headset jack is located just off center at the top of the phone. Interestingly, there is no cover required for this jack and it is freely available. As for the cameras, there is a 20.7 mp rear and 2 mp front facing camera which I’ll speak to in a moment.
Finally, you can’t speak about the design of the Z1S without mentioning the large amount of bezel that Sony has put on the top and bottom of the phone. Initially it looks out of place and like a waste of real estate, especially as more and more manufacturers push for the edge to edge design. However, I have to say, I have found the extra space quite beneficial when it comes to holding the phone. This is particularly true when watching videos, playing games, or taking pictures in landscape mode. Granted, it does make the phone physically larger than most of its 5” screen counterparts.
First, let me touch on the battery. The Z1S comes with a very respectable 3000 mAH battery. Based on my initial experience, with my normal usage of email, web surfing, streaming music, the occasional phone call and just playing around with it because it’s something new, I can easily get more than a day out of a single charge. Keep in mind, battery life truly is dependent on how the phone is used, the apps and widgets that are running, GPS usage, cell signal strength and a slew of other things that can impact one’s mileage out of a charge.
As for the display, this is probably my biggest disappointment when it comes to the Z1S. Perhaps it’s because I’m used to the really nice displays that Samsung seems to bring to the table on all their Galaxy models. The display of the Z1S isn’t necessarily bad; it’s more than adequate for watching videos for instance; however the colors just don’t seem to be as vibrant as they should be. This is particularly true if you’re not looking directly at the screen. When looking at any angle off to the side, the screen looks washed out and a bit dull.
To make up for the display issue, the phone does come with a 20.7 megapixel camera and a slew of built in camera effects to go along with it. As mentioned previously, the physical camera button lends easy access to the camera. Even when the screen is off, a simple press of the button opens up the camera and you’re ready to shoot in a matter of seconds. Though I haven’t taken a large quantity of pictures as of yet, those I have taken, both inside and out, look just great. The camera effects are probably a personal choice as to their value, but I personally enjoyed them. The one I haven’t tried out just yet, but am curious to do so, is one that allows you to stream your photos directly to Facebook. Obviously, functionality like that would be great if it could be expanded to include other social sites such as Google+. Overall, I think the camera is one of the best features of this phone, both from a quality and functionality standpoint.
Wrap up and Conclusion
From a day to day usage perspective, the Z1S has no major flaws that I can speak of. It looks good, performs well, and feels good in your hand. It’s balanced well and though the frame is plastic, it has a sturdy and well-built feel to it. As mentioned previously, the surface areas are highly polished and very slick. I would highly recommend that you purchase a case that would afford you some extra grip. On a side note, the Z1S has its headphone jack in a different location than the Z1. So when purchasing a case, make sure it’s compatible with the Z1S, otherwise the headphone jack cutout will not line up properly.
Another recommendation was to purchase a magnetic charging cable or USB adapter. There are also quite a few charging docks that take advantage of the magnetic charging capabilities, but again, make sure they’re made for the Z1 line and not the Compact or Ultra varieties.
The Z1S looks great on paper and overall is a pretty decent phone. It has several bells and whistles that separate it from the others, such as it being waterproof, the expandable storage, Wi-Fi calling and the physical camera button. However, I wouldn’t classify it as a powerhouse. This is Sony’s flagship phone at the moment, and compared to its other offerings, it’s a definite improvement, and they are certainly moving in the right direction.
So, the million dollar question, or in this case, the $528 dollar question, should you buy this phone? The Xperia Z1S offers a pretty good bargain given its price point. You get good power, some unique features, a great camera, and a well-built phone. So if you’re not looking for the best of the best, but want a good phone, great camera, and one that won’t cost you an arm and a leg, then this is definitely an option to consider, especially if a customer, or want to be a customer, of T-Mobile. Also, if you plan on taking pictures underwater, then this is definitely the phone for you! Hit the link below to check it out on Sony’s website!
Feature Image from The Droid Guy