[CES 2014] It is official: the American flavor of the Sony XPERIA Z1 comes to T-Mobile under the XPERIA Z1s name. As you may have seen, the original Z1 was announced at IFA, and up until now, it wasn’t available through any U.S carriers. To change this, T-Mobile snapped an exclusive this XPERIA phone and the launch date (Jan 13 online sales, Jan 22 in-store sales) makes it convenient for XPERIA Z customers to switch to a Z1s through T-Mobile’s Jump program.
The XPERIA Z1s is mostly similar to its Z1 International counterpart, so nearly everything that you have seen or read about it remains true. There are however some differences: first, the Z1s is available with up to 32GB of local storage (vs. 16GB for the Z1) and of course, you can add another 64GB with a microSD card. Secondly, it has T-Mobile’s WiFi feature and although I’m not currently a T-Mobile user, this particular feature has saved me hundreds of dollars in the past because it allows one to call over WiFi –even abroad- as if you were in the USA. This is awesome, and I wish that all carriers would do it.
Finally, if you pay close attention, you will see that the 3.5mm (waterproof) audio connector is in the middle of the phone, instead of on a side. That’s not a major difference, but depending on how you put the phone in your pants pocket, this will prevent the audio connector from poking you. Other than that, there are some cool pre-loaded apps, some of which are exclusive to T-Mobile. The Social Live app caught my attention because it lets people host a live video broadcast on Facebook. It’s a free service for broadcast of 10mn (max), but a $3/mo subscription will let you extend that to 30mn.
The camera of the T-Mobile Z1 is a 20.7 Megapixel one and Sony was quick to point out that it was using a Sony G-Lens, instead of the usual ZEISS that are so common with Sony products. Now, I haven’t done any tests to compare the two, but on the surface, the Sony works just as well. Since Sony has been quietly taking over the world of mobile camera sensors, you can imagine that this handset uses a Sony BSI sensor as well.
When I get a chance, I will run some lab tests in low light etc. At the moment, it looks promising. Another thing that I like very much with Sony is their “Superior Auto” camera mode that reminds me of the CyberShot cameras. It’s quite good at finding the proper setting for the current light conditions. This is one of the most important things for a smartphone camera since most people rarely switch to manual settings.
Sony also have some very nice photo apps. One of them uses augmented reality to superimpose 3D objects over a real world scene. Others let you add some extra-blur on the background to make the photo more “artsy” or simply focus the attention of the viewer on a particular object – this is fancy and well done, not the cheesy kind of effect that hides your poor photographic skills in one click.
Hardware-wise, the XPERIA Z1s is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800, which is very popular in high-end smartphones these days. The juice is coming from a 3000mAh battery, which should give you quite a long battery life. Finally, Sony has improved the ruggedness of the Z1/Z1s when compared to the original XPERIA Z and feels comfortable calling it “waterproof” now. In practice, this really means 4.5 feet under water for 60mn or something like that (check the IP58 standard that the Z1s conforms to), but I would say that this is most likely good enough in most real-world situations, except if you lose your phone while snorkeling.
Overall, the Sony Z1s is a nice addition to T-Mobile’s line-up and I feel like the carrier is trying to do what it takes to get devices that will attract users. As this pays off, it is possible that T-Mobile will get even more “cool” phones, more often. In any case, I’m looking forward to spend some real usage time with the phone. Despite its larger size (when compared to the Z), it does feel pretty good in the hand, and I want to see how the camera will perform in difficult situations.