By Michael Fisher | July 4, 2013 7:00 AM
Sony announced its new Xperia Z Ultra at the Mobile Asia Expo last week, and the mammoth monstrosity caused quite a stir in our little corner of the internet. In case you missed the announcement: the device packs quite a few features into its 6.5mm-thin frame, including the processor that, according to Joe Levi, you want in your next phone, and stylus support that, if you ask Stephen Schenck, should be standard in all devices across the land. Indeed, the Xperia Z Ultra seems like a very capable smartphone in nearly every respect.
There’s just one problem, tough: it’s not a smartphone. It’s not even a phablet.
Like the ASUS Fonepad and some variants of the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0, this is a tablet that happens to make phone calls. And I don’t care what anyone else thinks; ya’ll can do what you want. I’m not going to call the Xperia Z Ultra a smartphone. The line must be drawn here.
Look, I have nothing against the term “phablet.” It’s a perfectly suitable appellation for that class of devices that’s a little bigger than a smartphone, but a hair shy of a tablet. And it makes sense: I consider my Galaxy Note II to have much more utility than other smartphones thanks in large part to its added screen real estate, and while holding it up to my head to make a call doesn’t necessarily feel entirely normal, it’s still (just barely) perceivable as a “phone” in that attitude. Taylor Martin was able to make a similar claim with the even-larger Galaxy Mega during his recent test period, but contrary to my assertions on the Pocketnow Weekly podcast, I didn’t think we’d ever go beyond that already-absurd point. Well, we’re there now, and I don’t like it. To quote Brandon Miniman, the Z Ultra “isn’t a phone. It’s a living-room appliance.”
Our own Anton D. Nagy would probably take issue with my position here. That’s not guaranteed, necessarily, but the man likes his supersized phones, and I’m in a name-dropping kind of mood anyway (could you tell?). Point is: some people like to have the option of making calls on a tablet-sized device, and I’m not saying that’s wrong. All I’m saying is we need to call the Xperia Z Ultra, and devices like it, what they really are: tablets.
That screenshot not enough for you? Check out these measurements pitting the Z Ultra against the Samsung Galaxy Mega, the device that makes the Galaxy Note II look petite:
Galaxy Mega 6.3: 167.6 x 88 x 8mm, 198g
Xperia Z Ultra: 179 x 92 x 6.5mm, 212 g
Read it again. The Sony product is larger in every dimension but thickness. It’s over 10mm taller than the (massive) Mega. The “TRILUMINOS Display” is over 6.4 inches on the diagonal. Can you imagine trying to fit this thing in your pocket? What about holding it up to your ear? You’ll have to imagine that for yourself, as Sony doesn’t make the mistake of trying to illustrate it in the video the above screenshot was taken from. Instead, it shows an actress taking a call on “the new Smart Bluetooth headset” paired with the Z Ultra. Here, just watch the whole thing – it’s actually one of the better promo vids I’ve seen recently:
Now, I know what Sony’s doing here. It’s pulling the same trick it did with the Tablet Z, where it made a ten-inch tablet thin and light enough to replicate the portability of a seven-inch tablet. That’s Sony’s new mobile aesthetic, and you know what? I adore it. Indeed, the hardware section of our Tablet Z review inches perilously close to gushing territory. If the company can reproduce that success in a smaller form factor -and it looks like that’s very possible here- then more power to it. Combine that with the Z Ultra’s immersion resistance, its 2.2GHz Snapdragon 800, super stylus support, and a 1080p resolution on that oversized screen, and you’d be hard pressed to find someone who isn’t intrigued by this device.
Indeed, I’m not saying I don’t want a Z Ultra of my own – truth be told, I want this thing already. Like, pretty hard. What I am saying is that people (in Western nations, anyway) are going to have to stifle their laughter when they see this thing marketed as a smartphone. And they shouldn’t stifle it. They should laugh out loud, right in the store. Because a “smartphone” with those dimensions is a hilarious notion. Thing is: you don’t want people laughing when they’re considering throwing money at your product. Especially a product as mouthwatering as this one.
So, Sony, two things: number one, please give this device the “tablet” designation it so desperately needs, when and if it crosses the pond. And number two: